How to improve employee engagement #StartUps - The Entrepreneurial Way with A.I.


Friday, January 13, 2023

How to improve employee engagement #StartUps


It can be extremely disheartening for people to start a business only to discover that their employees are uninterested, disengaged and simply phoning it in.

Despite the general consensus of moving towards more positive and caring workforces:

85% of people are still unhappy at work (Source).

Improving employee engagement can be a tall order to fill, and a tough area for employers to get right. As a small UK business owner, you may be asking yourself, “How does one create true engagement among employees in order to create a stellar company?”

We’ve got you covered.

We’re going to explore the ins and outs of employee motivation, how you can improve it for your employees, the benefits, and why you should get started today.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement is defined as how committed an employee is to their work and the goals and values of their company.

It is the degree to which employees invest their energies (cognitive, emotional, and physical) towards the greater good of the company. This is without the forced incentives of scrutiny, micromanagement or monetary incentives.

It’s also the drive that helps them to feel passionate about their work, safe to take risks and initiative and have pride in their company as an extension of themselves. This in turn affords the company with more original ideas, innovation and success.

The benefits of an engaged workforce

The most important benefit of an engaged workforce, the one everyone cares about most – is the fact that engagement correlates with profitability.

Companies with engaged employees typically enjoy revenue growth that is 2.5 times higher than companies with unengaged ones (Source).

It’s simple: When your employees are engaged, they care about your company and are more willing to contribute wholeheartedly to its growth.

You cannot build an empire on employees who are “quiet quitting” – a new term recently added to the Collins dictionary that can be defined as only doing what is expected of you by your job description, and nothing more.

Despite the lack of obligation to go above and beyond, it is often this passion that fuels companies, and without it, they can miss important opportunities. It can also swing into much more negative territory such as malicious compliance: strictly following the orders of superiors, knowing they may have unintended or negative results.

Engagement increases productivity, creates more genuine interactions within the company and increases employee retention. As a result, the company has more time for actual productivity instead of distractions and chaos trying to subsidise staff every week, for example. These are just a few of the main benefits, but let’s dive deeper into these and more below.

Increased productivity

£438 billion is lost every year due to workplace stress. (Source)

And not only that, but burnout runs rampant through unchecked workforces affecting about 70% of employees at least once in their professional careers, according to a survey conducted with 1,000 full-time professionals.

This is the cost of unengaged and overworked employees, but when investing in your employee engagement you can avoid all of that.

While engagement doesn’t negate all stress from overworking (and this is where the other factors come in handy), engaged workers are generally much faster and more efficient in completing their work.

Engaged workers are also far more likely to actually contribute ideas for the betterment of the company instead of being too stressed, tired or stifled to express them.

Research shows that engaged employees are 17% more productive than their peers. (Source)

Positive company interactions

It’s important to maintain transparency and communication among the workforce. Not only because it reduces misunderstandings, complications and stress in any workforce’s productivity pipeline, but it also creates stronger bonds and that sense of inclusion where no one feels left behind or out of the loop.

It also lends to our first engagement strategy (which we talk about more below), where positive company interactions can increase autonomy, and therefore innovation. If your employees have access to all departments and members of the company at their fingertips, as well as adequate knowledge of what’s going on in their company as a whole, they could have more space for new, innovative and collaborative ideas.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, this is possible. Numerous tools and applications exist in the form of social media and work-specific collaboration tools. Platforms like Slack and Trello for example for communication, as well as Monday and Clickup for project management software, now make it easier than ever to help your teams connect, build their own knowledge databases and build better working relationships.

Employee engagement directly impacts interpersonal relationships. If you're engaged you care and you're likely to be in a consistently positive mindset when it comes to your work and those you work with. You're more likely to help others, be less individualistic and ultimately work better as part of a team.

