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As the New York City job market is picking up steam, there are plenty of individuals out there willing to shift their skills and dedication to new frontiers where they feel valued, able to join in and bask in the success of their efforts at work. So how do you as an employer attract and retain the best and brightest minds in your field?

Today, the team here at Corporate Essentials is hoping to help you solve that ever-present conundrum. The key to employee satisfaction, it seems, is a bustling workplace culture rich with opportunities for employees to engage. In this article, we are focusing on 25 great employee engagement activities you can use to channel your company’s energy in the right direction.

Hold brainstorming sessions

One of the most obvious employee engagement activities is probably something you are doing already–brainstorming. Involving staff in the scope of projects your company is about to start, ideas for future expansion, decisions about the facility or even general ideas about how to make the holiday party more exciting is a great way to ensure your team members are engaged and interested in the workplace.

Take time out

Building strong teams at work is about more than just managing the inter-office dynamics, it is about providing people with purposeful connections to one another and often that means not being on task one hundred percent of the time.

Take time to talk to people before or after meetings. Grab a quick cup of coffee in the staff room with a co-worker or whoever is around. In a New York City office, there’s always something exciting happening in one place or another. You should consider adventuring outside your building to get to know a co-worker on a more personal level, removed from the hectic work environment. Regardless of what you decide to do, designate time apart from everything that keeps you “busy” at your desk. It’s important to show those around you that you are invested in their success, along with the success of the company as a whole.

Get outside

Sometimes a change of scenery can make all the difference to your ability to engage staff. Whether you work around the corner from a quiet city park or are fortunate enough to have a building with a rooftop garden, take advantage of the environment that surrounds you and have your people get a breath of fresh air regularly.

Studies show that spending just 10 minutes in an open-air environment where one can observe “nature” has a tremendous calming influence, lowers blood pressure and can make people more receptive to new ideas.

Create an office wellness program

Incentives are a great way to promote employee engagement activities–and one of the easiest activities to add incentives to is an employee wellness program. Before you shudder at the notion of everyone donning Lycra and “Sweating to the Oldies”, consider that a wellness program can be about far more than exercise.

Encouraging employees to get adequate hydration, take regular breaks or use breathing exercises can be highly beneficial to overall workplace health. What’s more, by promoting a wellness program to your staff, you are showing them that you value their wellbeing–and when employees feel truly valued, they are more committed to their employer.

Create a knowledge sharing system

Every business has those people who just seem to know everything–from how to order the pens with the right logo on them to who originally wrote the house style guidelines and which deli that visiting team from the other coast really liked.

So give those people a prideful place in your organization by creating a knowledge sharing network where staff can ask questions and those in the know can share that information readily–over time you can build up a company FAQ for internal staff use. By sharing this knowledge, you are able to help people feel more welcome and involved in the day-to-day running of your business from the start.

Make onboarding fun

Joining a new company can be a daunting process, particularly for those who are new to the field. However, a well-crafted onboarding process can make a world of difference to people at all career points when joining a new firm. Employee engagement activities that start from day one set a precedent for an overall feeling of inclusion and value in staff from the start.

Add MadLibs to the new staff introduction routine, incorporate fun problem-solving activities into the standard day of filling in forms or give new hires a creative challenge to solve as a team during the orientation day.

Create an internal company magazine or newsletter

Whether your company is big or small, having a regular publication that showcases new staff, new clients, new projects or updates on long-term plans is a great way to foster engagement throughout the firm.

Often people in different departments would have no reason to know that the guys in design won an award, or that the bods in IT went to a conference where they learned how to shave dollars off their budget and bolster services–a newsletter gives everyone a space to provide those updates to anyone interested.

Give back

Employee engagement activities can involve the wider community. Offer your staff an incentive for doing work with local community organizations–whether in the form of extra time off, a fiscal incentive or membership in a special staff team/club, acknowledging that your firm has a commitment to improving the community is good for your business, and investing time and resources in causes that matter to your people is great for morale.

Hold office games

A little friendly competition can be the best foundation for employee engagement activities. Hold an office bake-off, a coffee brewing competition, a trivia evening, a wine tasting or a “Minute To Win It” championship–anything that gives staff an opportunity to compete against one another, in teams or as individuals, can present a great opportunity for networking, learning and fun.

