Six ways to grow employee engagement in your business


Employees are a business’s most important asset so it’s not surprising that high employee engagement plays a vital role in its overall success.

Michelle Banfield, General Manager Health & Engagement Transformation explains six strategies that can be employed in any organisation to improve engagement and the positive impact these strategies are making at Fonterra.

High engagement can make employees happier and more productive. It can help reduce turnover and absenteeism, and can even have a positive impact on families and local communities.

Benefits to the business bottom line are also evident with research showing organisations in the top quartile of engagement significantly outpace those in the bottom quartile – in performance and profitability.

Given its impact, engagement should be a key priority in any business. But according to Gallup, an eye-watering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged at work.

A practical and simple way to increase engagement is for teams to create their own engagement action plan.  

Two years ago, Fonterra took a step back to see whether our teams were doing this. We found only 69% had active engagement plans. Just 34% of our people were completing pulse surveys* at all.

So, we set about to turn this around.

The results? We increased participation in our pulse survey by 144% (now, over 80% of our employees participate) and worked closely with our people leaders on their team engagement plans. Now, 88% of employees are in teams that are delivering on their action plans. A quick check in April found 82% of our employees felt more engaged because of these plans.

We’ve worked hard to increase engagement across our business. But with the right amount of focus any business can reap the rewards of better engagement and organisational health.


Here are our top six tips for improving engagement in your own team:
  1. Have a purpose: Highly-engaged teams have a clear purpose that resonates with each team member. Individuals can see how their role contributes to that purpose, which in turn creates meaning.

  2. Stay connected: Leaders who get out onto the factory floor or walk the office engaging in conversations about what’s working well, what challenges their people are facing, and asking what support they need, is key to building connection and trust. It also encourages and inspires employees, and helps them feel heard. 

  3. Be clear: Understanding what is expected is one of the most basic and important of all employee needs. Without clarity, doubt creeps in and efficiency is lost. 

  4. Don’t underestimate recognition: Feeling undervalued is a key reason people leave their jobs. Ensuring people feel valued is not only important for business, but it’s linked to better physical and mental health. 

  5. Develop, develop and develop some more: Highly-engaged teams provide opportunities for personal and professional development. They allow individuals to identify and then use their strengths and natural talents which increases job satisfaction. Add to that a feeling of growth and progression, and you have the foundation for engagement.

  6. Trust is key: Team members need to trust each other. This comes through personal connection and often from being vulnerable with each other. Knowing your workmates act with integrity and have your back is key to how you feel about work. 

It may seem basic, but the improvements to your business can be substantial. Any business can – and should – do them. It’ll improve your bottom line, boost innovation and bring your employees together.

Engagement never ends. There’s always room for improvement. But meaningful engagement can and does work. It’s important that businesses don’t take their foot off the pedal.  

*Pulse Survey: a quick employee feedback survey which provides insight into the health of an organisation