– James Adams, Lead Learning & Development Partner at MVF Global

Decreased turnover

Since the beginning of UK lockdowns fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, professionals have been quitting their jobs in lieu of more flexible, hybrid or remote positions after discovering that it was possible. This trend has been dubbed the “Great Resignation.”

In 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded the number of people mass resigning as the highest it’s been in 20 years.

Employees are in the driver’s seat for one of the first times in history, empowering employees to find the best for them – and leaving employers to actively convince employees that their company is the right fit for them. And this requires more than just lip service: employers must show that they truly walk their talk, live out their company values and provide interesting and engaging benefits for their workers.

Employee engagement is accepted as an effective tool to support retention. This is not only because engaged employees choose to stay longer. Research by Gallup shows that engaged employees also help you find better candidates. 71% of employees use or have used referrals from an organisation's current employees to learn about job opportunities. If you get the right candidates through the door in the first place you can expect to see your turnover figures decrease.

– Andy Mulder, Head Of People at MVF Global

Increased employee retention

Employees will stay longer and perform better in environments where they feel seen, heard and accepted.

When done correctly, an engaged workforce leads to decreased turnover as mentioned above and can save employers money and time, not having to consistently seek out, vet and onboard new employees. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates the cost to replace a salaried employee is 6-9 months of their salary, and the average staff turnover costs between £14,800 and £22,200 per employee. (Source)

Increased levels of innovation

With employees who feel safe comes better ideas, better suggestions for the company’s overall growth and goals and increased levels of innovation. Employees who are engaged will feel much happier about sharing their network and resources for the overall betterment of the company – whereas, in a company fraught with competitiveness, sneaky behaviour and credit-stealing, there would be much less of this crucial aspect.

Innovation is important in the fact that it prevents your company from becoming stagnant and helps you stay up to date with the times, or at best, become a leader in your industry who set the standard. It keeps you on the edge of forward-thinking which helps your company stay efficient and ever-growing.

Increasing employee engagement in your small business doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many ways you can get started that don’t necessarily involve promotions and raises that would still be instrumental in the happiness and productivity of your employees.

5 employee engagement strategies

We have found that employers use these 5 employee engagement strategies the most, finding them to be the most effective. Overall, employers have found these strategies to be the most useful:

  1. Increasing employee autonomy
  2. Increasing employee opportunities for growth
  3. Maintaining a clean work environment
  4. Encouraging work-life balance
  5. Emphasising diversity and inclusion

1. Increase employee autonomy

For an employee to be fully engaged in the culture of a company and invested in its success, they have to feel as if they have a part in it – a part they can be proud of.

A study by McKinsey & Company found that 54% of employees who quit their jobs felt that their employers didn’t value them. (Source)

An employee may define feeling valued by your company as having their opinions and ideas for the company seen, heard and acknowledged by the people above them. These line managers should have the power to implement their ideas if they are good, while also noting and documenting their contributions to the company in the event of workplace reviews and potential promotions.

Without this in whatever capacity – be it an overbearing manager telling them that their ideas aren’t important or no opportunities for growth no matter how much they contribute – employees can feel stuck and stagnated which leads to deflation, resentment and burnout.

The top driver of burnout in fact is employees feeling a lack of support or recognition from leadership, indicating the important role that leaders play in setting the tone (as cited in the Deloitte survey).

Due to this, it’s important to avoid ‘That's How We've Always Done It’ or THWADI, which tends to shut down new employee ideas before they even begin.

Roxanne Gilmore, Be Inspired Now Media, LLC states:

As a millennial, this drives me CRAZY! I see so many awesome ideas thrown out because senior level people want it done their way.


Autonomy also allows employees to create what they would deem to be meaningful work for the company.

If employees languish in the same jobs, doing the same tasks, they are likely to feel unfulfilled and become less invested in their work. But suppose an employee has the opportunity to create new goals for themselves or volunteer their time in a different role or project within the workplace on occasion. In that case, they may then feel more motivated and gain a new appreciation and excitement for their work.

