How to Foster Team Engagement that Lasts [+ templates]

Written by 
Shauna Ward
November 17, 2022

It's no secret that workplace engagement has taken a hit in the past couple of years. Some have blamed remote work for the downward trend, while others cite economic factors, burnout, and poor work-life balance. The truth is that all of these elements and more influence how engaged employees are with their work and with one another.

In this post, we'll tackle the problem of disengagement. Read on for answers to questions like:

  • Why should you care about engagement in the first place?
  • What does it mean for a team to be truly engaged?
  • What is the difference between employee engagement and team engagement?
  • How do trends like remote work impact engagement?
  • What steps can you take to foster a company culture of engagement?

We will also share easy-to-use templates and tips for using Mural to boost team engagement in your meetings, workshops, trainings, and other initiatives.

What is engagement?

Team engagement is the level of enthusiasm and commitment that employees feel toward their roles, their team, and the organization as a whole. On a more granular level, team engagement refers to a team's level of participation during a meeting or project.

Team engagement vs employee engagement

Improving the employee experience and employee engagement is a core focus for most organizations, and especially for HR leaders. But by focusing only on employee engagement and not team engagement, we're missing a critical piece of the puzzle.

What if, instead of framing engagement as an individual problem, we emphasized engagement across an entire team, department, or organization? After all, even if each team member is engaged with their work, that doesn't necessarily mean they're engaged with one another or that they're collaborating effectively.

Team engagement is more than employees being invested in their roles. Yes, it's about commitment, but it's also about collaboration — how connected team members are with one another and how eager they are to participate and collaborate. Think about it in terms of a team sport: an athlete can spend countless hours training on their own, but they'll still fall short if they aren't on the same page as their teammates.

What does team engagement look like?

A highly engaged team sees its work as more than just a means to an end. Team members are motivated by a sense of purpose and a desire to make an impact, and everyone understands how their day-to-day roles contribute to the bigger picture. They trust and respect one another, and they're willing to openly communicate both positive and constructive feedback. Engaged teams also prioritize learning and development opportunities, with team members constantly seeking out chances to learn, develop their skills, and improve the way they work together.

The state of team engagement

Engagement has always been a challenge in the work environment, but it's become an even higher priority in recent years. In the wake of the pandemic came the Great Resignation, which saw over 47 million people voluntarily leaving their jobs in 2021 in the United States alone. That's a 13.5% increase over pre-pandemic numbers.

Engagement on remote and hybrid teams

As more of the workforce has transitioned to remote or hybrid work, many employees (and especially new hires) feel disconnected and must work harder to build and maintain relationships with their colleagues. It can also be easier for employees to get distracted or even tune out during presentations and team meetings when they're dialing in versus attending in person. That doesn't mean we should denounce remote work, though. It just means that we need to be more conscientious than ever about prioritizing team connection and engagement. Luckily, many of the tactics used to boost engagement among remote workers are equally applicable to in-person collaborators.

Before we can solve the team engagement challenge, we need to understand what we're up against — so let's look at the facts. A whopping 65% of people say they feel less connected to their coworkers since the onset of the pandemic, and 24% say loneliness is their biggest struggle with working remotely. The bottom line is that lonely, disengaged employees have a higher risk of turnover, lower productivity, more missed days at work, and lower quality of work.

It's no wonder team engagement is top-of-mind for executives, team managers, facilitators, HR professionals, and L&D teams.

Benefits of team engagement

If you're not already sold on the value of fostering team engagement, let's take a look at some of the key benefits.

When employees feel like they are a part of a team, they are more likely to be engaged in their work. Team engagement has been shown to improve training outcomes, adoption of new technologies and processes, and belonging within an organization.

  • Improved training outcomes: A 2022 study suggests that active learning leads to markedly improved retention and other outcomes compared to passive learning.
  • Better problem-solving: When you're inclusive and have a greater variety of people engaged with a project, you'll also benefit from a diversity of perspectives, ideas, and solutions to a problem.
  • Productivity: Highly engaged teams are 14% more productive than unengaged teams, a 2022 Gallup survey suggests.
  • Employee retention: Gallup reports that in high-turnover organizations, highly engaged business units see 18% lower employee turnover. In low-turnover organizations, that number increases to 43% lower turnover. What's more, a survey by Korn Ferry suggests that boredom is the number one reason people consider leaving their jobs.
  • Higher profits: Gallup research shows that highly engaged teams have a 23% difference in profitability compared to those with low engagement.
  • Customer satisfaction: "Highly engaged business units achieve a 10% difference in customer ratings," according to Gallup.

How to measure team engagement

As the maxim goes, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. By extension, you need a way to evaluate team engagement in order to improve it. Of course, there is no simple formula for measuring engagement. There are many ways to evaluate engagement, but here are some common approaches, metrics, and KPIs.

