Employee Engagement at HR Tech 2019

By Cecile Poyet | October 15, 2019 | Conferences & Events, Philanthropy Cloud, Volunteering

Employee engagement is top of mind for all HR leaders – and, I would argue, leadership in general. Engagement means a lot of things to different people, though, and is still a tough nut to crack for many organizations, with 66% of employees being disengaged, according to Gallup’s most recent survey. After four days at HR Tech, talking to tens of companies about culture, social impact, and the need for purpose, I’d like to offer some light on the various facets of employee engagement and how technology can help.

Culture can’t be seen, touched, or worn. Yet everyone knows when it’s amazing and, just as important, when it’s not. If culture is difficult to describe, it is actually even more difficult to change. Julie Lodge-Jarret, Chief Talent Officer at Ford Motor Company, offered great insights into the ways Ford is (re)connecting with employees. Whether it’s through surveys of its culture index score, feedback terminals for measuring employee satisfaction, passive sentiment tracking, intranet platforms, or games or videos from executives, Julie recognized four simple truths:

    1. Consistent, branded language must be used across all of the employee-facing platforms.
    2. Every interaction with technology is an indicator of culture. In other words, if your employee experience with technology is poor, their perception of the company is likely to suffer – and vice-versa.
    3. Technology shapes experiences, beliefs, actions, and, ultimately, results.
    4. Technology has made listening to employees easy. However, listening is not enough. Leaders need to take action on feedback shared by employees, or the trust will be lost.
Collecting career advice for Year Up students at the HR Tech conference in 2019.

Collecting career advice for Year Up students at the HR Tech conference in 2019.

During the Mega Session on October 1st, Charlotte Blank, Chief Behavioral Officer at Maritz, explained that we’re at an inflection point when it comes to using marketing techniques traditionally used on consumers and repurposing them to foster employee motivation and engagement in companies. “We’re just starting to take this scientific position in how we motivate the workforce. Ultimately, what’s different about it from marketing, is that it’s about unleashing human potential. It’s not just about selling products. It’s about helping people reach their full potential. Everybody wants to perform better,” she explains.

Blank explained how research has found that giving not only makes people happier, but also healthier, specifically when it comes to cardiovascular health. It may even make people work harder. The group of researchers worked with a pharmaceutical sales company to give reps either a windfall cash bonus to spend on themselves or, in another condition, to spend on a teammate. Not only did spending on others makes them feel good, it actually made them sell more prescriptions the following month.

“I think we’re just starting to tap the surface of what we could really be getting into when we think about corporate philanthropy and performance of employees,” explains Blank.

Research demonstrates that people are more attracted to companies who participate in giving behavior. This is not limited to any one generation. Everybody is demanding this connection to the community. Careful lab studies have shown that if people are able to choose between similar-looking companies, they will tend to choose the one that has some sort of corporate giving component. Corporate philanthropy attracts better candidates.

The United Way and Salesforce.org teams join forces to revolutionize corporate philanthropy
The United Way and Salesforce.org teams join forces to revolutionize corporate philanthropy

Based on her company’s extensive research and her own experience, Jacki Bassani, Head of Talent and Rewards for North America at Willis Towers Watson, found that shared that purpose-driven organizations tend to improve their financial performance. “Evolved organizations are focused on purpose in all they do; purpose can create connections, inspire good work and drive engagement. Organizational purpose is defined as the reason why businesses exist. It creates a sense of meaning and personal connection for employees. It explains how people can make a difference and increases employee focus, commitment and collaboration. Individual purpose (for work) is defined as the reason individuals choose what they do for a living. Employees see purpose as a way to bring meaning to their work and understand the contributions they are making to the company.” she explains.

Purpose-driven companies outperform the market by 42%
Source: Willis Towers Watson Research; Conference Board Global Leadership Forecast 2018; MarketWatch 2019

The Business Roundtable recently declared shareholder value creation is no longer a corporation’s sole purpose. Instead of a singular focus on investors, the CEOs have, in their statement:

  • Signaled the importance of purpose-driven organizations
  • Indicated the need to focus on all key stakeholder groups, including shareholders, customers, suppliers, communities and employees, and
  • Given a nod to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) concerns

William Browning, Senior Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer for United Way Worldwide, speaking at HR Tech 2019. The topic was how investing in making the world a better place is simply good for business.
William Browning, Senior Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer for United Way Worldwide, speaking at HR Tech 2019. The topic was how investing in making the world a better place is simply good for business.

“Investing in making the world a better place is simply good for business.”

According to William Browning, Senior Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer for United Way Worldwide, more and more companies are starting to realize the true value of investing in purpose and in making the world a better place. It’s good for business. It’s about revenue, reputation, retention, recruitment, and strategic relationships.

Top Talent Wants to Give Back

If you are an HR leader in today’s competitive hiring market, you can’t afford to ignore these facts:

  • 60% of candidates want to work for a company that values giving (Cone Communications)
  • 75% of employees want the ability to choose the causes they support (Cone Communications)
  • 74% of employees who feel their company encourages them to support causes they care about say they are more likely to recommend their company as a place to work (Povaddo research)
  • 71% of employees say they are more likely to stay longer (Povaddo research)
  • Employees that say their company positively impacts their community are three times more likely to say they are proud to work for their company (Salesforce Research, The Impact of Equality and Values-driven Business)

What are you doing today to make your company more purpose-driven and attractive to top talent?

To see how giving back engages top talent, read this report on corporate philanthropy and employee volunteerism and what it means for HR leaders.

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