There is an easy solution to encouraging more of this autonomy in the workplace, and it is simply to listen to your employees more.

Employees typically have a ton of knowledge, opinions and ideas that they are dying to share with people who can exact change for them. This could be from a particular way they’re working, and what makes them feel better in the workplace, to exponentially profitable and standout ideas for your company that will explode growth.

Express to your employees that they are heard in meaningful ways, and try to show them that they are valued by recognising them in front of others in terms of advancement and promotions (which leads us to our next strategy):

2. Increase employee opportunities

In a recent Pew Research Center survey of US workers who left a job in 2021, 63% cited a lack of opportunities for advancement as a factor in their decision to leave. (Source)

No one wants to work at a company where it’s clear the managerial structure hasn’t shifted in the last ten decades or so, where there hasn’t been any real movement or shake-ups, and the best positions trickle down via inheritance only.

The average employee is not prepared to stand for that anymore. Millennials and Gen-Z’ers in particular, are not as bound to the Boomer Generation’s ethos which was to get a good job, stay loyal forever, and work your way up the ranks.

Where it was a status symbol to stay loyal to a company in that way back then, newer generations are far less concerned about the peer pressure or stigma that job-hopping once carried. Even if that wasn’t the case, it has simply become a survival method in these shaky times – job-hopping in most cases proves beneficial. Jobs have been severely under-staffed due to the shakeup of the pandemic, so new employers value and bid higher for employees – while current employers often take their staff for granted.

“Job hopping is one of the easiest ways to gain a significant salary increase,” – Lauren Thomas, European economist. (Source)

3. Creating a clean, safe and appealing work environment

A survey, commissioned by design company Oktra, found 34% dread going to work purely because of their office environment. The study, which looked at 2,000 office workers, found:

  • Three-quarters believe their office environment has made their productivity levels ‘plummet.’
  • One-third said they were left with “no alternative” but to take time off from work because their surroundings have directly affected their physical or mental well-being.
  • And 36% would be willing to stay at a company for longer if they worked in an appealing setting.


The main question here is what is considered to be ‘appealing’. In this instance, the very least includes adequate heating, safety and lighting. No employee wants to come out of their home every morning to an environment where they feel their health and safety isn't being looked after – where they could potentially be injured or get sick at every turn.

It’s also good practice to create an environment where things actually work, for example good quality laptops, kitchen equipment and bathroom facilities. Going back to our diversity and inclusion section, gender-neutral and private bathrooms would be the ultimate gold standard for employee comfort in that area, as it is the most accepting of everyone.

Beyond the physical aspects of an appealing workplace, there are also the emotional ones. Naturally, a well-lit, colourful and vibrant workspace filled with happy people encourages more people to come in than a grey and dreary office. On top of this, you could consider having events like Christmas parties and lunchtime talks that facilitate a sense of belonging and community within the workplace.

These events should always be optional and not too forced or mandatory for the best effect.

Employees should also feel safe to speak their minds among their peers, higher-ups and in general when in the workplace without fear of repercussions or being ostracised, no matter who they are or their level at the company. A 360 feedback culture encourages this feeling, avoids an echo chamber of criticism always being funnelled down to and by the same people, and can ensure well-rounded and fair assessments.

4. Encouraging work-life balance

87% of professionals surveyed say they have passion for their current job according to a Deloitte survey, but 64% say they are frequently stressed.

Interestingly, employees are not immune to stress or burnout even despite having passion for their work. This just shows that all employees need a good work-life balance in order to provide the most optimal experience for the company possible. This would involve proper rest periods without the expectation to ‘keep up’ with or ‘stay connected’ to the company – adequate holiday periods and leave, free from corporate interference.

Work-life balance has been shown to work extremely well in places where it has become a priority, ingrained in the culture of the entire country – and it would be wonderful if one day the UK could adopt this same vibe. Nordic countries consistently top rankings for the best work-life balance countries in the world, Slovakia is revered for its incredibly high maternity leave of 3 years, and European countries such as France, Germany and Spain would recoil at the thought of eating at their desks or not taking an afternoon siesta.

