Employee engagement builds better companies, stronger communities

Being fully “engaged” at work profoundly influences an employee’s willingness to learn and perform, and has real impact on a company’s bottom line. Engagement is defined as an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to a job, to colleagues and to an organization.

Unfortunately, 71 percent of employees in the United States are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their workplace communities, according to a recent Gallup poll. This lack of employee engagement costs U.S. businesses a staggering $370 billion per year. The disengaged are most likely to be highly educated employees, newer employees and client-facing employees.

Gallup found that businesses with the highest employee engagement were two to four times more successful than companies with low engagement.

Companies with more-engaged employees experienced:

  • 37 percent less absenteeism.
  • 25 percent less turnover (in high-turnover organizations).
  • 65 percent less turnover (in low-turnover organizations).
  • 48 percent fewer safety incidents.
  • 41 percent fewer quality incidents (defects).
  • 21 percent higher productivity.
  • 22 percent higher profitability.

The message is clear: Employee engagement is an essential ingredient of employee recruitment, retention, productivity and, ultimately, company profitability.

Enhance engagement

One of the key ways in which successful companies engage their employees is through employee volunteerism. These companies sponsor or facilitate opportunities for employees to work in their communities as proud representatives of their employers — doing work they are excited about, creating tangible impact and wearing the company brand.

A strategic employee volunteer program satisfies corporate goals, community needs and employee interests — all at the same time. According to the London Benchmarking Group’s Canada 2010 Annual Community Investment Benchmarking Report, a successful employee volunteer program contains the following important elements:

  • Clear program objectives.
  • Approved policies and procedures.
  • Executive buy-in and participation.
  • Annual targets for participation.
  • Tracking of participation and outcomes against targets.
  • Evaluation of results.
  • Communication strategy (including involvement, recognition and reports).
  • Accountability
  • Opportunities for feedback.
  • Program flexibility in different locales.

Corporate volunteerism opportunities are especially important to employees in the millennial generation (those born between 1981 and 2000), which is now a significant component of the workforce; this generation can be challenging to engage in traditional ways.

Seventy-nine percent of millennials want to work for a company that cares about its contributions to society. Millennial candidates who are given a choice between two job offers are more likely to choose the employer that encourages civic engagement.

Many opportunities

In each industry and every company, effective engagement through volunteerism looks different. It no longer only consists of a one-day build with Habitat for Humanity or a small group of school tutors. Volunteerism opportunities are expanding and diversifying to meet employee skills and company cultures.

In some industries, where employees possess unique and valuable skill sets, skills-based volunteering is the best fit and a rapidly growing option. A Billion Plus Change, for example, facilitates and tracks pro bono and skills-based volunteer service across the country and around the world. So far, more than 500 companies have pledged $2 billion-plus in pro-bono service to nonprofits.

For companies looking for fresh ways to think about volunteerism, another effective and experienced national resource is Points of Light, which engages more than 4 million corporate volunteers in 250,000 projects.

Two excellent Colorado resources to facilitate and encourage employee volunteerism include Metro Volunteers and Mile High United Way.

Successful companies recognize that involving employees in volunteer projects is a win/win/win proposition — a triple bottom line — by increasing employee engagement, adding tremendous value to the community and enhancing profitability.


Nonprofit of the month – Rise Above Colorado

Colorado has the second-worst rate of pain-pill abuse in the U.S. To tackle this, Rise Above Colorado helps teens learn about drug abuse so they can make empowered, positive choices. Built on the success of Colorado Meth Project, Rise Above Colorado is delivering youth-focused messaging and educational programs about drug abuse and emerging drug threats like prescription-pill misuse, while encouraging positive alternatives to substance abuse. riseaboveco.org


Bruce DeBoskey, J.D., is a Colorado-based philanthropic strategist working with The DeBoskey Group to help businesses, foundations and families design and implement thoughtful philanthropic strategies and actionable plans.