Unlock the Power of Employee Purpose and Belonging

Over the past few years, employee engagement has plummeted to an all-time low—and it’s no secret why. From the rapid shift to remote work in 2020 to the Great Resignation and the “quiet quitting” phenomenon in 2022, many employees have been left feeling disconnected and unengaged, ultimately driving them to reevaluate what they want—and expect—out of work. And as recession concerns result in budget cuts and layoffs, employee engagement has only continued to drop in 2023. 

According to a recent Gallup study, “Employee engagement in the U.S. saw its first annual decline in a decade—dropping from 36% engaged employees in 2020 to 34% in 2021. This pattern continued into 2022, as only 32% of full- and part- time employees working for organizations are now engaged.” 

For leading businesses, the employee disengagement crisis should be top of mind. Losing critical talent can be detrimental to productivity and profits in the long run. Replacing a single employee can cost a company “one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary—and that’s a conservative estimate.” So, if your workforce is feeling disconnected, undervalued, or unengaged, you may be setting yourself up for increased costs amid the economic crisis. 

Keep reading to learn about what today’s workforce expects from their employers and how you can meet their needs through meaningful employee engagement programs.  


Discover the Link Between Purpose and Retention to Increase Productivity 

If your business wants to retain its top performers, you must be able to cultivate a work environment that your employees are eager to rally behind. Today’s workforce increasingly prioritizes working for companies with a strong sense of purpose and a commitment to fostering a sense of belonging. But what does that really mean?  

Belonging: An employee’s sense of belonging refers to how organizations can foster diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities. This impacts how an employee shows up to work and feels comfortable being themselves—and how they contribute to an organization’s common goals. 

Purpose: In the context of the workplace, purpose is defined as the sense of meaning that employees derive from their job. For many, this means serving others or contributing to the greater good. Having a sense of purpose at work allows employees to feel as though their work matters. 

When your organization is able to build a culture of purpose and belonging, employee engagement and, in turn, retention are well within your grasp. And there’s no shortage of research to prove it! The Deloitte Insights 2020 Global Marketing Trends Report found that purpose-driven companies had 40% higher levels of workforce retention than their competitors. And research from Gartner shows that organizations with sustainable diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) initiatives demonstrate a 20% increase in inclusion, which corresponds to greater engagement and employee performance.  


Younger Generations Drive Workplace Trends 

Not only are purpose and belonging critical to your bottom line, but it’s important to your employees, too. This is particularly true for millennial and Generation Z (Gen Z) employees who make up 46% of the full-time workforce and have an average tenure of two to three years. Today, these two generations make up nearly half of the labor market and are the most likely to look elsewhere if their workplace expectations aren’t being met. And as the presence of millennial and Gen Z employees grows exponentially within the workforce, companies must be equipped to effectively meet the needs of these generations. But what are millennial and Gen Z workers looking for from their employers? 

A recent study by Monster found that 83% of Gen Z individuals stated an employer’s commitment to diversity and inclusion as significant when choosing where to work. Another poll found that 75% of Gen Z employees said they’d reconsider applying to a company if they weren’t satisfied with their commitment to DEIB.  

Similarly, The Cone Communications Millennial Employee Study found that 64% of millennials won’t take a job if their employer doesn’t have a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy, and 83% would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues (versus a 70% U.S. average). 

It’s apparent that younger generations increasingly prioritize purpose when considering where to work. And if your organization isn’t equipped with the tools to cultivate the corporate culture they’re looking for, millennial and Gen Z employees won’t be afraid to look elsewhere. 


Engage Employees with Meaningful Programs 

Offering programs that support employee purpose and belonging should be top of mind for your leadership and HR teams, but where should you begin? The past few years have proven that CSR programs that include benefits like matching gifts, volunteer paid time off, Dollars for Doers, and more, further connect employees to the company’s purpose and foster a greater sense of belonging, which results in employee retention. In fact, employees engaged in giving and volunteering are 57% less likely to leave their jobs. 

But if your company’s CSR initiatives don’t support diverse causes or offer equitable ways to engage, you won’t be able to cultivate an inclusive culture. Below we’ve outlined program recommendations that are flexible and accessible for everyone and allow your employees to support causes they’re passionate about.  

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Encourage inclusion and belonging in the workplace by supporting employee resource groups. ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that aim to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace and build a greater sense of community. Usually, an ERG aligns with a shared identity, background, or experience as they work to lead programming that informs and amplifies the histories of their community.  

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Show your employees that their company and coworkers have their backs. Establishing an EAP allows your employees to request assistance in a time of need. Team members can apply for financial support or donate to the employee relief fund. 

Employee-led CSR: Align your CSR strategy with your employees’ passions and show you support causes they align with. When your employee makes a donation to a nonprofit or volunteers their time, double their impact by offering a company match or implementing a Dollars for Doers program. 

Equitable Giving: Enable greater employee participation and drive deeper engagement with equitable giving programs. Rather than requiring that your employees request a match, give them the funds up front with a charitable spending account. Similarly, provide your employees with an allotted amount of time off to volunteer. Through these programs, you remove barriers to giving and make it easier for anyone to get involved. 

DEIB Programs: Gartner research shows that organizations with sustainable DEIB initiatives demonstrate a 20% increase in inclusion, which corresponds to greater on-the-job effort and intent to stay, as well as high employee performance. CSR programs that align with awareness holidays to celebrate underrepresented groups (e.g., Women’s History Month, Pride, Juneteenth) are highly effective at creating cultures of belonging. 


Ready to Harness the Power of Employee Purpose and Belonging? 

In our latest eBook, Unlock the Power of Employee Purpose and Belonging, we explore how CSR programs can transform employee engagement and retention efforts, thereby reducing impact on your bottom line.  

In this guide, we’ll discuss:  landing-page-cover-image-1020x656 (1)

  • Why you're witnessing a record number of unengaged employees and losing critical talent. 
  • How to increase employee engagement and retention by building a purpose-driven culture and fostering a sense of belonging. 
  • How to implement CSR programs that are proven to support purpose and belonging. 
  • How CSR programs can support additional business outcomes amid the recession. 

To dig even deeper, view our recent webinar, What Does it Mean to Belong: A New Corporate Imperative. During this session, Chris Jarvis, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder of Realized Worth, and Pete Karns, SVP of Corporate Strategy at Bonterra (formerly the Chief Product Officer at CyberGrants), discuss the human need to belong and what that means for corporations. Access the recording HERE! 

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