Company- and team-level engagement

  • Employee satisfaction scores: Job satisfaction and employee well-being is one leading indicator of engagement. You can use a scoring system like eNPS to gauge employee satisfaction.
  • Employee engagement scores: There are many ways to measure levels of employee engagement. Gallup's employee engagement survey, for example, looks at 12 employee needs by measuring the response to statements like "I have a best friend at work" and "The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important."

Project-level engagement

  • Time to market: Highly engaged teams work more efficiently, which can speed up your time to market.
  • Participation: This metric is more difficult to quantify. During meetings, take note of who is speaking up and who's not contributing as much. Low engagement and contribution don't necessarily mean someone doesn't have anything to add; it might mean you need to make the space more equitable or find different ways for people to contribute (e.g., asynchronously).

15 ways to foster team engagement in the workplace

🧱 Lay the groundwork for engagement

Team engagement is not a one-time event. It's something that needs to be nurtured and cultivated over time. Here are some practical ways to lay the groundwork for team engagement — because it doesn't happen overnight.

1. Evangelize your mission, vision, and purpose

A shared sense of purpose is critical for fostering team motivation and engagement. When everyone is working towards the same goal, they are more likely to be engaged, focused, and invested in their work. Make sure everyone understands your company mission and the team’s vision for the future.

Related: Vision, Mission, Strategy, Values Pyramid template by Territory

2. Set expectations

Team members need to understand what the expectations are in order to meet those expectations. If you want people to contribute to a team, a meeting, or a project in a particular way, help employees do their best work by making those expectations clear upfront. As a leader, you also have the opportunity to model engagement and participation to the broader team.

Related: Team Charter template

3. Build psychological safety

Psychological safety describes a team climate characterized by mutual respect in which people are comfortable speaking their minds, taking risks, and trying out new things without fear of repercussions. You can foster psychological safety by building trust among the team, modeling authenticity and vulnerability as a leader, rewarding good ideas, and learning from (rather than getting upset about) mistakes.

4. Team building events

In-person team building events are the gold standard. Spending time together and talking face-to-face is a fantastic way to get everyone engaged and break down potential walls. That said, virtual team building activities are a great alternative if your team is remote or hybrid.

💻 Boost engagement during meetings with these employee engagement ideas

Track and field star Steve Backley wrote, "It is action that creates motivation." Like motivation, engagement doesn't happen by accident. Use these tips to reduce meeting problems and intentionally design more engaging meetings.

5. Go digital-first

Always design meetings and other touchpoints with a virtual audience in mind. That way, everyone has a chance to participate, even if they can't attend the meeting in-person. No one should be at an advantage over anyone else based on where they are located.

Related: Lead Better Hybrid Meetings Template

6. Design effective meetings

The way a meeting or workshop is designed is critical to its success. Make sure to set clear goals and create an agenda that gets everyone aligned and ready to contribute. You can use Mural's outline feature to clearly chart the agenda and give everyone context for every portion of the meeting.

It's also important to be thoughtful about the tools you're providing for attendees — not just in terms of technology, but also in terms of the methods you use to achieve your desired outcomes. For example, if you're hosting a brainstorming session, don't start with a blank page. Instead, give collaborators a framework for effective brainstorming. (Here are templates for some our favorite approaches to brainstorming.)

Similarly, if you're facilitating an online course, you might include an interactive trivia game to quiz people on what they learned.

7. Facilitate engaging meetings

Designing effective meetings isn't enough; you also need to facilitate them in a way that gets and keeps attendees engaged. With Mural's Facilitation Superpowers™ features, you have the tools you need to make meetings and workshops more interactive, engaging, and fun.

  • Customize your meeting experience by hiding and revealing content in your mural, focusing everyone's attention with the custom toolbar, and more.
  • Keep everyone on the same page by summoning participants to a particular area of your mural, using the virtual laser pointer, or setting the timer to keep things moving.
  • Increase collaborator engagement and reduce groupthink with anonymous voting and private mode.

8. Icebreakers and warm-ups

Icebreakers, warm-ups, and check-ins are short exercises performed at the beginning of a meeting that can help to introduce new team members, conquer awkwardness, and allow teammates get to know each other. When you start a meeting or workshop with a fun activity, you get everyone engaged from the very beginning, which can boost engagement throughout the entire session.

Related: Icebreakers for Hybrid Teams Template

9. Accommodate different collaboration preferences

To get everyone engaged, make sure you provide opportunities for people to work in the way that they feel most comfortable. For example, you can allow people to contribute ideas anonymously in order to reduce people's nerves. Or, you might give team members the choice to collaborate in small groups or work solo, depending on their preferences.

🧑‍🏫 Facilitate interactive workshops

If you lead educational workshops or training sessions, you know how hard it can be to keep attendees engaged with the content. Use these tips to facilitate more interactive and engaging workshops.

