Profit and Loss – Why your most valuable asset isn’t on your balance sheet.

More than a buzzword, employee engagement has been scientifically and anecdotally proven to impact your business. There are multiple levels of opportunity to positively influence your employees – but why should you care? This overview will present strategies and suggestions for implementing effective employee engagement.

What exactly is employee engagement? It’s the passion, excitement and sense of inclusion that an employee feels toward their individual role, and toward their organization as a whole.

The Society for Human Resource Management says employees are most engaged (and less likely to leave your company) when they believe the following statements:

“I Fit.”
“I’m Clear.”
“I’m Supported.”
“I’m Valued.”
“I’m Inspired.”

“When employees have a sense of purpose, significance and security, when they feel that they belong to a group yet have the freedom to work and advance individually—that equals true engagement,” said Brady Wilson, a founding partner of Juice Inc., in a statement. “Workers in this case get fulfillment from their work, so not only will they stay at their job but they’ll offer their discretionary effort as well.”

An employee’s level of engagement directly affects the quality of their work and their effectiveness in becoming an evangelist for their company.

Sadly, Gallup says that only 33% of employees consider themselves “engaged” at work (a separate HBR report puts it even lower, at 24%). Why is this important? These same studies also show that employees that are engaged show an increase in productivity by over 20%.

Why care about employee engagement?

Because engaged employees positively influence other employees, are more enthusiastic, productive, and profitable, provide better customer service, and are more loyal to your organization. This is a big deal – employees (especially rockstar employees) are more likely to stay in their jobs when they feel plugged in to your company. Great employees are costly to replace.

Costs of Low Engagement

In the U.S. alone, it is estimated the economy loses $450 to 550 billion annually due to decreased productivity from disengaged employees.

On the other hand, the lack of employee engagement is also a broader societal issue in that employees are spending more and more time at work, yet if work is not meaningful, it can negatively affect employee well-being (Frontiers in Psychology).

Turnover is a costly game. Studies show that replacing a qualified, salaried employee can cost businesses anywhere between 6 to 9 month’s worth of salary, on average.

Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger Engagement is Possible

It’s hard to find arguments against getting your staff engaged. As we’ve established, engaged employees are more loyal, productive and committed to the organization they work for. They tend to go above and beyond the call of duty, are proven to provide more innovative ideas because they truly want the business to succeed, so they look for opportunities for improvement.

Engaged employees make your business better – more profitable, more efficient, more successful!

Types of Employee Engagement

Onboard Like a Pro

Imagine your first day, week, month at a new job. Does it look like warm, friendly faces greeting you, a clear set of expectations for your future growth, and a comfortable welcoming workspace? Or does it look like an empty cubicle and lonely hours with no clear expectations?

A recent Harvard Business Review study showed that over 22% of companies have no formal on-boarding plan in place. Starting your new employees out on the right foot is the first step to meaningful employee onboarding.

You can check out a more extensive list here, but we’ll list a few of our favorites.

Onboarding Kits (i.e. Free Stuff)
A.K.A. – how you can use branded merchandise to help create a company your potential hires will hear about, want to work for and ultimately, be proud of and want to stay with.

Everyone loves to get free stuff, so onboarding kits are a no-brainer. Not only does it make the recipient happy (and happy means more productivity), it also immediately empowers them to become a brand ambassador and walking advertisement while using the merch outside of the office. It also, gives them an immediate sense of belonging – that “I want you on my team!” everyone has longed to hear since gym class in elementary school.

Think back to your ideal first day…would a box of clicky pens or a white C-handle coffee cup impress you? What would it make you think about the company? Give your new hires a product that ties in with your culture – something they would actually be proud to brandish during off-hours.

Check out some fantastic examples of New Hire Welcome Kits:

Yes, some of these are pretty elaborate, but you don’t have to drop a lot of cash. For example, here at INM, the kit we provide is under $200. A very small investment on someone who we foresee being a part of our community for the next ten years.

