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Employee Recognition

[2024] 18 Best Employee Engagement Activities & Ideas For Asia Employees

Employee engagement. We hear it all the time. You'd think organisations would have their employee engagement initiatives and programs all figured out. Unfortunately, that isn't the case.

Until today, companies across the globe are still struggling to get the formula right and consistently keep employees engaged in the workplace.

That's because employee engagement is often seen as secondary and never a top priority for leadership. But we're here to change that.

Whether you're starting from scratch or want to revamp your current employee engagement efforts, we got you covered.

From the different levels of engagement to the best activities and ideas for Asia employees, here's everything you need to know about employee engagement in the workplace.

Feel free to skip to the respective sections:

What is employee engagement?

By definition, employee engagement is the emotional connection, commitment, and enthusiasm employees feel towards their managers, colleagues, and ultimately their place of work.

When team members are engaged on an emotional level, they no longer just care about getting their monthly pay check. They will eventually be committed to the organisation's goals and success.

It sounds simple but it's definitely easier said than done. This degree of employee engagement cannot be achieved overnight; you need to put in the work and be consistent with it.

But before you can come up with different employee engagement activities and ideas, managers and business leaders need to determine the various levels of engagement that their employees have.

The different levels of engagement and the types of employees you have

An overview of the different levels of employee engagement. Source: PraisePal

Prior to designing an appropriate employee engagement strategy, you need to identify the types of employees you have and their respective engagement levels.

This ranges from having highly engaged, moderately engaged, disengaged, and actively disengaged team members.

1. Highly engaged employees

When you have highly engaged employees, you've hit the jackpot. Typically, this is where your top performers or high performing employees would be on the end of the spectrum.

These team players are extremely aligned with their company's values and committed to their organisation's success.

A few traits that are indicative of a highly engaged employee include:

  • Feeling connected to their teams and co-workers
  • Having positive feelings and outlook on their workplace culture
  • Having great rapport with their managers and senior leaders thanks to effective employee engagement efforts
  • Going the extra mile in their tasks to meet business outcomes
  • Speaking highly of the entire company to their family, friends and co-workers

2. Moderately engaged employees

Moving onto moderately engaged employees, these team members like their company but don't love it. Sure, they will deliver the results needed to meet their respective KPIs but only occasionally go above and beyond what's needed.

These employees may see their company in a relatively favourable light. However, there are still certain factors that are holding them back from being fully engaged.

3. Disengaged employees

At this stage, job satisfaction will start to dip according to your employee engagement surveys. These are the employees that will do the bare minimum just to get by.

Since the company is doing little to nothing about keeping its employees engaged, they won't bother putting in the same amount of effort either. Emotional commitment is at an all-time low.

4. Actively disengaged employees

This is where you don't want your employees to be.

Once they are actively disengaged, not only are they unhappy with their work environment but resentful that their needs aren't being met by the company. This effect is going to be challenging to reverse.

The sense of dissatisfaction coming from actively disengaged employees can manifest in various ways including decreased productivity, lack of commitment, disconnect from the company's mission, and even expressing negative opinions about their place of work to their peers.

The next thing you know, your employee might already be looking for other job opportunities at their desk during company time.

What are the next steps to achieving employee engagement?

Knowing these different levels of employee engagement, the key to organisational success for any company is to consistently have highly engaged team members.

HR professionals need to know where their employees are in order to meet their needs.

To improve employee engagement in the workplace, here are 18 ideas that would benefit your Asia employees:

18 best employee engagement ideas and activities for Asia employees

Word cloud of the best employee engagement ideas and activities. Source: PraisePal

1. Incorporate a company-wide recognition program

One of the employee engagement tools managers and founders should look into is launching a company-wide employee recognition program. This is perfect for teams of all sizes, demographic, and work arrangements. From in-office teams to remote workforces, you name it.

For new joiners, this could also make the make onboarding process more seamless and welcoming. Since it's a company-wide platform that goes beyond departments, this can facilitate cross-team communication as well.

