The Secret to Active Employee Engagement: What's In It For M

by Aman Singh Das | April 14, 2011

Critical reflection seems to be in this season.

Last week, I was at the 10th Annual Charities@Work conference in Chicago organized by an alliance of four national nonprofits. This year’s theme: Employee engagement.

[When Earthshare first asked me to present on why CSR matters for hiring and employee engagement, my first reaction was of worry: How would I convince a crowd of community relations managers and Foundation directors that corporate social responsibility is not the same as philanthropy?

But I like a challenge and accepted. More on that in a later blog.]

Critical Reflection

On Day 1, Chris Jarvis, cofounder of Realized Worth—a consulting and training firm that works with companies to design and implement corporate volunteering programs—offered attendees some critical reflection in his opening keynote:

"Employees are not just showing up to do a job. They are looking for purpose, for meaning," he said.

"And for that, introspection is necessary: Figuring out what motivates them is an important initial step."

What's In It For Me?

Also important: Answering WIIFM: What’s in it for me?

"[Whether it is] recruitment, retention or employee morale, nothing is possible without some critical reflection," Jarvis continued.

What resonated most, however, was the simple message in his concluding remarks: When someone leaves your company for a different opportunity or any other reason, what memory will they most cherish?

Giving the example of accounting firm KPMG--which allows employees to take their families with them on volunteering trips--he emphasized that companies must offer their workforce the chance to be actively engaged.

Not only do these initiatives provide huge brand association, the memories stay with the employees forever.

However, these memories don’t have to be as grandiose as those of KPMG employees. Small businesses can successfully cultivate memorable employee experiences without the same scale of available resources. Examples that come to mind: Zappos, Timberland's Earthkeepers and Portugal-based international retailer Jeronimo Martins.

Lessons from a Merger: JPMorgan Chase & WaMu

Jarvis' emphasis on critical reflection was brought up again later in the day, this time by Michael Carren--JPMorgan Chase's VP and National Director for Employee Engagement and Financial Education--and his co-panelists.

Describing himself as a "recovering nonprofit professional," Carren led Angela Parker, who cofounded Realized Worth with Jarvis, and Mark Shamley, president of the Association of Corporate Contribution Professionals (ACCP), in a discussion on how to rally employees around volunteering and become more actively engaged in the company’s corporate social responsibility.

Noting JPMorgan's recent merger with Washington Mutual, Carren stressed that, "Coordinating the two cultures and keeping the spirits going has been a big challenge."

Noting that employee engagement needs to be year-round instead of a time-sensitive project, and a distinct strategy instead of an undefined concept, Shamley encouraged the attendees to take advantage of the "era of accountability we are in" and keep the conversations going with the C-suite and employees.

In the end, there was overall agreement that employee engagement should be a strategy that at its core helps companies build their organizational capacity.

Critical reflection and some context: Together they can change the game for your team's long term success.

Next: 5 Challenges of Engaging Generation-I

Filed Under: CSR


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