7 Unique Employee Engagement Ideas Real Companies Are Using

Lauren Pope
Lauren Pope  |  March 20, 2019

Employee engagement isn’t just another industry buzzword; it can have a real impact on your company.

It’s no secret that employees do their best work when they’re motivated and happy. Engaging your employees while they’re at work can increase productivity, improve company culture, and foster camaraderie – all of which should be a focus of your company's talent management strategy. 

Curious how you can involve your employees in the process of creating an employee engagement program? Check out this quick read about employee engagement and the best software for conducting employee surveys.

Crazy employee engagement ideas that worked

Creating an employee engagement program from scratch can seem daunting at first. Luckily, you don’t have to tackle this alone. We asked industry professionals to tell us their craziest employee engagement ideas that worked. Check them out!

1. Climbing redwood trees in California 

“We climb trees. Old growth redwoods, as a team building exercise every year. We climb them at the only place it’s legal to do so in the world. It's really a pretty interesting story, not only about how the exercise and exercises like it feed into the culture and build on the culture of our team, but how the entire experience becomes a bit of a once in a lifetime event.

Crazy corporate retreat idea
 

While this activity can’t be specifically replicated, activities like it absolutely can be – activities that couple an experience with a challenge like ours does.”

– James Parks, Acton Construction

2. Designing a company mascot

“I gave my staff 30 days to come up with an office mascot like a sports team. After we selected the mascot I took it to a logo designer and we would all vote on which one we liked. I bought T-shirts and apparel for the staff with the logos.

Employee engagement activity

"It was a great activity that really helped bring everyone together. I think office culture is so important and energy is a vital facet to productivity.”

– Dr. Josh Adams, D.C, Arizona Medical and Sports Rehab

TIP: Get feedback from your employees, recognize staff achievements, and promote positive activity with employee engagement software. 

See the Easiest-to-Use Employee Engagement Software →

3. Playing like kids again

“I work in the Financial Services industry and that is typically known to be a dry environment: always working and no fun. The industry itself is very competitive so it can sometimes be stressful on the culture.

"One of my favorite things we did to lighten the mood was a hula-hoop challenge. We split up into two teams and the mission was to move the hula-hoop down the line as fast as possible without breaking the chain. You have to hold hands with the person next to you and step through the hula-hoop to pass it to the next person without breaking your chain. On the same day that we had the hula-hoop challenge, we treated the team to a luau luncheon where everyone dressed up.

Company potluck idea
 

"The entire time everyone was laughing and these grown adults reverted back to being in elementary school and trying to win the relay race. It really changed the spirit of that day and has continued to be talked about since then and is a good #TBT memory.”

– Kelly Anderson, Wealth Continuum Group

4. Hiring a Director of Happiness

“We try to improve employee engagement and the overall employee experience in a number of ways. One of the best things we’ve done is to create a new position called the Director of Happiness. The main goal of this position is to increase engagement from employees and to enhance our company’s culture. I believe it’s important to focus on the core values you want your company to align with.

Fun office party idea
 

"Since hiring this person we’ve done a lot of things to boost company morale. We celebrate birthdays with catered lunches and hand out team member of the month awards with a value of $500. We’ve also set up a monthly meeting where we recognize the success of each section of the company, which is followed by free lunch and games. I’m positive that these changes have helped lead to happy employees and better company culture.”

– Christoph Seitz, CFR Rinkens

Are employees as engaged as HR teams believe? Download Free Report →

5. Taking a team cooking class

“If you’ve ever watched Hell’s Kitchen and thought it seemed like fun, there’s a way to recreate the experience. Our team decided to take a cooking class together at a culinary school.

Fun team building idea
 

"Most events begin with schmoozing over hors d'oeuvres. Then, your group prepares your own meal. Cooking classes are as short as an hour and a half or as long as three hours. This outing presents a great twist on the traditional team dinner, with the added bonus that your employees will be working together to put great food on the table.”

– Jordan Wan, CloserIQ

6. Creating an employee carpool system

“Our office is located in a business park that is poorly served by public transit. People absolutely dreaded their daily commute (it was really bad for some of them!). Many of them would show up to work in a miserable mood that lasted well into the work day. Even worse, around 3 PM, the daily grumbling about how bad the drive home was going to be would start. It really put a damper on the employee culture.

"Everyone said there was nothing we could do besides move our office but we had other plans.

"To fix this, we built our employee carpool system. Every month, each employee enters their transportation needs into our employee portal. Specifically, they let us know if they have a car and can give people lifts or if they need a lift. We also ask them to include their estimated time of departure. We then use an algorithm we wrote to match people who need a lift with people who are driving, setting up a carpool system that works to get people into the office on time. In addition, we incentivize the people with cars to pick up their coworkers with a small cash bonus. We also have our work from home days. Every Friday, our office is closed and each employee is allowed to work from home. This gives people a break from their commute.

"Combined, these two changes have radically improved our employee culture. Everyone is so much happier around the office and it shows in our productivity numbers too!”

– Rich Franklin, KBC Staffing

7. Taking a team improv class

“As a mid-sized full-service agency, there is a lot happening from day-to-day throughout our agency in support of our clients. At times communication can become siloed reducing cross-departmental collaboration and limiting employee engagement across the agency.

"One day, our President Dennis Hardy announced a 5-week Improv session aimed at improving communication and breaking down walls. What was first seen as a terrifying opportunity by many, soon became a manageable (albeit still terrifying for some) and fun way to improve our professional and personal skill set.

Crazy employee engagement idea

"While all employees learned to be better listeners, manage difficult conversations, and build relationships with other departments; our public-facing employees learned to think under pressure and how to read an audience. It was definitely a totally unique, make-you-cry-from-laughing-so-hard, team-building experience that brought everyone together on an equal playing field. At the end of it I know we're a stronger, more unified team.”

– Jaime Eschette, EvansHardy+Young

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box

The best employee engagement ideas are the ones that push people outside their comfort zone. Taking an afternoon to get out of the office and promote socialization within your team will pay off in the long run.


Join the G2 Network of Expert Contributors 

Share your insights on management, leadership, and human resources with 1 million readers on the G2 Learning Hub. 

Learn more →

Lauren Pope
Author

Lauren Pope

Lauren is a Senior Content Specialist at G2 writing about compliance, legal, and technology. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Atlassian, and here on the G2 Learn Hub. In her free time, Lauren enjoys listening to podcasts, watching true crime shows, and spending time in the Chicago karaoke scene.