By having a platform to express appreciation and make your teammates feel valued for their hard work, it creates a consistent employee engagement loop and culture that will strengthen the company's dynamic.

2. Give constant praise to build employee engagement

Whether it's through handwritten notes or a simple recognition message, it pays to praise consistently to drive employee engagement.

While this can certainly be done privately among peers or between employer and employee, employee recognition has the most impact when done publicly. It's no doubt that people like having their hard work and efforts recognised in front of others.

Not only does this boost morale for the recognised employee but it also has a direct impact on employee performance and on the entire organisation.

3. Send care packages to remote employees

Essentially, a care package is an assortment of gifts that are given to engage employees and serve as a little morale boost as they go about their daily responsibilities.

At the height of the pandemic two years ago, sending care packages to employees worldwide was one of the methods companies used to foster employee engagement, given the inability to gather in person.

Some corporate care package ideas that can encourage employees, especially those in remote workforces include:

  • A healthy snack themed care package (Granola bar, chia seeds, fresh fruit)
  • A home office themed care package (Mouse pad, notepads, pens)
  • COVID-19 themed kit (Hand sanitiser, rapid test kits, disposable masks, an oximeter, cough drops)
  • A de-stress themed care package (Candles, tea sachets, eye masks)
  • Exclusive company swag pack (Customised tote bag, water bottle, stickers)

Don't be afraid to have fun with your corporate care package ideas. Regardless of the contents, it will surely engage employees and show that you care.

4. Award gift cards and custom company rewards

Ever since the shift to remote work, companies had to get creative with their employee engagement ideas and initiatives. Unlike hosting a spontaneous team lunch or in-office gathering after work hours, keeping remote team members engaged is an entirely new ball game.

But one solution that has been proven to work is rewarding employees with digital gift cards and custom company rewards.

With digital gift cards, employees feel motivated and seen even from miles away. On top of that, they can also redeem rewards that they actually love. Different employees have different needs, and it's the responsibility of HR professionals and those in senior leadership to determine which rewards are aligned with that.

Custom company rewards also enable companies to translate their core company values into tangible rewards. This can include anything from exclusive company merch, an employee spotlight feature on the company's page, and even an entire day of zero meetings.

5. Assign a buddy for new hires

During the onboarding process, it's essential to make each team member feel welcome and never out of place. A great way to champion employee engagement even on the first day is to assign a buddy every time new hires join the company.

Ultimately, the purpose of the buddy system in the workplace is to orient new joiners. This way, they have someone looking out for them and aren't left to fend for themselves on the first day.

From questions on employee protocol, safety incidents, to where on earth the bathroom is in the office, this buddy system will help new employees achieve a sense of belonging and make new employees ease into their new place of work much sooner.

6. Create themed outfit days in the office

Who said employee engagement always head to be formal and structured?

The best thing about coming up with employee engagement efforts is that it's the one thing in the workplace that you can afford to have fun with.

Since we're already on the topic of 'fun', a simple yet effective way to keep employees engaged is through themed outfit days in the office. Think of it as casual Friday, except you can do it any day of the week.

To break the formality in the professional working environment, this serves as a way where employees can let loose and have a little fun from time to time.

While this can be left to senior leaders and HR managers to decide, incorporating employee feedback in the mix would be a good practice. At the end of the day, these employee engagement ideas are meant to serve them after all.

Some dress-up-for-work themes to explore include:

  • 80s rewind day
  • Crazy socks day
  • Dapper Friday
  • Manic Monday
  • Band t-shirt day
  • Pajama day

7. Foster employee engagement by organising regular volunteering opportunities

HR leaders and managers should make it a point to encourage volunteering in the workplace by incorporating them into their employee engagement strategies.

Multiple employee surveys reveal that cultivating a company culture of volunteerism can boost morale, strengthen employee relationships, and even serve as a medium for professional development through skills-based volunteering.

But above all, it shows your people that you are committed to doing meaningful work for other causes outside of your own organisation. What's more, such activities also make for impactful CSR programs that boost the employer brand as well.

The good news? There isn't just one way to include volunteering opportunities in the workplace to improve employee engagement.