Non-work related team bonding

While the point of employee engagement activities is to help provide a good workplace culture and a great atmosphere where the staff wants to be part of things, creating opportunities for staff to interact, bond and enjoy themselves together outside the normal work environment can be a tremendous advantage.

Having a box at a local sports venue or season passes to a theater or music venue can provide numerous opportunities for people across your company to get together outside of work, for no reason other than just having fun.

Bring your employees’ interests into the office

Many people look back at their early education and remember getting the opportunity to share something with the rest of the class as a true highlight of collaborative learning. In today’s culture, where “like” and “share” are the default options for things we enjoy, it makes sense that great employee engagement activities should focus on bringing employee’s external interests into the workplace.

Whether that means you can bring your dog to work on Thursdays, have the opportunity to enjoy local craft beers on the last Friday of the month or offer an open mic night every so often, giving staff the opportunity to showcase their hobbies and interests in the workplace shows a genuine appreciation for them as “whole” people, rather than simple worker bees.

Monthly potluck lunches

There is little that brings people together better than a nice spread of food. Encouraging people to contribute to a shared table is a great way to involve people at all levels with one another for a few minutes each month, and organizing a potluck lunch is surprisingly simple in this age of online signups and email reminders.

Pick a theme for the month, hold a vote for the best side dish or offer a door prize for everyone who takes a plate to encourage broader participation–before you know it, people will be looking forward to the next event.

Weekly draws

Your company break room is a great place to host passive employee engagement activities. Start by having a simple suggestions box, encourage people to give you feedback about the products available and show that you are reviewing these suggestions regularly by entering everyone who provides feedback into a weekly prize drawing.

There are plenty of areas within the business you could use to encourage people to participate by offering a raffle-style reward. Think about your teams and choose points of engagement you think will work–never be afraid to change it up to attract new feedback.

Theme days

While a theme for the potluck provides great engagement for the people who participate, another solid option for boosting overall employee engagement is by setting a company-wide theme on a designated day each month for fun, engagement and company pride.

Themes can include decoration and fancy dress, as well as special catering or entertainment options–but more than this, a theme could extend to a spirit for the day, focused on something purely fun (Talk Like a Pirate Day) or something designed to raise awareness and funds for a local charity (World Down Syndrome Day).

Workplace awards

Everyone likes to be rewarded for their hard work, dedication and enthusiasm, so cultivating employee engagement activities around the notion of giving awards for performance and involvement is a great way to appeal to a wide swath of your staff.

Take the idea a step further by having “people’s choice” awards, where employees can nominate a colleague for helpfulness, knowledge or customer service.

Create a sharing space in the office for collaboration

Similar to the idea of providing time for employees to bring their interests into the office, a dedicated sharing space is a great way to encourage people in your teams to collaborate regardless of their own departmental borders.

Employee engagement across departments has been shown time and again to provide innovation and solutions where existing eyes on the project may have only seen roadblocks. Providing a specific meeting area that is not assigned to any particular team–natural light and fresh air are a definite bonus, as is a designated coffee station for the area.

Hold a “hack night” at the office

Taking the idea of cross-departmental working to another level, provide unique employee engagement activities once a quarter or so and invite anyone in the company to come along and brainstorm solutions for long-standing issues. Anything from a parking problem to scheduling issues or how to get the most out of office supplies could be on the table, and anyone should be allowed to have a voice in the discussion.

Some of the best solutions to common problems can be found by asking someone new to think their way through the issue–“life hacks” are some of the most purposeful things on the internet, imagine how helpful “office hacks” could be to your firm.

Hold an office workshop

Holding a workshop is a very purposeful way to collaborate. When it comes to employee engagement activities, workshops can provide everything from brainstorming sessions or training to more loosely shaped opportunities to share ideas and collaborate on possible uses for new technology or applications for research within your firm.

The benefit to workshops is that they are less formal than other typical training modalities–and present a great opportunity for people to collaborate, making it an ideal opportunity to bring external stakeholders into the picture for discussions.

