Eight Strategies for Enhancing Employee Engagement and Retention

Proven methods for boosting employee morale and loyalty

Employee engagement is crucial to any business's success. It's not just a trending buzzword; it's a strategic imperative for organizations that want to thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape.

The “Great Resignation”, a term used to describe the mass exodus of employees from their jobs, is over after a challenging time for Human Resources (HR) departments. With fewer jobs available, people are not leaving their jobs at the ferocious pace seen in 2021 and 2022. However, turnover is still a threat. No company wants to lose its best performers. Retention and engagement are closely linked. Engaged employees are much less likely to leave a job.

That's why keeping employees invested in their jobs is essential. It's not a one-and-done process; you must play the long game to maintain employee engagement. Here are a few practical and straightforward strategies:

  1. Remote work: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become one of the most coveted employee benefits. Working from home improves the delicate balance between personal and professional lives, increasing overall satisfaction. Employees also have more control over their work processes and environment, resulting in higher job satisfaction. With more autonomy comes greater responsibility, which can motivate and empower many employees.

  2. Flexible work hours/schedules: When remote work became common during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, more employers started to drift away from rigid 9-5 work schedules. Giving employees autonomy and flexibility over their hours significantly contributes to overall job satisfaction, productivity, work-life balance and loyalty. Employees who feel respected and valued are more likely to be engaged and appreciate their employer.

  3. Matching gift programs: A matching gift program is a powerful tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing social impact and building stronger employee relationships. By matching employee donations to eligible 501(c)(3) non-profits, companies foster a sense of pride and connection as employees see their employer contributing to the greater good. A matching program can be flexible and tailored to your company's revenue. For example, matching employee donations of up to $500 is better than not matching.

  4. Tuition reimbursement: One of the most effective strategies, tuition reimbursement, is an investment in the company's future. In a 2024 survey commissioned by Nuveen, 44% of Gen Z respondents ranked education and training as their top benefits priority when evaluating an employer's offerings. Well-educated employees are more likely to bring innovative ideas, skills, and solutions to the company and be better performers. Plus, employees are more likely to stay with a company that invests in their education, leading to higher motivation and job satisfaction as they feel valued and supported in their career growth. Whether a partial or full reimbursement, it's an extremely valuable retention and engagement strategy.

  5. Employee development: Beyond higher education, there are many opportunities for employees to enhance their professional skills, from in-person training to online classes to mentorship programs. These opportunities ensure that employees stay current with industry trends and best practices. They also develop new skills and improve existing ones, leading to better job performance and loyalty.

  6. Wellness opportunities: Wellness is broad, from fitness to nutrition, meditation, self-care and mental health support. No matter your company's wellness programs, anything that positively benefits employees is worth the investment. Not only is it an attractive benefit for prospective employees, but wellness offerings will also make current employees feel like their employer cares about their mental and physical well-being, fostering a supportive and healthy work environment.

  7. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI): DEI initiatives are not just a trend; they are a powerful driver of employee engagement and morale. From employee resource groups to trainings to community engagement, these initiatives create an inclusive workplace where all employees feel valued and respected. This sense of belonging fosters higher engagement and morale, encouraging employees to share their ideas and opinions more freely, leading to increased collaboration and innovative thinking.

  8. Retirement benefits: As more Americans worry about being able to afford retirement, retirement benefits are a more significant concern than ever. One quarter (25%) of respondents ranked retirement as their top benefits priority when evaluating an employer, according to a 2024 Nuveen survey. The number rose to 53% amongst Gen X and baby boomers.

The guaranteed lifetime income offered by pensions was an excellent employee engagement and retention tool. However, due to their high costs, many companies replaced them with 401(k)s. Both types of programs are no longer adequate for employees or employers.

That's why it's time for a new generation of sustainable retirement plans combining the best features of DC and DB plans into market return cash balance plans. Besides being more cost-effective, these modern plan designs promote employee engagement by offering transparency and flexibility. They can also be customized with incentives that employees can unlock at certain milestones, e.g., staying with the company for 20 years gives you a medical savings account, encouraging employee loyalty.

Conclusion

Higher levels of employee engagement contribute to overall employee morale, creating a more supportive and enjoyable work environment. A focus on engagement can decrease employee turnover, ensuring that valuable knowledge and skills remain within the organization. That's why implementing the strategies outlined above is crucial to an organization's success, whether it's one, two, or all of the above.

Retirement benefits will become increasingly important over time. Offering a robust program will give a company a competitive edge, making it a strategy worth considering.

About October Three

Our mission is to help employees achieve better retirement outcomes with forward-thinking plans, such as O3 PRIME, that meet employer needs. As a consulting firm and one-stop-shop, October Three has the administrators, actuaries and consultants to design programs and then administer them — leading clients through every step of the plan journey.

Read our “HR Guide to Better Retirement Outcomes” to learn more about retaining talent with optimized retirement plans.