Companies have the option to organise company-wide corporate volunteer programs that involve all their employees at once. Or perhaps giving team members time off from work to contribute to the causes they're passionate about on their own time.

8. Host team lunches across departments

By now, having team lunches is an activity that should be a part of every organisation's engagement efforts. Using food as a tool for bonding helps companies overcome social barriers, keeps employee morale high, and creates a sense of community in the workplace.

In the same way that we have communal meals to celebrate a special occasion, the same concept can also be applied to team lunches. The only difference is you don't always need to have an occasion to host a lunch.

Leading an entirely remote workforce? Fret not—virtual lunches are a thing. Send lunch packs to your employees or give them a lunch budget so they can order their cravings while enjoying the company of their teammates virtually.

For those who want to take team lunches up a notch, consider turning it into a skillshare session. Over a hearty meal, this helps employees develop new skills from their peers and recognise each one's expertise at the same time.

9. Implement a health and wellness program for staff

At its core, corporate wellness programs are designed to achieve a healthy workplace environment and support employee well-being through a holistic approach.

To improve employee engagement, HR leaders need to go beyond providing professional opportunities and start taking care of their employees' overall well-being.

Wellness programs in the workplace can come in the form of regular health screenings, health risk assessments, weight loss programs, stress management programs, wellness retreats and exercise activities.

10. Hold regular team outings and field trips

Folks, work fatigue is real. When you're working at your office desk five days a week, it's only a matter of time before you start to feel bored and burned out.

That's why it's essential to have employee engagement efforts that go beyond the workplace and into the great outdoors to boost employee motivation when the going gets tough.

Holding company events outside of the office can break up the monotonous routine and serve as a healthy break from all work-related tasks.

Examples of field trip and team outing ideas include a weekend in a neighbouring beach town, an exclusive pool party, karaoke night, or go-kart racing. For activities that are less intense, there are yoga retreats, painting classes, and board game night—all of which make for great employee engagement ideas as well.

This way, team members can get some fresh air and come back to the office with a renewed sense of motivation to seize the day.

11. Introduce perks that support employees' mental health

Yes, we're talking about going beyond mental health webinars and providing paid sick leaves for your employees. Your team members want to feel as though you care about their overall well-being; not only what you can bring to the table in the context of business outcomes.

To ramp up your mental health benefit offerings to keep employees engaged, consider these methods :

  • Access to in-house counsellors exclusively for employees
  • Employee assistance or peer-to-peer support group programs
  • A 24-hour anonymous counselling hotline
  • Mental health coverage in each employee's health plan
  • Free subscriptions to mental wellness apps that help with meditation, stress reduction, sleep hygiene, as well as anxiety

Implementing such programs can help address safety incidents related to the psychological safety of employees. A few global companies that have started introducing mental health resources for their staff include Bizlink Centre Singapore Ltd and Twitter Asia Pacific.

12. Provide opportunities for personal development

Aside from achieving business outcomes and professional goals, employees want to see their managers also take a personal interest in their overall development.

Even after the hiring process, opportunities for both personal and professional growth should still continue. By continuously building and upgrading your skills, employees will never be stagnant.

Such opportunities can come in the form of knowledge sharing sessions, subsidised enrichment and certification courses, cross-departmental training programs, and skills coaching.

When leaders continue to invest in and train employees in their respective fields, you turn and develop employees into highly-skills individuals who are committed to the organisational success of their company—a win-win situation for both the employer and employee.

13. Include employee input in company strategies

Encouraging employee feedback and input is an incredibly underutilized employee engagement initiative.

Instead of going ahead with the company's plans as per usual, why not ask what your employees think? Since they are also committed to the company's success and only want the best for the organisation, it's worth taking a shot.

When employees feel and see that their ideas have come to fruition and their opinions were taken into consideration, they are more likely to repeat this behaviour and constantly want to stay engaged with the company as well.

14. Give out exclusive and personalised company swag

Who doesn't like company swag?

A staple for global companies like Google, TikTok, and more, this workplace perk helps employees feel like a part of the company, which easily translates to positive reinforcement and employee engagement.

