The Root of Employee Engagement: Values-Based Programs

You’ve probably read all the stats about employee engagement and how it can skyrocket productivity, efficiency and retention… but has anyone taught you how to do it? Have you really honed in on what your employees want and need so you can create a level of engagement in your workplace you’ve never had before?

I thought so. Many are so enamored with the results of employee engagement or the best practices of the world’s most well-known companies, they barely stop to think if those same tactics will work for companies in different locations, with different budgets or with less mind share.

If you want engaged employees, it doesn’t start with fancy new titles or an annual retreat, or even replacing troublesome managers (although you might want to see to those as well). Employee engagement starts with understanding the values of your employees, and working to line those up with the values of the company. While the benefits are obvious, employee engagement isn’t working for most companies, with over 71% of employees reporting that they are not fully engaged.

Understanding the corporate values may seem like an easy one. After all, many companies have them stamped on a plaque somewhere or at least spelled them out in the employee manual. While these values extend to clients and executives, it’s less likely your employees have internalized them in any meaningful way.

Starting today, create a marketing campaign around YOUR corporate values, whether it’s attaching them to the end of every email or diving into what each value means to a specific employee (giving you a chance to spotlight employees!). In time, you’ll start to see these words and values creeping into the corporate lexicon and the daily conversations of your employees. A study by HR Consultants Towers Watson concluded that over a five-year period, the returns to shareholders by companies with “highly effective internal communication” exceeded returns by the “least effective companies” by 47%.

Some tips to get your company values even more entrenched in your organization:

  • Enlist executives to share values-based content and encouragement with employees. 70% of employees who lack confidence in the abilities of senior leadership are not fully engaged.
  • Work with managers to use teaching examples during performance conversations to discuss specifically which value a specific learning opportunity exemplifies. 80% of employees who were dissatisfied with their direct manager were disengaged.
  • Input values into your rewards and recognition program. Why base rewards and recognition solely on performance? Instead start recognizing projects and people who align with your values. After all, 54% of employees who are proud of their company’s contributions to society are engaged.

This speaks to one of the most important parts of employee engagement, clear communication throughout the employee ranks is crucial. Values are a touchstone around which a clear communication plan can be created.

But what about your employees’ values?

In his collaboration with Harvard Business Review, Energy Project Founder Tony Schwartz surveyed more than 20,000 employees across 25 industries. The survey found that those who felt they were appreciated and recognized regularly by their bosses reported that they were more focused, engaged, and likely to stay with their companies. – HelpScout

That’s pretty compelling. Compelling enough to force you to start asking your employees for feedback or surveying them to determine what sorts of causes or programs you should implement from an executive viewpoint.

If you’re serious about engagement, you should. It’s not enough to simply shout the organizational values through a bullhorn at every company picnic (although that sounds like fun). Employees should be encouraged to openly communicate and influence the company’s vision with their input.

Again, how? Try these tips in your organization to learn more about the values of your employees:

  • Ask them about causes they’re interested in via the corporate philanthropy program.
  • Create monthly mini-surveys using free tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey.
  • Administer polls on the intranet to find out which programs and benefits are most attractive to your workforce (this is best done anonymously).
  • Send out requests asking which of the company values matter most to them to find alignment.
  • Run a contest around What I Value and give the winner a few PTO hours to volunteer for that cause.

The above may seem simplistic or unproductive, but each one touches on an important piece of making employees feel valued, and in turn, engaged. Employees feel like contributors, they see how their company has an impact, you’re encouraging social interaction and offering and more! Each small action rolls up into a larger picture of holistic employee engagement.

The final piece of the larger picture is doing something about it.

You’ve articulated your values. You’ve listened and polled and surveyed to learn what your employees value. What do you do with this information? Align those values and start building programs around them!

  • Stand alongside your employees and give when they do. Over 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer a matching gift program to their employees. Instant engagement and support!
  • Lend a helping hand. Create a volunteering program in your company and encourage your employees to start a fundraising drive. Working together to make the world a better place never drove a company’s engagement rate down! A CECP report shows roughly 1-in-3 employees participate in workplace volunteering programs and rates have steadily increased over the past three years.
  • Give PTO to employees so they can use their skills to help those in need. Volunteer grants show your company’s commitment to impacting the community and the world. See how these top 10 companies utilize volunteer grants!

Employee engagement is a crucial piece of talent management, but it only helps those organizations who get it right. Make yours one of the companies who understands the importance of engaging its employees and builds on it!

Download our Employee Engagement Guide!

Strategic Corporate Philanthropy: A Guide for Success

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