2013 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: Creating Culture that is Incentive Enough

At the 2013 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in New York City we welcomed a handful of experts and thought leaders in the fields of CSR and employee engagement to hold “Best Practice Café” sessions with our client attendees. Stay tuned as we share the major themes and knowledge shared during these discussions.

Culture, not carrots, to motivate your employees.

Culture, not carrots, to motivate your employees.

Session
Creating Culture that is Incentive Enough

Speakers
Maureen Flynn, Changing Our World

Jessica Hubbard & Annalisa Amicangelo, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Summary of Session

Numerous companies offer employee programs such as Dollars for Doers and charitable gift-matching to incentivize employee engagement, but what are the ways that companies successfully leverage a strong corporate culture to further that inherently, and consistently motivate employees to give and volunteer? In this roundtable discussion, we explored practical strategies for embedding employee engagement and volunteerism into the DNA and personal brand of a company.

Big Ideas from the Session:

Noting a growing focus on engaging employees, volunteer managers face increasing pressure to overcome common roadblocks when putting firm-wide strategies in place. Our session focused on the foundational elements needed to ensure successful engagement. We honed in on four specific strategies that participants agreed are important to overcoming implementation challenges:

1. Formalize Your Program
Oftentimes volunteer activities are taking place within a company, but the company has not yet committed to launching a formal engagement strategy. This can lead to confusion amongst employees and under-utilization.

Taking the time to identify what your company stands for and how this should be reflected in your formal volunteer program is critical to success. Aligning your program with your company’s mission, values, products and/or community needs will help the program resonate with both internal and external stakeholders. Consider branding your efforts or linking it to an existing corporate initiative to help give your employees something tangible they can talk about and be proud of!

2. Empower Your People
Within your company there are likely untapped individuals who are passionate about giving back to the local community and interested in raising the visibility of your company’s efforts.

Identifying internal champions for your engagement efforts helps spread the word and provides additional support to your program; it also gives your champions a sense of empowerment to formally serve as ambassadors for your efforts. These relationships will help you stay informed on employee interests, identify roadblocks to successful engagement, and increase access to additional champions across your workforce. Take the time to equip your employees with the tools and resources they need to execute activities on their own in addition to the opportunities you arrange!

Remember to recognize and promote employee achievements to further incentivize engagement. Recognition can take many forms, from a simple thank you note after a volunteer activity, to showcasing volunteers on your intranet site, to sharing stories of success at town hall meetings, to formalizing a recognition program or annual volunteer award. Consider the recognition tactics that will resonate best with your employee base and ultimately increase engagement.

3. Set and Communicate Goals
Volunteer managers often struggle with effectively communicating about the company’s employee engagement programs.

Identifying realistic goals for your program will help give your employees something to strive towards, provided they are regularly informed on the company’s collective progress. Seek feedback from your employees and determine the types of goals that will motivate them to participate. Develop targeted messaging and culture-specific communications for recruitment; even within your organization consider how different groups of employees digest information. Are there certain divisions that thrive on email communications while others may only pay close attention to information that is verbalized by managers?

Creating a variety of communications and leveraging existing internal vehicles as well as natural points of convening can help boost employee participation.

4. Gain Internal Buy-In
Engaging senior leadership and gaining buy-in from the top is critical to implementing a successful employee engagement strategy. However, often overlooked is developing strong relationships with “people managers” throughout your company.

Identifying the appropriate “people managers” will help you identify the individuals you want and need to promote engagement opportunities to their direct reports as well as sign-off and promote the activities that may take place during normal work hours. Continue to build relationships across the enterprise and remember that the ultimate goal is to have buy-in throughout the organization at every level in order to help further enhance an incentivized culture.

While these four strategies are not the end-all, be-all of effective employee engagement, they are fundamental elements that, when thoroughly addressed, can truly elevate and enhance your program. Continue to remain nimble with your strategy — seek regular feedback from your employees and exchange challenges and successes with peers in other organizations; these tactics will help you to uncover the core elements needed to grow a corporate culture that not only embraces employee engagement but allows it to thrive.

Maureen Flynn leads corporate social engagement project for clients at Changing Our World, a leading international consulting firm for nonprofit organizations, where she brings to her work a decade of experience in corporate philanthropy and corporatate-nonprofit partnerships. Maureen’s client experience represents an array of sectors and industries, and includes organizations such as Arizona Public Service, BNY Mellon, ConAgra Foods, MillerCoors and Phillips 66.

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