What a blast it was joining Joe Waters of SelfishGiving.com and Megan Strand of Cause Marketing Forum on their weekly Cause Talk Radio show. In the podcast, Employee Engagement is Hot! How Not to Get Burned, I was interviewed on potential potholes and opportunities that companies and non-profits must consider when working in this arena. In short, you’ll hear my passionate belief that employee engagement must be approached as a business strategy that drives toward impact, not activity. My mantra is about strengthening business and impacting society, and to do both you have got to stop, pause, and be strategic in how you weave them together.
To listen to the full interview, click here!
For those on the run, here’s a quick re-organized summary of some of my quotes and perspectives:
Over 25 Years. Employee engagement goes back well over 25 years, and folks are now rediscovering it. Then companies were just putting their employees into action. Today we’re looking at how we can have an impact on social issues, and how we can harness the energy and power of our employees, consumers, and partners in whole new ways.
Purposeful Work. We need to look and ask about the ‘why.’ The reason you focus on employee engagement is because it’s about strengthening your business and garnering the bottom-line benefits that come from people feeling that they have purposeful work.
According to Gallup, only 29% of employees in the United States feel engaged at work…only 29% of people feel like they’re in the right place. These 29% come to work excited, want to be productive, and so part of what we’re talking about is filling this gap and engaging more employees.
Certainly, we know that the Millennial generation, and all generations, are looking for this meaningful work, and purpose and values are core to that. Employee engagement activities reinforce and bring that meaning to life.
Inside Outward. The business benefits of strategic employee engagement extend externally; happy employees make happy customers. Think about it, when the Starbucks barista is telling about what they did along with other customers in your community, you get psyched! But how do you create happy employees?
Spectrum of Engagement. We’re packaging activities — volunteerism, skills-based volunteerism, large-scale volunteerism, days of service, among others —under broader umbrella themes and strategies that unify a wide range of work and drive towards social impact.
Remember, engagement doesn’t always have to be doing—there are levels of engagement—and some of it is just hearing. Thus, tons of communication is essential.
Pothole #1. Avoid approaching employee engagement as if it’s about volunteerism. We’re really not talking about volunteerism, though that’s a piece. What we’re talking about is business strategy.
Pothole #2. Avoid the one-off. ‘Let’s get a bunch of people and go to a soup kitchen.’ Maybe that works, and you get a group of folks that feel a little bit better about having the opportunity, but it’s the tip of the iceberg for getting real value from employee engagement.
Pothole #3. Avoid quick solutions. It’s incumbent on nonprofits to really understand what companies are looking and asking for. I don’t think they’re just asking for activity; they’re looking to dig deep into the nonprofit and figure out what they can do together, what’s really innovative and game-changing. Again, what is truly impactful?
Key take away. My overriding message is that employee engagement is business strategy. Companies and nonprofits need to be really intentional in how they create and execute on these initiatives.
There is much more fun dialogue and content when you listen to the full interview. It is also available on iTunes (I’ve always wanted to say that!)
Also, a big thanks to Joe Waters and Megan Strand—hosts of the weekly Cause Talk Radio!
For more information, click here for a copy of our Employee Engagement Factsheet that was handed out at Cause Marketing Forum 2014.