We often make things more complicated than they need to be. Many a times, solutions to seemingly intractable problems are closer at hand than we realize. So it is with driving employee engagement and turning around corporate fortunes. As a study from Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship shows, companies can sizably boost employee engagement by thoughtfully encouraging and implementing simple, inexpensive initiatives such as employee volunteering programs, and skip the need to hire million-dollar strategy consulting firms to turn around corporate fortunes.
The Center found that with higher employee engagement, employees were more likely to form strong bonds with their employers and took a deeper interest in understanding the company’s business goals and strategies. Volunteering employees also took greater pride in belonging to their companies, were more likely to defend and promote the company externally, were more inclined to stay with the company, and go above and beyond required tasks to get the job done.
Further, more than 90% of the surveyed companies listed improved employee engagement among the top three benefits of a workplace volunteering program. In addition, almost 70% of the surveyed executives saw corporate philanthropy, workplace giving and employee volunteering programs as top priorities, and nearly 60% said they planned to increase resources for employee volunteering over the next three years.
Volunteering was also positively associated with more meaningful attachment to work, improved overall attitude and job performance, and increased focus while at work.
Yet, despite these well documented benefits, participation in employee volunteering remains in the 30% range.
So what gives?
As another 2008 study revealed, people are motivated to volunteer outside work to simply do good for their communities and societies. But the same motivations do not come into play in the workplace where employees look at volunteering as a way to build skills, display leadership abilities and network with peers and seniors. A recent 2013 study also found that recognition sizably boosted volunteering – from 6% to 21% – so employee recognition clearly plays a role in driving up volunteering and employee engagement.
Employees were also more likely to volunteer if their managers had received corporate philanthropy training, and when volunteer projects were supported by adequate resources and clear goals.
So, to reap the many benefits of greater employee engagement, corporate philanthropy programs must understand what motivates their employees (not generally but specifically by polling them in particular), train managers on corporate philanthropy programs, and only engage in well organized, well supported and clearly-defined volunteering initiatives to drive up workplace employee engagement… and see happier, more engaged employees; lower turnover; better workplace reputation; lower hiring and HR costs; greater productivity; greater teamwork, innovation and collaboration; and higher revenues, higher profits and improved share price performance.
Now which CEO, corporate board or shareholder wouldn’t love to see that happen???