The Next Wave of Employee Engagement: Takeaways from the Benevity Goodness Matters Conference

This week, the Cone team headed to the Benevity Goodness Matters conference in Palm Springs, California for more than two days of conversation around imagining what’s next in the world of employee engagement. The conference featured trends, insights and client stories, all focused on how organizations can better rally employees around company focus areas, as well as their personal passions. Here are our four big takeaways from the event:

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  • It’s Really a Balance Between Focus and Choice: Our research has found employees want a menu of ways to get involved at their workplace, and that was mirrored in a “Lightning Talk” from Kayla Mottola, senior specialist at TripAdvisor. The TripGives program has a goal to inspire and enable all employees to be active global citizens, but Mottola noted they achieve that through a balance of focus and choice. TripAdvisor gives employees the choice to pursue their personal passions and causes – even those that are political or religious. However, they find that many employees choose to support the company’s focus area to raise awareness for the millions of displaced people worldwide. So, even when the organization provides an abundance of choice, many employees opt to align with the company cause.

  • Different Data Appeals to Different Stakeholders: When it comes to reporting the impact of employee engagement programs, not all data is created equal. In a session entitled, “Social Impact: Models for Measurement,” moderator Farron Levy, CEO of True Impact, shared a key insight. Organizations must start by mapping out stakeholders and their unique needs, then curate the data that will be most useful to specific stakeholders. Christy Duncan, executive director at Albertsons, echoed the need to customize, “(the data shared with) HR is different than what we report to our senior executives.”

  • Employee Engagement has a Major Ripple Effect: The big takeaway from the session, “Tackling the World’s Biggest Social Problems: Perspectives from the Benevity Nonprofit Community Council,” was that it will take a groundswell of support to address these major issues – such as climate change or lack of STEM skills in the next generation workforce. Cheron Carlson, manager for private sector engagement at the World Wildlife Fund, shared a key learning that while engagement may begin at the office, it doesn’t end there: “If we can reach the workplace, then they (employees) take behaviors home, that’s a win.

  • One Moment Can Spark a Company-Wide Movement: A key insight from the “Brands of the Future: Business as a Force for Social Change” panel came when Alexis Bechtol, Senior Manager, Community Affairs at Levi Strauss & Co., shared the genesis for the company’s all-in push to “end the gun violence epidemic in America.” Following an incident where a consumer accidentally shot and injured himself while trying on a pair of jeans, CEO Chip Bergh asked consumers to not bring guns into their stores. The rest is history – including a $1 million donation to nonprofits and activists working to end gun violence in the U.S., and a move to educate and engage employees interested in the issue - including giving Levi Strauss & Co. employees five hours of paid volunteer time every month to support the efforts.

As the Benevity Goodness Matters conference wraps for 2019, there is one final takeaway to share. Throughout the sessions, “lightning talks” and demos, it’s clear that there is no “one size fits all” solution to employee engagement. In fact, leading companies are approaching the concept with a keen eye towards creating programs that are uniquely in alignment with the organization’s Purpose, the passion of its employees and, perhaps most importantly, the impact it can make on the world.