The Employee Engagement Network

We seem to be in the mood at the moment for sharing examples of stuff we've come across, experiences we've had etc... with that in mind (and thinking about how hard it can be to take what we do out of theory and put it into practice), I want to ask what fantastic employee engagement exercises have you been a part of or implemented yourself?

One of the best I ever experienced was a writing workshop. Not an engagement exercise on the face of it, and yet it was so good and so useful to me in my job that it made me feel hugely supported and invested in. The workshop was brilliantly thought through - and part of the deal was that the presenters would stay on some kind of retainer to help employees with any writing problems that might come up in the future. This made it feel like a meaningful exercise rather than just a nice thing that happened one day. (It was provided by Sunfish).

How about you?

Tags: engagement, exercises, life, real, workshops

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I have succeeded with showing my employees their future. I am a call center manager and have a high turnover of employees with the majority changing job within about a year. I have a lot of young people, some with their first real full time job. Many of them have decided to work for a year awaiting more education, or enter the call center world in transition and while trying to find a better job. This will result in low engagement. What I do is to hold a work session where I talk about the value of a great recommendation letter after their job is done here. I say that if they manage to work 2-3 year at a call center with great results, it will be a talent that most companies would appreciate when they hire new people. And if you fail to do a great job and quit early it will have the opposite effect. And if you have been working here for a while and motivation drops, this can be a great reminder for them to receive. I try to teach them to focus on a great CV where often changing jobs and bad recommendation is a waste of time. This has proven to be a great motivation for people with some ambitions.
Great question, Samantha. And I notice that you asked it in January! With the first reply coming in June.

First, I must salute Frode. He has tackled an age-old problem that exists all over the world: how to motivate call center staff.

Now, in answer to your question. A great engagement exercise is asking people for their input. Sounds obvious? My experience is that it's not done all that much. And when it is done, it's often bungled.

When done well, people feel good. They feel energized. They feel as though they have contributed something of value, namely their ideas.

You might like to see:

for exercises and ideas that help inspire higher engagement.



I love exercises that are Powerful, Simple and Elegant:

Before any course, even large ones, I have people go around and talk about how they are and what is taking their energy these days. Engages audience early and they hear their own voice very soon and they tend to engage in the day more freely. Whatever is sucking their energy usually related very significantly with their engagement.

Secondly, about every hour I will often have them rate their engagement on a scale of 1 to 10. 10 high and 1 low. Gets at they very fluid and dynamic nature of engagement. Sometimes they have a short 1 minute conversation with a partner and sometimes it is used to promote more mindfulness of engagement.

If it is more than a one day workshop or course, I start each additional day by asking participants to go around and tell us what stood out for them the day before. This is a much better question than asking them what they learned and it is amazing how engaged they get with their responses.

These exercise work best with groups under 25 but can be modified if working with group from one hundred to a few thousand.

Hi All,

Lots of great ideas. Actually I've found it inspiring just reading this - don't we have a great job?!

It's so interesting that the majority of you have recommended asking questions, but with some specifications. David touches on the importance of asking questions at the beginning of the day - sounds obvious, but then it's so easy to leave question asking unil later in the day, especially if there's a lot to fit in. I also like the idea of asking "what's taking your energy these days?".

Guy, I love the open listening exercise. The freedom of not having to come up with a solution must be very powerful. Out of interest do you frame the discussion at all?

Frode, thank you for being the first one to respond to this question. I'm glad you've found success through motivating this notoriously difficult type of group in this way. I'm not sure it would work for everyone, but what I DO think is a great idea is to be brave enough to show employees you are aware of their careers after your company and discuss the options with them.

Thanks everyone - Terence and Rob too.

Wow...what a great thread. The examples here are amazing. I have encountered two exercises in the past.

The one was where the company went through a change process and they had a competition where employees have to design a logo for the new vision.

The other one was where a manager involved her employees in the recruitment interview process of new employees. Her thinking was that the current employees will interact most of the time with the new recruit, so it just made sense that they have a say in the appointment process.

Regards & Energy!
One example that has worked well for us - for use when managers are reviewing engagement survey data with their teams. We call it the "Mad, Sad, Glad" exercise. Simply put, the manager would write these words each on a piece of flipchart paper and post it around the room. Each member of the team would go from one to the next - starting with Mad, next Sad, next Glad, and write down their reactions to the data. It captures the feelings & emotional responses -
* For "Mad," what do you see in the data that surprises you, makes you angry? What doesn't fit with what you expected to see?
* For "Sad," what do you see in the data that is disappointing?
* For "Glad," what do you see that you are proud of? What is a 'good' surprise?

Then the manager facilitates around each one and calls out some of the comments, may ask for clarification ("tell me more so I understand why you are feeling that way?"). The group ends up on the Glad comments so they can focus on next steps by starting from the postive. What are we proud of, what is working well that we want to do more of? What are our real strenghts as a team? Etc.

This helps move the discussion from "scores" and data, to the real emotional reactions. Let me know if you'd like to hear more about it.
Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for this. I've always felt that engagement surveys have the potential to be counter productive. This is a good way to make them real.

Hi Samantha,

I like the workshop example. It is similar to a practice which a mentor taught me for a group/team leader to involve everyone with their hearts and minds (engage) everyday. It was leading 5 simple steps of Thank, Invite, Re-Ask, Feedback (from the activity itself), and Share. Working with everyone (informally or formally) to re-ask the critical questions for "How are we doing?" both individually and collectively.

I have used a cool new presentation tool called Prezi to explain it at There are also links to a Manifesto as well as a eBook which any group leader can freely use as my way of paying it back.
One of the best ways I have found to continue the learning (ensure the participants can apply their new skills and knowledge) is via a portal (using SharePoint but there are other options). You can provide mentoring/coaching via the portal, share information around best practices and lessons learned, access any templates, tools and resource documents, and participate in a team-based environment to assist each other with applying the skills/knowledge.

Best, Gina.
Frode - I love your answer. It reminded me of a time (long ago) when I managed a fast food outlet in a mall (fish and chips and baked potatoes). My staff consisted of high school students - mostly girls. My competition was the name brand fast food outlets you so often see in the food courts of malls.
I felt that I carried a greater responsibility than just the manager - that I was also responsible for the "first job" experience of these young people. I remembered the high drama that is the life of teens and the importance of school and studying. I managed schedules around these things (which the owner felt was unimportant - I would rearrange the work schedule after she left) and made sure that I was there to help them out when they needed it - providing training, positive reinforcement and constructive correction when needed.

We won food court awards for best improvement in sales three times and I had the lowest turnover of all the fast food outlets. We were all working for minimum wage - but we had fun, they grew and more importantly these young people had a taste of what it was like to work for a good manager.

I often wonder where these young people are today - more than 25 years later - and if they remember those early days.
One of the best engagement exercises I use when working with groups is to divide people into small groups of 3 or 4 and ask them to produce flipchart size posters of the successes they have had at work in the last six months. I'll allow one "hitting target" type success but the rest have to be the warm glowing successes from interacting with colleagues, customers etc. Once we've made our posters, we talk about them to the rest of the group and pull out things in common and how they feed into the organisation's ethos and vision. We also discuss ways of making these successes more common place or vow to notice them more.


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