How to Build Your Employee Engagement and Culture Checklist: 4 Must-Haves in 2021


January 1, 2021

Margaux Morgante

X min


Evaluating and building employee engagement and culture can be a complex project to tackle.

How to Build Your Employee Engagement and Culture Checklist: 4 Must-Haves in 2021
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Table of Contents

This article is the first piece in our 5-part Employee Engagement and Culture Checklist Series:


2020 was a year full of unexpected changes and challenges. Many HR professionals were at the center of the storm, having to transition, in some cases, entire workforces to remote work in a matter of days. You’re not alone if your role shifted to a daily scramble of managing things like the ever-changing needs of remote workers, administering unfortunate layoffs, and sending frequent mass communications to employees eager for direction and guidance.

But, as we wrap up the first month of 2021, and the dust has started to settle on a new normal, it's time to dig into how your employees are doing.

Evaluating and building employee engagement and culture can be a complex project to tackle. Why not start with jotting down some ideas in a simple checklist? Here are four must-haves for your list to get you started:

To-Do #1: Revisit, Communicate and Celebrate Your Values 

Do you know your organizational values? Are they well-known across your organization? Values are important, but unfortunately, people often dismiss them as corporate mumbo-jumbo without any real purpose. According to Gallup, only 23% of employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization's values to their work every day and, just 27% of employees believe in their company's values. How do we fix this? Connect and communicate your corporate values and reinforce them daily - they are the foundation of your ideal workplace culture.

Any time organizations experience massive change, like what many have gone through in the last year, revisiting organizational values is vital. Why? Strong values help your employees guide their work and daily decisions. For example, if you emphasize and promote customer experience as an important value, your employees will know that customer needs will always take precedence when juggling many priorities. Alternatively, emphasizing teamwork will remind your employees to collaborate and make themselves available to help across all departments.

Where to start? Take stock of your current values – do you they still resonate?

Advanced action: Use your values as benchmarks for employee performance, and frequently recognize those who incorporate them into their daily work.

To-Do #2: Communicate Intentionally

In 2021, effective communication within your organization will be critical, especially with remote workforces. According to Forbes, the average attention span of a millennial is 12 seconds, for Gen Z workers, eight seconds; that 6-paragraph email isn't likely to get your message across effectively for those groups. Discovering the right channel to reach your departments or teams is the first step.

Managers should continuously be communicating to employees how and why their work affects organizational success. Gallup reports that many remote workers are likely to feel lost and/or forgotten in their new work environment. Voicing what an employee's contribution means to others can make them feel empowered, connected, and more engaged [Click to Tweet!].

Another thing to explore is how personal milestones and life events can be communicated and celebrated remotely. Consider sharing employee birthdays, work-anniversaries, years of service milestones, and exciting life events, so everyone feels included and seen. Better yet, consider a system that does it automatically, like Kudos to avoid leaving anyone out.

Where to start? Talk to your managers and team leads about their teams’ communication preferences.

Advanced action: Implement focused tools that facilitate communication at the department and organization-wide level to create visibility, consistency and reach.

To-Do #3: Dig into Your Culture

What's the expression? Culture eats strategy for breakfast? Studies show that employees with a strong connection to their organization's culture exhibit higher levels of engagement. Unlike values, vision, or strategy, culture doesn't only come from the top-down. Employees and middle managers significantly impact what your corporate culture looks like. One practical example: consider whether or not you turn your camera on in virtual meetings. Is it only on with certain people or groups? That is part of your culture!

Small choices that managers make, like saying good morning every day, or allowing for a flexible work schedule, set the tone for the culture an individual employee will experience. According to Gallup, managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement and directly affect how employees experience workplace culture. Your managers need to know your cultural expectations if you want your employees to have the right experience. Showing regular appreciation for small and major accomplishments to positive behaviours is a great way for managers to engage their team [Click to Tweet!].

Culture can be a tough egg to crack, but being aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly of your organization's existing culture equips you with the knowledge you need to mitigate unfavourable situations and hire the right people.

Where to start? Define and uncover your current organizational culture by interviewing employees at all levels. Start making a plan for what you would like it to look like.

Advanced action: Take your culture beyond the employee handbook by incorporating it into policies and practices. Recognize employees who live your organization’s values. 

To-Do #4: Recognize Your Employees Regularly

Recognition is vital to foster employee engagement in 2021. Today's employees need to hear that they're doing a great job. A strong recognition culture can also improve individual and overall business performance. A recent survey found that companies with the highest engagement levels see employee recognition as a means to develop and stretch employees to new levels of success. Harvard Business Review has reported that 40% of employed Americans say they'd put more energy into their work if they received recognition more often.

Be careful not to confuse rewards with recognition. When employees say they want more recognition for their hard work, they don’t mean rewards. A reward would be a cash bonus or other gift with a monetary value; recognition is the act of appreciating and acknowledging your employees' great work and effort. It doesn’t have to be complicated, 85% of employees simply want to hear 'thank you' in their work interactions.

Where to start? Take stock of your current recognition strategy. Are you relying too heavily on rewards? Assess the impact your approach has on employee engagement, culture, and business performance.

Advanced action: Establish a modern recognition strategy by implementing a platform that simplifies and normalizes frequent recognition in your organization and helps you track who is being recognized or recognizing most often.

And that's it! With those four important to-dos' officially on your Employee Engagement and Culture Checklist, you're ready to get to work. Your employees have been through a lot in the last year; let's make sure they feel engaged, connected, and recognized at work in 2021.

Ready to start tackling your 2021 Employee Engagement and Culture Checklist? Book your demo at today to learn how we can help! Kudos is the modern employee engagement system the world needs today. Kudos is simple to set up, easy to use and integrates with communication tools to put culture and recognition front and center. Our system allows you to connect, communicate, and celebrate everything that makes your organization unique and successful. With the simple power of a "Thank You" – you can increase engagement, connect remote teams, improve inclusion, enhance productivity, and reduce turnover.

About Kudos

Kudos is an employee engagement, culture, and analytics platform, that harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition, values reinforcement, and open communication to help organizations boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance. Kudos uses unique proprietary methodologies to deliver essential people analytics on culture, performance, equity, and inclusion, providing organizations with deep insights and a clear understanding of their workforce.

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