At the heart of it, engagement is about people — understanding, motivating, and connecting with them. That makes engagement a complex topic. The deeper you go, the more confusing it can seem. Creating an effective engagement strategy sometimes feels like an impossible task.

That’s where we come in.

Through our research, interviews and experience leading an amazing team at SnackNation, we’ve identified nine key areas that every successful employee engagement strategy must address.

We call them The 9 Pillars of Employee Engagement, and they can help you build a team that takes your business to the next level.

Let’s dig in.

1. Values and Purpose (the Why)

To paraphrase Simon Sinek, it starts with “Why.”

Human beings have an innate need to feel part of something bigger than ourselves. Engagement requires a sense of this purpose.

That’s why it’s essential that your company identifies its particular “Why,” and codifies it in a clear and succinct mission statement, something anyone in your company can understand and explain.

[Related: Employers, learn how you can get in the running for Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work List]

To find your company’s Why, ask yourself:

Why does our business exist? Why do we do what we do? What gets me excited to get out bed in the morning?

2. Communication

The importance of proper communication can’t be overstated as many of the other pillars depend on it.

The functional element of communication is usually pretty clear. What HR pros sometimes overlook is the emotional element inherent to internal communications. When employees receive timely, constructive communication, they feel in the loop and included. This is critical for creating engaged teams.

Communication has to be a two-way street. Create channels for employee feedback, like suggestion boxes or office hours, or include a Q&A session in company all-hands meetings.

3. Health and Wellness

Employee health and wellness is a significant factor in productivity, wellbeing and performance that cannot be overlooked.

Many leaders neglect health and wellness, but organizations who invest in it actually save money in the long run. That’s because when you pay attention to employee health, you curtail healthcare costs and reduce productivity-loss due to absenteeism.

In fact, the Harvard Business Review found that on average employers who invested in health and wellness saw a nearly 3-to-1 return in money saved.

4. Workspace / Environment

The idea is simple: we ask employees to spend a lot of their life at work. Why not make it somewhere they actually want to spend their time?

You can get double the value by creating a space that matches your culture and business.

Is collaboration important to you? Design spaces where people can meet up and work together.

Is creativity critical to you? Go with whimsical art and interior design to delight and inspire.

Innovation? Paint floor-to-ceiling blackboards so employees can brainstorm ideas whenever inspiration strikes.

5. Well-defined Roles

Mission and vision are important, but I’ve seen so many companies fall into the trap of neglecting to connect the big picture with the individual’s particular role within the company. If you want your employees to be engaged, they need to know that their work matters. That’s why you need well-defined roles.

This process is all about connecting that big picture mission with each and every individual employee’s day-to-day activities. Ultimately, the role should be a clear framework for how the employee’s efforts contribute to the greater whole. Without this framework, employers risk confusion, disengagement and burnout.

6. Relationships with Colleagues

Companies where friendships are common have more engaged employees and better businesses. Friendship, it turns out, gives your business a competitive advantage.

Gallup recently found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50 percent, and people with a self-described best friend at work are seven times more likely to be fully engaged.

While you can’t force colleagues to become friends, you can facilitate the opportunity for your employees to make personal connections by hosting social events like happy hours or off-sites.

7. Recognition and Incentives

For today’s employees (especially Millennials), compensation is more of a threshold than a scorecard, and is a poor motivator.

Consider this: a recent Princeton study showed that money, above $75,000, doesn’t contribute to our overall happiness.

So what sort of incentives do matter? It’s the emotional ones that move the needle most.

Create a monthly company-wide award recognizing the individual who demonstrates the biggest commitment to your core values. You’ll create an ideal for employees to strive for, establish an emotional bond between the recipient and the organization, and help reinforce the company’s values in the process.

8. Buy-in from Managers

It’s a familiar adage: People don’t quit jobs, they quit managers.

The quality of your managers is a major factor in employee engagement and retention. That’s because middle management is the critical link between senior leadership and the rest of the organization. Yes, the C-Suite sets the vision, but middle managers carry out that vision on a daily basis.

Without buy-in from managers, your engagement strategy will be little more than a paper tiger.

9. Personal Growth and Development

In our service and information-driven economy, people are your most precious commodity. So why wouldn’t you invest in their growth and development?

One obvious way to do this is to subsidize education. But footing the bill for your employee’s $90k MBA program isn’t realistic for most emerging businesses.

The solution? Turn the office into a learning environment.

At SnackNation, we hold personal development sessions every Monday. Dubbed “Sensei Sessions,” the weekly gatherings are a mix of company updates, personal development and professional learning. A program like this does take some investment, but the return is a more empowered, more engaged workforce.


So there you have it, the nine areas that every engagement strategy should eventually touch on. It might seem like a lot, but remember, every journey starts with that first step. Just get started and build on your successes.

What’s worked at your company? Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author: Sean Kelly is the CEO of SnackNation, a healthy snack delivery service for offices across America. Sean is also the Founder of, an association dedicated to helping companies maximize employee engagement, productivity and wellbeing.

This article was originally published on Glassdoor.

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