Make your break room a fun place to unwind

In a busy office in a hectic city, like New York City, your break room should be a place for people to find genuine downtime. It should be a welcoming spot where your employees can grab a quick bite to eat or even just take a moment for themselves. The break room should be a meeting spot for staff. It plays a large part in overall employee satisfaction. Providing adequate hydration, nutrient-packed snacks and caffeine to the people who keep all the wheels in motion is important–but making that an enjoyable place to take deliberate action on your part.

Obviously, we recommend you start with a great selection of office coffees and snacks, but more than this, create a comfortable space that is the right combination of fun and functional. Encourage your staff to take regular breaks by providing books, games and other activities–and encourage them to engage with the space by ensuring they are able to provide feedback about the area and feel that their voices are heard.

Create an employee idea/suggestion program

We have mentioned more than once the importance of gathering and acknowledging feedback from your staff for many things–this is because putting up a suggestion box is a great start, but without the follow through of actually reading the feedback and taking action based on it, your suggestion box becomes a hollow gesture that staff do not value.

Which leads to a diminished feeling of worth for employees overall, no one likes to be unheard. So, when planning your employee engagement activities, find ways that you can gather feedback from employees and be sure to acknowledge it. Encouraging employees to provide feedback is often easier when there is an anonymous option, and providing raffle-style prizes for returned questionnaires when considering changes.

Create a culture committee comprised of employees

Ultimately the employees at your company are the custodians of the culture you are working to create–so make them the ambassadors for it. Pick a handful of people from different departments and cultivate a committee whose only purpose is to foster a flourishing workplace culture, by ensuring employee engagement activities are designed to appeal to people across the organization and provide the right sort of opportunities to spread the messages your firm holds dear among staff.

Coordinate a team-building event

Team building does not have to be about a survivalist weekend in the woods. It can be as simple as taking time out to savor new coffee blends in the break room on Wednesday.

The importance of scheduling team-building activities is that they are focused on the right people at the right time. To motivate your employees, choose activities for the right teams at the right times, making sure that the mix of people involved is all going to enjoy themselves and grow closer as a functional unit through the course of the event.

Implement a creativity or innovation contest

The school science fair was pretty good fun when you were 10–but who is to say you have to stop having fun pushing boundaries just because you have a real job now?

As employee engagement activities go, a friendly competition among staff to solve problems, pitch new ideas or even redesign the company logo can be a great opportunity for people to get together and learn from one another. This could also provide you with the chance for you to see some of your employees’ untapped talents.

Invest in fun games or entertainment in your break room

Anything that brings people together to solve little problems is a team-building activity–even board games. Add simple games that do not have to take hours, but rather, are easy for people to start and hand off to another colleague to your break room for a splash of fun and low-key team building and you may notice a difference in people’s overall morale quite quickly.

Hold a company history month

For companies that have been around for a while, a great way to acquaint younger/newer staff with the overall culture is to host an annual history event. Showcase all the accomplishments, innovations and key staff who have made the firm great.

Holding a company history event might seem strange if your firm is just taking the first strides in your industry–but there is power in being able to say “this is where we started, and this is where we are heading”. It is much easier to feel like you are part of something when you have a solid base of understanding for its history. You can then augment this activity by having random history questions as part of company quiz nights throughout the year.

Because a successful workplace culture is a big part of what helps businesses succeed, it is vital that employee engagement activities be created thoughtfully and cater to as wide a palette of interests as possible, hopefully, these twenty-five ideas have given you a starting point to develop an interactive calendar of events for your staff.

If you are looking for more ways to bolster your office culture, the team at Corporate Essentials has a wide portfolio of ideas to help you on your way. While our primary focus is great office coffee and all those essentials that go into a great New York City break room, we have a solid background in helping companies pick their path toward a better office environment for everyone. You should contact our team today for more ideas.

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Joe Simonovich

Joe has a strong background in marketing and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). The start to his career as a customer service representative has given him a unique foundation and different perspective on almost all business-related situations. Joe is now the Chief Growth Officer (and Director of Creating Awesomeness) at Corporate Essentials. He brings a unique skill set and a hands-on approach to any leadership role and believes that hustle is simply a way of life.