By MG Kristian, Senior Vice President, Human Resources
Employee engagement is a top priority for every human resources executive, and for good reason. According to a PWC study, employees who are committed to the companies they work for put in 57 percent more effort and are 87 percent less likely to resign. Despite these powerful statistics, Gallup reports that only about one third of U.S. workers are engaged at work. With so much at stake, why are engagement numbers so low? Engagement, like culture, takes a conscious and active commitment, a clear strategy and focus.
Interestingly, more companies than ever are turning to corporate responsibility (CR) programs to engage employees—and a key part of any CR program is community engagement. The thinking behind community engagement programs is simple—when people feel their work is tied to things they care about—things that give their lives meaning and purpose—they are more motivated and committed to company success. There are stats to support this, too. The Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey indicates that employees who participate in company volunteer programs are more likely to rate their company culture very positively, be very proud to work for that company, and be very loyal to it.
When people feel their work is tied to things they care about—things that give their lives meaning and purpose—they are more motivated and committed to company success.
So what constitutes a good community engagement program? With the understanding that there’s no single solution, many companies start with a “top-down” approach and identify causes within specific categories that are aligned with their company’s mission. At Mitchell, for example, we support causes tied to technology, the military—a vital presence in the San Diego community where we are headquartered—health and the environment. Employee celebrations and team building events often include a group volunteer activity in support of one of these causes. We even get our clients in on the action—each year, our annual customer conference incorporates a networking activity that enables attendees to volunteer together.
While this strategy has really made a difference, both inside and outside the company, I’m inspired by the fact that our community engagement program actually started as a grass roots effort by a group of very passionate employees. We simply built on their efforts. Mitchell’s philosophy is that if a cause is important to our employees, it’s important to us. We embrace and support the causes they care about most through matching donations—and in 2017, we’ll also be offering time off for volunteer activities and providing charitable contributions based on employee volunteer hours.
I’m inspired by the fact that our community engagement program actually started as a grass roots effort by a group of very passionate employees. We simply built on their efforts.
“Our home is your home,” is another guiding principle. Employees are welcome to use our facilities during evening and weekend hours to host meetings and special events for whatever professional, charitable and community-based organizations they participate in. Our offices have hosted countless non-profit board meetings—including Second Chance where I serve—developer meet-ups, Lean In circles and blood drives. And our employees have held bake sales and raffles and even sold crafts to raise money for their causes.
As the bottom-up approach proves, a community engagement program doesn’t need to be costly to be effective. It can be as simple as facilitating the great work your employees are already doing in the community—invite your employees to bring in unused winter coats and donate them to a shelter in the community or sponsor a Toys for Tots drive. By taking just a few small steps, companies of all sizes can bring meaning and purpose to their employees’ work beyond the company’s own value proposition—and see big returns both in terms of employee engagement and community impact. When employee and community engagement go hand-in-hand, each strengthens the other—and the community.