On top of that, handing out custom company merch can be a way to welcome new employees to the organisation and even unite existing internal teams at the same time. It's like hitting two birds with one stone.

15. Start a learning or activities club

Regardless of whether you're a small business or a massive multinational company, you have the ability to start your own learning or activities club.

Think of this as an after-school curricular activity but this time, you're in a workplace environment with fellow colleagues; not students.

Having activities or a community that taps into your people's interests outside of work can build a strong company culture, strengthen relationships across teams, and create engaged employees.

You can either create several clubs at your workplace based on the interests of your staff or inspire employees to gather and make their own self-initiated club!

From sports clubs to arts and cultural societies, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Climbing or bouldering club
  • Weekly book club
  • Poetry slam club
  • Painting and drawing club
  • Language study club
  • Yoga and meditation club
  • Volunteering club

Make the club as welcoming and inclusive as possible, and keep employee happiness and belonging at the forefront of everything you do.

16. Stage holiday parties for employees

On special occasions like Chinese New Year, Christmas, Employee Appreciation Day, and other national holidays, why not host holiday parties for your staff?

Besides creating an environment for everyone to get together, this allows other employees to momentarily step away from the pressures of the office and have fun with their colleagues for a while.

Leaders have the option to organise this on either a company-wide scale to unite office subcultures, or just between specific departments to make it more intimate and personal.

17. Offer flexible work arrangements

During the height of remote work during the pandemic, workforces across the globe saw that adopting flexible arrangements while maintaining employee engagement and productivity was 100% possible.

But even as restrictions begin to ease and returning to the office is completely safe, employees still want flexible work arrangements.

Recent employee surveys reveal that 55% of surveyed workers from the Asia Pacific would still prefer working remotely even after the pandemic. What's more, some of the key drivers and benefits cited by respondents include less commute time (45%), enhanced work-life balance (31%), and more time with friends and family (26%).

With flexible work arrangements come better work-life balance, ultimately producing engaged employees.

18. Develop employee career paths to improve employee engagement

Supporting employee advancement through career pathing is fundamental in enhancing employee happiness and loyalty.

Creating a comprehensive career development plan that supports your staff's professional growth gives them a clear visualisation of their ongoing journey with the company.

In addition, it's also a way to invest in employee engagement and employee retention when team members see that their employers have a plan for them.

Make employee engagement a top-of-mind priority within your organisation

These 18 unique ideas simply prove that employee engagement can come in all shapes and forms; there is no one way to do it.

Making employees feel valued through employee engagement activities should always be top of mind for founders and business leaders. These are the very people that will help your business achieve success. When you prioritise their needs and make them feel valued, they will do the same for the success of your organisation.

Frequently asked questions about employee engagement

Q1. What drives employee engagement in the workplace?

Some of the main drivers of employee engagement include an employee's desire for career growth, meaningful work, recognition from their employers, a sense of belonging, and meaningful work relationships.

All of these can be achieved through a well-thought-of employee engagement strategy.

Q2. Why is employee engagement important?

When employees are engaged, they perform better and your business grows. And the rest naturally follows, almost like a domino effect.

Team members will have higher ownership of their work within the organisation, put more effort in their daily tasks, and are more committed to the success of their companies.

Above all, employee engagement builds resilient employees who are willing to keep your organisation going at a high level and fight through tough times with you. Talk about employee loyalty!

Q3. How do engaged employees perform better than other employees?

The main differences between engaged employees and those that aren't are how they view the organisation and the way they act in the workplace.

Unlike engaged employees that are proactive, disengaged employees often avoid communication, constantly complain, and prefer working alone instead of in a collaborative environment.

From a business point of view, nobody wants disengaged employees.

Q4. How is employee engagement linked to employee retention?

Employees who are highly engaged in the workplace are more likely to stay with their current company, which significantly reduces the overall employee turnover rate.

Once managers and employers achieve this, expect your people to become more productive and passionate about their work.

Because why would happy and engaged employees want to leave a perfectly good organisation?

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