What’s Next in Employee Engagement: Expertise, Choice, Rewards

An engaged workforce is a productive workforce – but how can companies create opportunities for meaningful employee engagement? Gone are the days of simply allocating a portion of each paycheck to support a nonprofit or participating in a one-off volunteerism activity. Today, employee engagement is about empowering your team to not only participate in, but determine and lead CSR activities. It's also about building an inspired workforce, while attracting and retaining top talent.

On the 40th anniversary of National Volunteer Week, let's take a moment to look at some of the ways employee engagement has evolved:

1.    One-off to Deep Experiences: As part of the spectrum of engagement, leading companies are creating deeper employee engagement experiences to build ambassadors and tell their social impact story. Xylem* has created a spectrum of employee engagement opportunities as part of its corporate citizenship commitment, Xylem Watermark. This includes an annual, 10-day Global Volunteer Trip comprised of a small group of Xylem employees who leverage their expertise alongside Xylem's global nonprofit partners to support hands-on water projects in developing countries.  

2.    Traditional to Skills-Based: Companies are looking beyond financial donations to matching specialized skillsets to help solve specific nonprofit needs. The Billion + Change initiative is a national campaign to inspire companies to develop meaningful pro bono and skills-based volunteer initiatives in service to nonprofits. This effort has engaged more than 500 companies to deliver more than $2 billion worth of skills-based and pro bono volunteer services. Engineers at Toyota leveraged their business model focused on efficiency to help transform the way The Food Bank for New York City serves the community, including reducing the wait time for clients at a soup kitchen in Harlem.

3.    Good Deeds to Rewarding Action: Providing incentives – including matching gifts and other donation currency rewards – drives participation. Starbucks created an interactive Community Service Portal and invited customers, employees and the community to help reach 1 million hours of service. They offered incentives that included badge points for actions such as joining a project, recording service hours, posting photos or adding friends.

4.    Top-Down to Bottom-Up: Employees want a say in the issues and activities a company supports, and companies are answering this call by providing opportunities for employees to inform employee engagement efforts. AT&T's Do One Thing program encourages employees to pick one change they can make that will have a positive impact on themselves, their community and/or the company.  

5.    Paper to Digital: Companies are also leveraging the power of new digital employee engagement platforms – such as Benevity, Causecast and YourCause – to help unite employees around a focused social impact commitment and provide tools to more effectively track, measure and report fundraising and volunteerism efforts.

Employee engagement has not only evolved, it's been redefined and this new era demands new, innovative approaches. When National Volunteer Week began 40 years ago, companies may have been asking themselves – Should we have an employee engagement program? Today, it's all about creating employee engagement experiences that deliver the greatest business and social benefits.

-Melissa Cilley, Senior Account Supervisor, CSR/Social Impact and Grace Ros Turiano, Senior Account Executive, CSR/Social Impact

*Cone client


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