Atypical Tactics To Improve Employee Engagement

HR insights and tips with Jeff Havens

Hello, and welcome to another installment of HR Intervention! It’s a brand new year, and I’d like to help you kick it off right!

Now it’s possible you made a common mistake a few days ago by making a New Year’s resolution. These are generally lies we tell ourselves about how we’re going to become better people this year – lose weight, exercise more, learn how to cook, stop causing multi-car pileups, blah blah blah.

At its core, the New Year’s resolution is a desire to be better and happier than we were previously. In the workplace, ‘better and happier’ generally means ‘engaged.’ And now you must be thinking, “Oh my gosh, another article about employee engagement! How joyous! What rapture! My day is complete!”

Or you’re thinking something other than that. After all, there are only 12 billion of these things floating around the Internet, so why bother reading this one? Don’t you know everything there is to know about employee engagement?

The answer to that is probably yes. You know that employee engagement is hugely important in terms of improving innovation and overall productivity, you’ve probably heard that most of us are not especially engaged at work, and a monkey could infer from those two facts that you should do things to make people more engaged than they currently are. I’m guessing you’ve come across several different ideas about what things you should do.

But I’m guessing you haven’t seen any of these suggestions:

Force People To Take a Day Off

Or better yet, have an employee come to work so they can get paid, but have everyone else pretend that said employee isn’t available. If you structure this correctly, people will feel as though they can’t quite do their jobs as efficiently without that person’s help – which is exactly the point.

If you can show your employees how indispensable they are, rather than simply telling it to them from time to time, you’ll build a solid foundation of self-worth – the value of which can hardly be overestimated.

Take a Field Trip

Seriously, drop everything and go to where your customers are using whatever product or service you’re selling to them. If that’s impossible, then consider inviting some of your customers into the office so that everyone (not just your front-line people) can meet them.

Especially in jobs where the work itself is intangible, being able to physically see the people whose lives you’re impacting can be a powerful motivator.

Switch Places For a Day

That’s right. Let one of your employees sit in your office and give orders for an hour. Or have one of your engineers do data entry while a claims representative analyzes your supply chain.

You’re probably cringing at the amount of chaos this might cause, which is why you’d never do it for an entire day – but even giving people an hour-long window into the duties and responsibilities of their peers might help them develop a higher level of respect for their colleagues and their contributions.

At its core, employee engagement is the result of three things:

  • Letting people know that you respect them
  • Showing them how valuable the work they do actually is
  • Giving them the latitude to accomplish that work in whatever way works best for them

There are a million ways to check those three boxes. So instead of thinking of this as a chore, have some fun with it! Or treat it like a chore and be bored until you retire – whichever sounds better to you.

Learn more from Jeff Havens with this video preview of “The Top Six Motivators of Engaged Employees,” from his new video series on improving employee engagement:

Jeff Havens is a speaker, author, and professional development expert who tackles leadership, generational, and professional development issues with an exceptional blend of content and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal; and has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business. For more information, or to bring Jeff to your next meeting, call 309-808-0884, email, or visit

Speaker, Author and Professional Development Expert