Skip to Main Content
Filter By +
Topic +

6 Strategies to Increase Employee Engagement

Low engagement is an indiscriminate obstacle. Gallup found over the last three years, worldwide engagement levels hovered at roughly 20%. These low figures also come with a global price tag: $7.8 trillion in lost productivity (approximately 11% of the global GDP).

Competition for top talent is fierce, and today’s employees want more than good pay. They expect:

  • meaningful work
  • a sincere commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)
  • a greater focus on well-being and work-life balance
  • more opportunities to upskill, reskill and flourish
  • technology that helps them work and live better

With so much pressure placed on organizations, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Workplace Culture Virtual Retreat couldn’t have come at a better time. SHRM united thought leaders from across the HR industry — including Barbara Corcoran, renowned investor and consultant, and Steve Boese, HR Technology Conference program chair — to discuss:

  • the widespread effect of low engagement
  • employee engagement strategies and ideas
  • how the right HR tech supports engagement

Couldn’t make it to the retreat? Don’t sweat! Consider this blog post your ultimate recap. We’ll fill you in on the top issues, questions and insights from the event.

How has low employee engagement affected businesses and their employees?

While many factors fuel disengagement, some carry a more widespread impact. Businesses are still reeling from the “great resignation,” a recent mass exodus of employees, the likes of which the Bureau of Labor Statistics hadn’t recorded since the agency started collecting employment data in 2000. It reported over four million resignations each month from June 2021 to October 2022.

According to Pew Research Center, 63% of workers who quit their job in 2021 cited low pay and no room for meaningful advancement. People will always need jobs to sustain their lives. Still, sustaining may not be far off from stagnating if an employee doesn’t see potential in their performance.

But quitting isn’t the only symptom of dwindling engagement. At least, not technically. If you scrolled on a social media feed for more than two minutes in the last year, you’ve probably heard of “quiet quitting.”

Gallup describes the phenomenon as employees doing the bare minimum requirements of their role while coasting — if not outright avoiding — professional development. The research institute also found “quiet quitters” represent at least half of the American workforce.

Quiet quitting isn’t anything new. But its resurgence has placed it front and center. It also shouldn’t be misconstrued as a wave of lazy and thankless employees. Instead, it’s a defense mechanism for talent to protect their well-being.

“We need to think about well-being at a whole-person level — we need to make people feel safe,” said Boese. “We need to make people feel that their health and well-being needs are being taken care of. And ultimately, to provide an environment where they can perform at their best and they can flourish and thrive.”

What causes low employee engagement?

We’ve got a grasp of what disengagement looks like. Now, let’s identify what causes it.

Payroll problems

You might think it goes without saying that if you can’t pay employees properly, they won’t stick around. Competitive pay is key but paying them correctly is just as important. Easy enough, right?

Not quite. If it were, it’d be hard to explain the 81% of HR, payroll and accounting professionals who said they were stressed about payroll errors in a OnePoll survey conducted on behalf of Paycom. But why are these pros worried? For starters, over 9 in 10 of them believed when payroll’s wrong, it fractures employees’ trust in their organization.

And they’re absolutely right. According to a Morning Consult survey commissioned by Paycom, 58% of Americans would experience financial difficulty if just $100 was missing from their check.

Think the chances of a catastrophic mistake are low? Try asking the staggering 80% of employees who told Morning Consult a payroll error forced them to take corrective action in the last year, including 20% who had to:

  • overdraw accounts
  • miss bill payments
  • cut back on necessities

If this wasn’t enough, the same survey showed 86% of respondents would feel a negative impact if they missed just one check, and 40% would be vulnerable to poverty. A mistake that spurs a pay delay could turn a worst-case scenario into reality.

It’s not hard to imagine why so many employees and HR professionals are on edge, especially with a broken and outdated process.

Mental health and motivation

As the world changes, so does the way we perceive work. More employees are prioritizing their well-being, even if it means resignation. In fact, Generation Z is the most likely generation to say their mental health declined since 2020, according to the American Psychological Association. This may explain why 44% of Gen Z employees told Deloitte in a recent study they quit due to burnout.