Match Them With an Office Buddy
It’s a lot easier to get up to speed at an organization if you have a guide. Match the new hire with another teammate to ensure success. Studies show that over 50% of new hires would welcome being paired with a mentor. Ideally, the mentor has been with the organization for a while and is either in the same type of position as the new hire, or has been in that position previously. Over the first week, let them show the new team member the ropes, and teach them about company culture and what is expected of them. Like everything else, you’ll want to have a structured schedule in place, similar to the one MIT suggests.

Make Sure Their New Manager is There for Day One
It seems like a no brainer, but people schedule time off without being aware of new hire start dates. And this really sets a bad precedent. Remember those smiling, welcoming faces you’d love to see at your new job? The manager needs to be around to help set the tone, make sure the new hire understands their role from the start and introduce them to their Office Buddy.

Extended Onboarding
Only 37% of companies have an onboarding process that goes longer than one month.

Finding and retaining top talent is hard. Give yourself a leg up in the recruitment battle by spending time up front ensuring your newly hired talent succeeds (and sticks around) as opposed to spending that money on constantly rehiring and retraining replacements. Yes, all of this takes time. And money. And even more time; but you’ve already spent money and time recruiting and hiring your next rockstar. Why do it again in 3 months to a year?

The Facebook Engineering Bootcamp runs for six weeks. This helps with training, evaluation and finally, placement. And at RadioFlyer, they implemented a 12-week onboarding program and required new hires to continue the education process over the next 9 months, which led to a decrease in first year turnover, all the way down to 6%.

Sure, you may not have deep pockets like Facebook, but we all owe it to our businesses (and employees) to at least consider a long-term onboarding strategy. Implementing even a few of these ideas could greatly improve your company culture, but more on that later.


Charity – Looks Good, Feels Great

81% of millennials expect the company they work for to practice good citizenship. (HR Dive)

If you want to engage the next generation of workers, you’ve got to consider the things that they deem important in life. For millennials, one of those things is Corporate Social Responsibility. They become more actively engaged in the workplace when they feel a sense of pride in their work.

If you’ve read this far, you know that pride begins from the first day on the job, and it’s our responsibility to keep the fire lit to keep it going.

But more than that, a 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey concluded that ALL generations of employees like it when businesses incorporate involvement in the community into the workday. In fact, 70% of employees believe that volunteer opportunities boost moral more than company mixers. (

Integration into the community boosts employee morale and helps create a positive working atmosphere. Studies suggest that CSR helps employees find greater meaning in their work because they feel like they are contributing to the greater good.

When employees feel good about their work, it raises their self-esteem, and, you guessed it, makes them happy!

CSR also allows for companies to go beyond formal values statements, which tend to be words on paper to actually living out these values (Frontiers in Psychology).

Corporate responsibility shouldn’t be limited to giving or volunteering. Practice good corporate citizenship every day by working with socially compliant vendors, purchasing environmentally friendly office supplies, and offering recycling programs in the office. It’s another way to help your employees feel more connected to their job, and the company overall.

You’d Better Recognize (& Reward)

Another way to engage employees, is through recognition and reward programs. Companies with solid strategies to recognize team members enjoy stronger engagement, increased employee morale, better customer service, and lower turnover.Retain top performers

If this stat from Socialcast doesn’t motivate you to recognize employees, I don’t know what will:

69% of employees would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated.

Recognition can be as simple as public praise or as detailed as an online incentive program where employees can choose their personal gift or award. What’s important to remember is that recognizing employees should be a well thought out strategy, not just a passing “thank you” at a company lunch. How you recognize employees and what you choose to recognize them for should personify your company’s mission and core values. Basically, it needs to stay true to your company’s culture.

