How to engage your staff into your company’s social mission?

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

These are the words of the author of The Little Price, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Words about passion and fulfilment that are applicable to many spheres of life and coincidently quite so when it comes to the corporate world of today. Thus particularly relevant to the field of Human Resources as well.

Employee retention is one of the greatest challenges that businesses are faced with today. With a growing number of Millennials entering the workforce on a global scale, this issue is becoming increasingly serious. Researches show that the average period Millennials stay with a company is 3 years.

A company loses money every time an employee goes. The cost of hiring and training a new employee is often an expense than an investment. This is why, many organisations, and especially the larger ones, have started offering better compensation packages, better pension schemes, more holidays and other benefits in their efforts to retain people. Efforts that seem to be failing.

The truth is, people today seem to yearn for more than money and material benefits – they seek more freedom and life purpose and long for personal fulfilment.

This is where corporate social engagement comes in. Apart from being a source of competitive advantage and leading to a better bottom line, corporate social engagement  is also a great way to motivate staff and improve retention.

So how do you use it to cater for your employees’ need for life meaning? Here’s a few ideas on how you can make social impact a part of your employees day-to-day job experience so that it’s more than just a pay cheque that they’re working for.

Make Social Impact a part of your Mission

I believe that employee satisfaction starts with an employee’s decision to join your company. Material benefits shouldn’t be the only reason to do that. Obviously money is a factor simply because we all need to make a living. Yet, considering people’s urge for meaning, you have to give them more of a reason. Incorporating your social purpose into your vision and mission, and making it part of any job offers and job descriptions makes a statement as to how seriously your organisation takes its role in society. Let people know how their work will impact not only the bottom line of your company but society too. This will give your employees a sense of a bigger purpose from the very start.

Give them a chance to get involved

I’ve spoken about this before, but I want to mention it here again because I do think it is essential that you give people the chance to somehow participate. It is hard for people to grasp an idea and really comprehend it without being involved. They might know what your company is doing in terms of community engagement but they won’t actually understand it and grasp the significance of your work unless they are somewhat involved.  This is why, whatever your avenues for social engagement are, whether you’ve a one-for-one model built into your organisation, you donate expertise to local non-profits or you have some other engagement programs to share knowledge or resources, make sure you create an opportunity for everybody to somehow get involved and see for themselves how your organisation touches people’s lives. This might be the single most powerful tool to motivate employees to do their best as they’ll know their efforts matter not only for your financial statements but for the community as well.  And people need to know that what they do actually matters.

Communicate on the progress that’s been made

Everybody in your company should be excited about your social engagement but for you as a leader it is essential that you show enthusiasm both about what you embark upon in terms of social endeavours, as well as about the results from your work. Get your staff together on a regular basis, whether every fortnight, month or quarter, and let them know what impact has been made and what issues or struggles your organisation is facing. Ask them for ideas on how to optimise the process and make it easy for them to contribute with ideas. These meetings are also a chance for you to explain how the output of your organisation, your resources and / or know-how influence the progress. These regular get-togethers don’t need to be formal but they are key because they work in a three-fold way. Firstly, they show your employees that your company genuinely cares about the community. Secondly, they reassure them that their work and efforts matter because of the impact your company is making. And last but not least, they give them a chance to contribute with relevant ideas and solutions themselves.  So make sure you communicate the progress and keep your workforce informed.

Give your employees a chance to be proactive

As a mentor on corporate philanthropic endeavours, I’ve seen some of the most successful corporate initiatives started by employees. Let your employees be creative and establish an outlet for them to share their ideas, start initiatives and get other employees on board to help. Once you’ve chosen a specific field of impact, whether it be healthcare, nutrition, education or whatever else, you don’t need to limit yourself to one specific line of effort. You do need to define what your company’s field of effort is, but as long as all efforts are aimed at achieving the same outcome (i.e. empower young people from poor communities) it is okay to have different initiatives, events and work done in that field. This freedom will empower your employees and give them a sense of personal achievement. Furthermore, when ideas and initiatives come from within the organisation rather than being top-bottom, people tend to be more  motivated and more engaged.

The bottom line is, the more engaged your employees are, the more motivated they will be to give their best both at their jobs and in terms of your organisation’s social endeavours. Make them a part of the story, give them space and freedom to participate & innovate and let them know how you are all doing as a team.

I believe Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was right in that passion is the key to success. When you bring passion to people’s lives, when you are all on the same page and working towards achieving the same goal, the results from your efforts usually substantially exceed the most you ever hoped for.

If you are also looking for ways to make a difference and don’t know where to start, please don’t hesitate to contact me. As a business coach specialising on philanthropy and corporate social engagement, I would be happy to talk to you and help you integrate a social mission into your business in a meaningful way. You can get in touch with me, Paul Davis, here.



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