Mass quitting isn’t exclusive to the youngest employees. According to McKinsey & Company, nearly 1 in 3 people who left their jobs between April 2021 and April 2022 cited a lack of meaningful work. In other words, employees are in desperate need of security, support and purpose.

“Even if [employees] have a very good position, the importance of what they do on their own time has taken precedent over the job,” said Corcoran. “You have a lot less workaholics today that believe promotion is the end-all.”

What employee engagement strategies should businesses be using?

In SHRM’s State of the Workplace Study, 80% of HR professionals said maintaining employee engagement was their top priority. For good reason, too, given Gallup found strong engagement leads to higher:

  • profits
  • productivity
  • customer loyalty

High engagement gives organizations a clear advantage. So what are employers doing to deliver?


The ideal engagement strategy will vary across organizations and even industries. For example, what motivates educators may not strike the same chord with those working in health care. Fortunately, there are ways to enhance engagement for every employee no matter their specific role.

1. Address payroll issues

All employees benefit from consistent, reliable pay. Seventy percent of them told Morning Consult a missing or delayed check hurts their job satisfaction. But what if they could know — not hope — their pay was 100% right every pay period?

Luckily, businesses don’t just have to wish for something better. Using employee-driven payroll, workers find and fix errors before submission. This prevents them from suffering the consequences of avoidable errors and helps organizations dodge costly corrections like:

  • voids
  • wire reversals
  • rushed paper checks
  • and more

In tandem with a better payroll process, employers should invest in a position management tool to keep pay grades uniform, competitive and fair.

2. Champion employee well-being

More businesses are taking notice as employees prioritize their mental health. According to Wellable Labs, an employee research group, a majority of employers are developing programs to improve:

  • mental health
  • resilience
  • stress management

“An additional focus on mental health and supporting employee mental health can really be an important factor on improving employee satisfaction, happiness, engagement and, ultimately, retention,” said Boese.

Try offering employees broader, unconventional benefits to address greater needs and take a holistic approach to wellness. Plus, easy-to-use benefits administration tech makes it easier for employees to compare plan options and make informed decisions.

3. Recognize employees

Employees want to know their voice is actually heard. How can you guarantee this? The answer may surprise you: Ask them!

Use a powerful survey tool to find out exactly what engages your workforce. If employees have specific questions about anything related to their work, make sure they have easy-to-use communication tech to inquire and find answers.

And offer employees something tangible for their performance. Few employees would turn down a raise or promotion, but that’s not the only way to inspire them. Even verbal or written acknowledgement can remind employees their contributions matter.

4. Foster development

In a survey from The Conference Board, an international nonprofit, 58% of employees said they would likely quit if they didn’t receive professional development opportunities.

“Education is the simplest way you can tell an employee, ‘We care about where you’re going, and here’s the road how you get there,’” said Corcoran during SHRM’s retreat. “[Development] would be the last thing I cut from a budget.”

Set a precedent for growth by building a culture around learning. Understanding exactly how your people want to upskill is one option, but any development strategy should be backed by an accessible learning management experience. Doing so will make it easier for talent to embark on their own development journey and continually build a career.


5. Commit to DEI

Most of us want to know we’re making the world a better place. But an increasing number of employees need their organizations to prove it. In fact, 40% of workers surveyed by Deloitte said they would consider leaving a company if it didn’t stick to its diversity, equity and inclusion commitments.

To put it bluntly, more people expect businesses to “walk the talk,” not just echo superficial statements. As you examine your business’s values, ensure it also considers:

  • disability
  • neurodiversity
  • sexuality
  • educational backgrounds
  • a multi-generational workforce
  • and more

6. Invest in the right HR tech

If it isn’t clear by now, effective HR technology is the anchor of an effective employee engagement strategy. So much so that 82% of HR professionals interviewed by in collaboration with Paycom said self-service tech is ideal when it’s convenient.


Empower employees with a single, easy-to-use HR app to:

  • reduce stress
  • catalyze development
  • raise engagement

After all, employees know their own information best; shouldn’t they be able to access it whenever they need to?

Explore Paycom and Beti® to learn how the right self-service HR tech boosts employee engagement.


DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.