Since our day job is actually promotional product experts (a.k.a. stars), not writers, amazing I know! We have worked on quite a few EFFECTIVE recognition programs. Read more about those on our blog. We’ve picked a few the most popular to give you some ideas here:

Employee Work Ethic
The heavy lifter, this is one of the most important incentive programs you can implement because it’s a way to continuously point back to your culture and core values and keep them top of mind with all employees.

It can be named a million kitschy things based on the specific goal (team player, above and beyond, employee of the month, etc.), but basically, this program recognizes employees for going above and beyond what is expected of them.

With this type of program, employees can be recognized for things like: supporting other employees, coming up with an out of the box or extra-creative idea, having the highest sales numbers, etc. Peer recognition plays a large part of programs like this, and according to globoforce, 41% of companies that use peer-to-peer recognition have seen positive increases in customer satisfaction.

Empowering peers to recognize each other also gives everyone a “buy in” to the program, negates any bias, and creates a healthy level of competition.

Introduce a Points Based Incentive System
Everyone likes acknowledgment. Some in private, some with a parade that is expected to shut down the city. We’ve seen several clients successfully use points based incentive programs to recognize.

In addition to points received for birthday and service anniversaries, employees can also receive points from their peers and superiors for doing exceptional work that encompasses the core values. All of those points can then be redeemed online for branded or retail goods. Treat yo’self has a whole new meaning.

A cousin to the Employee Work Ethic Recognition Program, safety award programs are seen in companies who have employees participating in manual labor (manufacturing, trucking, warehousing, etc.). Safety award programs are aimed specifically at reducing workplace accidents and having employees be more tuned to work place safety.

“The Bill Sims Company describes a successful safety incentive program as one that will raise awareness of safety issues, reduce injuries without causing workers to hide injuries and instill proactive behaviors that create a safe working culture.”

Years of Service
This is the most popular type of incentive program, which rewards employees based on their years of service. Companies can choose which years to recognize based on their specific attrition issues. For example, companies that heavily employee millennials should consider starting their program at 1 year of service (millennials like immediate recognition for their efforts and statistically move jobs quickly).

Traditionally, when you think of service awards, you probably think of big, bulky crystal awards that sit on your desk and collect dust. There is certainly a culture, time and place for desk awards, but service awards today can also mean so much more than that. They can be custom branded gifts, bonuses, or non-branded retail items. Most importantly, make sure the awards you’re giving represent your company and will be received by employees as recognition, not just as something to be thrown in a drawer.

Take a Kit-Kat Break

Clear and genuine OPEN communication with employees can be a powerful tool for engagement. Team members who feel informed will feel trusted and more connected with your organization. You don’t have to tell company secrets for your employees to feel informed. The key to effective communication is transparency and culture.

Utilize surveys, one on one conversations, emails, etc. to gather information from employees. Ask them what they like and what they don’t like about their job and the company as a whole. Ask them why you should be proud to have them as an employee. Ask them what they would do differently. This empowers them to feel like their voice is heard and that they can affect real change (and change that fits within your values). When people feel like they are making a difference, you’re guaranteed to keep them around for a long time.

Let’s say your organization claims to have a culture of transparency and trust – those values must be communicated consistently in your everyday interactions. Senior leaders can help reinforce open and authentic communication from the top down. Simple activities like leaders leaving their offices, walking around and taking time to stop and authentically say hello, or creating a monthly opportunity where 3-4 employees are randomly selected to have a “Kit-Kat” break with a senior leader where they can ask any question on their mind can go a long way in enhancing engagement. (

Let’s say your organization claims to have a culture of transparency and trust – those values must be communicated consistently in your everyday interactions. Senior leaders can help reinforce open and authentic communication from the top down. Simple activities like leaders leaving their offices, walking around and taking time to stop and authentically say hello, or creating a monthly opportunity where 3-4 employees are randomly selected to have a “Kit-Kat” break with a senior leader where they can ask any question on their mind can go a long way in enhancing engagement. (

Effects of Employee Engagement

Growth, like Jack’s Beanstalk without the magic
So be honest, are you seeing dollar signs and wondering where you’ll ever money in the budget to implement these ideas? You have to remember what the goal of your program is – most likely retaining valuable, talented employees and recruiting new hires who can’t wait to get to work everyday. Overall, you’ll be spending less to retain high performers. That means more moolah to the your bottom line.

