Employee engagement programs are an essential nonprofit basic.

Nonprofit Basics: Employee Engagement Programs

Every organization wants passionate employees who are committed to their work, but motivating your employees to fully engage isn’t something that just happens by chance. Cultivating a workplace culture of happy, diligent employees requires deliberate strategy and planning through employee engagement programs. 

Employee engagement programs will look a bit different between the corporate and nonprofit spheres, but ultimately all organizations can benefit from gaining a deeper understanding of what these programs are and the elements that make one successful. 

What are employee engagement programs?

Employee engagement programs are deliberate efforts your organization takes to connect with employees and encourage them to take part in building a positive work environment. 

We’ll discuss specific examples later, but ultimately employee engagement programs can vary widely between organizations from informal afterwork get-togethers to an in-office recognition program

What are the characteristics of a successful employee engagement program?

Not all employee engagement programs will be successful, and what works for one organization may not reach employees at another organization in the same way. However, all successful employee engagement programs do share a few characteristics, including:

Alt text: All successful employee engagement programs have a few characteristics in common. 

  • Trust and transparency
  • Understanding of employees’ values
  • Room for creativity and self-expression 
  • Respect and appreciation

When planning your employee engagement program, strive to understand how your employees view your workplace. Knowing what they value, how they currently feel about their work, and what motivates them to work will provide direction when planning your first employee engagement program. 

What are examples of employee engagement programs?

As mentioned, there are a number of employee engagement program types you can explore. If you’re looking for real-life examples of employee engagement at companies, check out this guide.

As a general overview, a few popular programs that will work at most workplaces include:

Allow employees to submit feedback and present their ideas. 

Employees are motivated by a variety of factors, and one of the major ones is personal empowerment. This can take many forms, such as clear career development paths or limiting micro-managing in favor of independent work. 

One popular empowerment option is giving your employees the chance to share their ideas with leadership. These ideas can be aimed at specific tasks employees perform everyday or focused on how your organization operates as a whole. Along with providing employees an opportunity to think about your business or nonprofit more deeply and have their ideas heard, you’ll likely also gather reliable suggestions for ways to improve your organization. 

To collect these ideas, create a feedback survey system. Here are a few different types of survey models:

  • Anonymous online surveys. Anonymous surveys allow employees to speak freely, which may encourage them to share ideas that are critical of your current practices but ultimately useful to hear. Keep in mind that while employees may feel more freedom when using an anonymous survey, if you have any questions about an employee’s responses, you’ll be unable to follow up with them. 
  • One-on-one in-person interviews. Schedule opportunities for employees to meet with their managers and share their ideas one-on-one. These meetings don’t have to be long—about ten minutes unless an employee has an exceptional number of ideas to share. In these interviews, employees will have a chance to be actively heard and talk through their ideas with a more senior member of your team. 
  • Public online surveys. These surveys are also hosted online, but the results of each survey will be associated with the employee who submits it. This can be a useful middleground between anonymous and in-person surveys as employees will be able to submit their ideas on a recurring basis and have leadership follow up with them to discuss questions or further explanations if needed. 

Additionally, you can also send out surveys that ask employees about their specific experiences at your organization. If you aren’t sure how your employees view your workplace culture, this can be a useful way to collect specific information and identify your strengths and weaknesses. 

If employees do report bad experiences, ensure you have a closed-feedback loop system in place to follow up with them. This ensures that their feedback is noted, corrections are made to resolve the issue, and a member of your team reaches out to them to let them know their concerns are heard and are being appropriately addressed. 

Empower employees to plan and lead social events. 

As mentioned, employees appreciate personal empowerment and independence. This applies both when they’re at and outside of the office. While leadership planned and led engagement events can go a long way towards establishing your commitment to a better workplace culture, giving employees the reins has several additional benefits. 

Chances are your employees will have a stronger on-the-ground perspective of what types of events their fellow employees would be interested in participating in. Plus, letting employees plan these events takes scheduling, budgeting, and booking event spaces off of your plate and gives inspired employees the opportunity to take on that responsibility instead.  

Host employee volunteer days.

Employees want to work at organizations they feel are doing good in the world, and you can show your commitment to the causes your employees care about by hosting employee volunteer days. 

Partner with a local nonprofit and organize a day for members of your staff to come in and work together. It will provide them an opportunity to do meaningful work for their community and get to know one another in an environment outside of the office. 

You can also create an employee volunteer grant program. Rather than organizing the volunteer day yourself, employees will volunteer for causes they care about individually. Then, you can show your support by making a donation to the organizations they volunteered at based on how many hours they volunteered. 

Other Resources to Explore

Nonprofit Basics – Learn more nonprofit management essentials by exploring other expert resources.

Top Corporate Giving Software to Drive Employee Engagement – Corporate philanthropy programs can be a major driver in employee engagement. Learn how you can streamline your corporate giving process with these software applications. 

Getting Employees to Care: Employee Engagement and Culture – Interested in learning more about how your workplace culture influences employee engagement? Explore this article on how to motivate your employees by crafting better workplace experiences.