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May 2, 2023
Academy of Givers

Engaged employees are the backbone of any successful organisation. But how can businesses engage employees effectively, especially when working with Corporate Responsibility activities?

On the 26th of April, the Academy of Givers hosted another one of its Members’ Meeting and this time the topic chosen was employee engagement. Specifically, the speaker for this occasion, Mr Ian Gourley, led the audience in understanding how corporate social responsibility initiatives can encourage and promote the participation of employees.

Employee engagement is one of the main challenges businesses face when it comes to their giving journey, and this is due to multiple reasons. As it was pointed out at the beginning of the meeting, the relationships that employees face in big office environments easily lead to a good level of participation in CSR activities, because people tend to come together and encourage each other to attend. However, the same doesn’t seem to happen in the case of small companies.

Among the issues experienced in this regard, most of the participants mentioned a generalised lack of interest from the side of employees in engaging in any activity. This might be due to just not knowing what events are being organised by the company, or also due to the fact that staff are busy at work and outside, finding it easier not to participate. Even more difficulties are found in trying to engage remote workers and those of a younger age, who’s interest in partaking in CSR activities seems non-existent.  

Adding to these comments, Mr Gourley pointed at the impact of the recent phenomenon of “quiet quitting”:  employees are much more interested in just working their hours, do their work and go home. They do not consider themselves part of the company and have no trust in the organisation.

Thus, the question is: how can a business engage its employees?

The answer is a complex one, and there are four major points to take into consideration:

  • Employees are engaged when they feel a sense of purpose in what they do. Employees want to know that their work matters and that they're part of something bigger than themselves. They want to understand how their work contributes to the company's overall goals and objectives;
  • Employees want to work in a positive environment, one that is safe, supportive, and respectful. They want to feel valued and appreciated by their colleagues and managers;
  • Employees want opportunities to grow. They want to be granted chances for professional development, training, and career advancement, to build new skills and take on new challenges;
  • Lastly, employees want to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work. They want to be recognized for their contributions and know that their hard work is making a difference.

It is therefore evident that to get commitment to CSR activities, business need to start having dialogues and discussions with their employees, trying to understand what issues and causes their people are passionate about and would be willing to give their time for. As part of this dialogue, there is also the need to establish what are the roles employees can play in Corporate Responsibility, so that they are not just passively dragged along but can actively contribute to a cause they care for. It is equally important to assess what are the more practical impediments employees encounter when it comes to partake in such activities (e.g., having a significant amount of work they will eventually have to catch up on). These conversations are also helpful to recognise all the motivations underneath lack of engagement, and to give practical incentives in favour of an increase of attendance.  

To achieve all this, employees should be involved from the beginning of planning a company's CSR and Giving strategy. When employees have a say in the process, they feel more invested in the outcome and are more likely to be engaged. Moreover, companies should recognise and reward employees who participate in corporate social responsibility initiatives. This recognition could take many forms, from bonuses and promotions to public recognition and social media shout-outs.

An important part of this process of effective employee engagement is to make sure that Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives are aligned with the values and goals of the organisation, that they reflect the pillars a business has chosen for itself.  

It was also pointed out by one of the participants how the involvement of managerial levels is key to achieve full engagement: if the management doesn’t believe in the CSR, people will not take part in it. Therefore, the problem needs to also be addressed with a top-down approach.  

As companies adapt to an increasingly complex and interconnected world, corporate social responsibility will become an increasingly important part of their strategies, so it is important to have a feasible and long-lasting methodology to keep employees engaged and create a positive work environment for people to grow.

To sum up the focal points discussed, what businesses can do to improve their employee engagement is the following:

  1. Involve the staff when planning your CSR / Giving Strategy and ensure it is aligned with the company's values;  
  2. Be clear on your CSR strategy and the roles that everyone can play to reach your impact;
  3. Make it meaningful for the staff. Find ways that they can learn from the experience;
  4. Find activities where there’s a two-way learning process between staff and the NGOs so it will be beneficial for both;
  5. Communicate the impact you and your staff are having. Make them feel part of it.
  6. Showcase and recognise those that are part of the impact.