Businesses all over the world can do better at engaging employees at work. According to Gallup research, 85 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. Consider that the next time you hold a meeting with your 10-employee team and only two really needed to be there.

“Engaged employees deliver better work more productively and more safely,” said Ephraim Freed, who runs Freed Employee Experience Consulting and serves as employee experience manager for Regent. “They become brand champions and stay at organizations longer, reducing attrition and its large related costs — financial and knowledge-related.”

In the modern workplace many organizations  think tools and technologies are a cure all but that isn't the case. Improving employee experience doesn’t always have to involve a tool. We caught up with Freed and others to discuss ways to improve employee experience and boost employee engagement that don't involve a new software solution.

Look at Moral, Social Big Picture

Freed said organizations should look at the moral and social picture in the world around us today. We have lower levels of trust in government and business than ever before, he said, adding that the world is seeing “mounting levels of loneliness and isolation, depression and anxiety, suicide, and health issues across the board. At the same time our planet is rebelling against a couple centuries of environmental degradation.” 

Rather than just simply engaging employees, organizations need to provide a meaningful experience of work in the modern age. Provide learning and career paths, community and connection, a sense of purpose and positive impact, team environments that foster psychological safety and inclusion and “truly ethical workplaces with authentic values that shine brightly in everyday work.” “These things,” Freed added, “lead to better employee engagement, and they also address some of the greatest challenges our society faces today.” 

Related Article: What Does Employee Experience Really Mean?

Engage Employees Before They Start 

Gerrit Brouwer, CEO of Appical, said organizations should engage with new hires before the first day in the office. He calls this the “preboarding phase,” which, he said, can start one or even two months before Day 1. “It is the ultimate opportunity to prepare a new hire for a new role. If you look at the irresistible business case we see that on average a new hire invests easily a couple of days to ensure all the preparation is done in the right way in their own time,” Brouwer added. “Almost every new hire is really enthusiastic to start and eager to learn, so why not exploit that spirit.”

Let Them Play Ball

That company softball game can go a long way outside of the few laughs at the expense of that one employee who tries really hard. “Camaraderie is a great driver of employee retention,” Brouwer said. “If HR facilitates new hires to be part of a company sports club (i.e. kickball or softball team), innovation team or community (effort), employees will more quickly develop a sense of belonging to an organization, reducing the need or desire to leave an organization.” This is about letting employees make personal connections outside of work.  

Learning Opportunities

Give Employees ‘Time’

Most people want a working arrangement that supports their own lifestyle, according to Niamh Keys, human resources director for Skimlinks. That means companies need to help their employees build a work day that aligns with their needs, which day-to-day means being flexible about the work-life balance. Make accommodations like earlier start or finish times to help parents coordinate commitments. “It also means freedom for employees to direct their own learning and development,” Keys said. “One of the best things you can do for the employee experience is enable your team to spend time learning.” Skimlinks gives its employees one day every month purely for learning and development, which they can spend however they choose. 

Give time for personal, as well as professional development, like paid volunteering time. This will enable employees, Keys said, to pursue activities that matter to them and give back to their communities. “Whatever the activity, it works to support well-being and improve the employee experience, too,” Keys said.

Related Article: Employees Deserve the Same Digital Experience You Provide Customers

Create a Sense of Community  

Help build a bond between team members with simple things like a team lunch, coffee with a colleague or a company social. These events help foster a community feel at work. “Spending time together as a team helps put the day’s work in perspective and gives a chance to blow off steam if things have been particularly stressful,” Keys said. 

It can also mean celebrating success together. Showcase success at a weekly company all-hands meeting and inform employees about the wider impact their work is having across the organization. “We hold ours on a Friday afternoon, which makes it a great way to close the week on a high and help people see how their work across the board adds up to higher-level impacts,” Keys said. Annually, her company takes an all-company trip away. “It fosters a strong sense of community, energizes everyone and brings an amazing sense of cohesion to the company,” she said.