10. Make presentations interactive

Let's face it: one-way presentations and training sessions are typically pretty boring. People are more likely to be engaged with the material and remember what they learned when they have the opportunity to be active participants. Balance talking heads and slide decks with hands-on activities and discussions to keep everyone invested and participating. Presentation mode in Mural allows you to seamlessly switch between actively collaborating and presenting visuals during a meeting.

Related: How to Create Engaging Presentations with Mural

11. Gamification

Gamification is the use of game elements and mechanics in non-game contexts. When applied to workshops and training sessions, it can help to improve engagement and make the learning process more enjoyable. By incorporating elements such as points, badges, and leaderboards, participants are motivated to stay engaged and complete the workshop. Plus, gamification can add an element of fun to otherwise dry material. As a result, participants are more likely to remember what they have learned and be able to apply it in the future.

🚀 Other ways to boost engagement

Looking for other ways to improve team engagement? Use these strategies to get everyone excited about participating and collaborating.

12. Collaborate asynchronously

Ever had one of those days packed with back-to-back meetings? By midday, you were probably drained. Meeting fatigue is real, and it makes it hard to stay focused and bring your best self to the table.

One way to mitigate the meeting blues is with asynchronous collaboration. Async work allows teams to communicate and work together without having to do so simultaneously in real time.

For example, team members can add their own ideas and information to a shared MURAL whiteboard when they choose — they don't need to be online at the same time to work on it together.  Collaborating asynchronously also allows you to make the most of your time together. Async pre-work before a meeting helps everyone feel more prepared and engaged, and eliminating unnecessary meetings frees up time and brain space for more impactful collaboration.

13. Organize information visually

What's the most engaging way to consume information: text, audio, or visuals? The answer is a combination of all three. According to 3M, the average person only remembers around 20% of what they hear, and visual aids have been found to improve learning by up to 400%.

With so much information to process and so many people to collaborate with, visual aids in the workplace are essential for keeping everyone engaged and aligned. Tables can help to organize complex information and make it easier to understand. Flowcharts can provide a high-level overview of a project and help team members see how their tasks fit into the bigger picture. And other visuals, even simple sketches, can ensure that everyone is truly on the same page.

There are countless ways to take advantage of visuals when you're collaborating in Mural. For example, you can use tables to organize information and our diagramming tools to build flowcharts, mind maps, and diagrams. You can easily add icons and images or draw a quick sketch to visualize information. You can also export content from your Mural to use in other platforms.

Related: Mind Map template

14. Get meaningful feedback

When employees have a say in how the team operates, they are more likely to be engaged. One way to create this feeling of ownership is to give team members ample opportunity to give feedback. This can be done in many different ways, but one effective method is the retrospective. At the end of each sprint, take some time as a team to reflect on what went well and what could be improved. Encourage everyone to share their thoughts openly, and then use those insights to make changes in the next sprint. This cycle of regular feedback and improvement will help to engage employees and improve team and employee performance.

Related: Retrospective template

15. Create a single source of truth

People are more likely to contribute and stay engaged if you make it easy for them. Nothing kills motivation like the inability to find the resources you need. That's why it's important to have a single source of truth.

Consider creating a virtual HQ in Mural to serve as the single source of truth for a particular project or team. If resources are scattered across multiple platforms, it can be tough for team members to access the information they need, including software, files, documents, org charts, and training materials. Mural integrates with the tools you already use in your workflows — like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Confluence, Asana, Google Suite, Jira, and more — so you can keep all your important resources in one place.

A cross-functional team at Jacobs did this particularly well when the pandemic forced them to work entirely remotely. They could no longer collaborate in person, so they used Mural to design a virtual collaboration hub full of all the resources that collaborators needed to work together effectively and stay aligned. Read their story and learn how you can create a virtual HQ of your own with MURAL.

Related: Collaboration Hub template by Jacobs

Key takeaways

A highly engaged workforce is more productive, profitable, and satisfied than their disengaged counterparts. However, team engagement has understandably taken a hit in the wake of the pandemic. As companies continue to prioritize team engagement, they can use these 15 strategies and tactics to boost participation in meetings and foster team engagement that lasts.

How Mural supports team engagement

Real impactful change can't happen unless your team trusts and supports one another. Set the stage for your team to thrive with pre-built ice breakers that build psychological safety in MURAL. When it's time to start executing on your project vision, engage collaborators with inclusive and interactive features that get everyone contributing.

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About the author

About the authors

Shauna Ward

Shauna Ward

Sr. Content Marketing Manager
Shauna Ward is a senior content marketing manager at MURAL. As a former remote work skeptic, she enjoys creating resources that help hybrid and distributed teams make collaboration fun, easy, and effective.

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