Would you like to increase sales, efficiency, or customer satisfaction?

Study after study supports employee engagement as a way to improve these things. Happy, loyal team members want their company to succeed.

That mean they’ll provide higher service quality and productivity, which leads to…higher customer satisfaction which leads to…increased sales (and repeat business and referrals), which leads to…higher levels of profit which leads to…higher shareholder returns. You can see how it’s all related. And some of our suggestions only cost time and thought.

Culture — Possibly the Biggest and Best Buzzword
So far, we’ve hit on a couple ideas to engage employees and promote company culture. But to do this, you need to clearly define and promote a culture your team will love. Engaged teams understand your core values and will work to achieve your company’s goals.

Start by getting a real grasp on your core values. These values need to be demonstrated and communicated throughout the company so there’s never any question about who you are and what you stand for. One of our core values at INM is to “Be Weird and Have Fun.”

It encourages our individual creative genius and empowers us to truly be ourselves, which leads to a happier environment noticeable internally and externally.

Your core values should be prominently displayed throughout the office, and employees who are caught putting the values into action should be acknowledged or rewarded. We like to use a pro-wrestling style belt. Go big or go home, right?

Here’s how we display our company values:

Be truthful…you really want to work here now, right? Here’s a few more basic ways to guide your company to an extraordinary culture:

Host a Variety of Company Events
It’s amazing what can happen when people are given the ability to stop thinking about emails and deadlines and focus on having some human interaction with their teammates. Events can be as simple as a themed pot-luck lunch in the conference room or as grandiose as renting out a suite at a local stadium and watching a sporting event together. Whatever the event, make sure employees have the opportunity to be themselves. Leave work conversations at work.

Be Fashionable
I know this sounds silly, but for those of you with uniform requirements, you probably hear lots of grumbling from your staff. For years those cotton polos and polyester pants were standard wear, but now we’ve got fashion forward options that are flattering and appeal to every shape and size. Ever heard the term, “Dress for success?” What better way to motivate employees for the day than by catching them before they even put their clothes on? Seriously. When they put their uniform on, and they get to wear garments that they like and feel good in, you’ve essentially given them an 8-hour view of themselves in a skinny mirror. They feel on fire and are ready to show it!

Health and Wellness
Wellness programs are a great way to encourage active employee participation and also a great opportunity to “gamify” the program using challenges and competitions.

Over the last several years, 62% of employers are using gamification methods to promote and engage employees in health and wellness.

Points-based systems are typical for this type of program. We recommend making these points-based programs with easily achievable goals and tracking systems (we’ve all been part of programs or things that are overly complicated and fall by the wayside because no one has the time to figure them out).

But beware – reduced stress and endorphins are side effects of wellness programs!

Ultimately, a company culture starts from the top down. It has to be woven into the executives’ attitudes, marketing campaigns, and day-to-day interactions. From there, it becomes not only the expectation but also the norm, and that’s how you build a reputation for being one of the greatest places to work!

Make Everyone a Brand Ambassador

We hope this piece got your wheels turning with ideas for how you can implement or improve upon the employee engagement in your business. Just remember, it has to be right for your business – choose engagement that supports your culture and company values.

You’ll know you’ve set the right tone when your entire team becomes brand ambassadors. They’ll encourage other high-performers to join your company, and badda bing badda boom – success you can take to the bank!

Implementing these programs is easy to do, it just takes commitment and some thought. And remember – we’re always here to help. We’ve guided small and large companies to implement effective engagement programs and we’d love to give you some ideas about yours.