Over the past couple of years, some big-name brands (such as Netflix and Virgin Group among others) have announced “unlimited vacation” policies, which is a tremendous leap forward for employee engagement. Despite what you may first assume (that employees may be prone to abuse this policy for example), results have shown that when all the other aspects of an engaged workplace are there, abuses do not occur nearly as often as you might think. The level of trust a gesture like this creates with your employees encourages goodwill and reciprocity, and shows the employees that as long as they are responsible with their autonomy they will be rewarded.

The reciprocity principle is one of the basic laws of social psychology where in many social situations if someone does something for us, we then feel obligated to return the favour. (Source)

There is evidence to suggest that due to this unlimited vacation policy, employees work harder when they actually are in the office, as their means of reciprocity based on this principle.

Clueless employers encourage a 24/7 hustle culture and believe this will be optimal and productive for their company. In fact, due to the stress it causes as well as eventual resentment towards everything about the company, it becomes the exact opposite, increasing absences (and almost every study says so).

If you take care of your employees, they are likely to return it tenfold.

According to the research from the survey we conducted in-house, we found that:

53% of companies use increasing opportunities for growth as their #1 employee engagement strategy.

5. Emphasising diversity & inclusion

Every person is different, and the best companies are the ones that celebrate, champion and leverage those differences. Not only does it contribute to making your employees feel seen, it also provides more opportunities for your company to be known as an inclusive, welcoming space. This improves your chances of winning significant inclusion awards that could attract better talent who would want to work for you.

Diversity and inclusion go hand-in-hand because we are all individuals with different preferences and limitations which should be taken into consideration – you need both for the people in your workforce to thrive.

This can include physical things such as disabilities, to different religious beliefs that may sway someone’s decisions and the events they may want to go to, to differing personality types such as extroverts and introverts.

Forcing introverts to come to every event may be inclusive, but would not be supporting or accommodating their diversity! 

We asked 30 companies how they were going about increasing employee engagement both in the office and remotely using the five strategies, and the results were very interesting:

Increase employee opportunities for growth: 53%
Encourage work-life balance: 50%
Increase employee autonomy: 43%
Emphasis on diversity and inclusion: 17%
Maintain a clean work environment: 3%

Within our own company, we have found these to be the most effective:

Weekly themes

To create a sense of unity and camaraderie, weekly themes have been beneficial. These can range from online holiday parties to simply organising a scheduled day of the week where everyone can get together to discuss objectives over video chat or messaging. This is a great way for people to have a space where they can address any concerns or grievances with the entire team, as well as celebrate any weekly successes. Plus, it keeps everyone in the loop so there is no sense of anyone feeling left out or left without the crucial updates they may need.

Regular team interactions

Beyond online team meetings, it is great practice for employees to know that they can go to their other team members independently and confidentially if they need any help or guidance, but don’t want it broadcast to the entire team, via messaging (on a platform like Slack, for example).

Catch-ups with managers

According to a study by Gallup:

70% of team engagement is determined solely by the manager. (Source)

This type of engagement needs to be meaningful rather than micromanaging or criticising as well, according to the study.

In a good company, it will never be you against your manager – it should be you and your manager working together for the betterment of the company. An example of this would be MVF, where every employee receives a weekly 1-1 with their manager to discuss short and long-term growth objectives.


There are a wealth of benefits related to implementing or improving your employee engagement strategies and rates today.

Not only does an engagement policy increase the overall well-being of the company in terms of profit, productivity and employee attrition rates, but it also vastly reduces the likelihood of existing issues becoming more serious in the future. Preventative measures are always key here and contribute largely to the success of a company.


January 13, 2023 at 11:46AM by Stephanie Lennox, Khareem Sudlow