CSR29 July 2022

5 Ways Your Social Impact Strategy Can Improve Employee Engagement

Employee engagement matters. And the companies that have the highest levels of engagement tend to be those that also have well-developed social impact strategies. 

What’s the connection? What’s so important about employee engagement? And how can other businesses emulate the best practice exemplars with their own social impact work? That’s what we’ll explore in this blog. 


Why Does Employee Engagement Matter?

There is an extensive, growing body of evidence to correlate higher levels of employee engagement in their work and their businesses with better results. For example, Gallup has reported that companies with highly engaged workforces have:

  • 24% less staff turnover
  • 10% higher customer ratings
  • 17% higher productivity
  • 21% higher profitability

Engaged employees who are committed to the business they work for go the extra mile – and it pays off. 


What Drives Employee Engagement?

The main drivers of employee engagement are well-known:

  • Pay and benefits
  • Effective, honest communication
  • Commitment to a positive work-life balance
  • Recognition
  • Company transparency
  • Opportunities for training, development, and advancement
  • Opportunities to exert autonomy and confront challenges

But it is increasingly being recognised that a sense of meaning in work and identification with a business’s values play a major role too – particularly with younger workers. A company’s social impact strategy is especially relevant to these two drivers, but it also touches on many of the others listed. That’s why more and more businesses are proactively combining social impact and employee engagement strategies.

> 58% of workers expect their employers to observe higher standards than other businesses (Porter Novelli)

> 88% think it’s not enough for companies simply to make money – they must have a positive social impact as well (Porter Novelli)

> 18% more employees at businesses that were vocal about social causes showed “high levels of discretionary effort” than others (Gartner)

> While only 28% of workers felt connected to their company’s purpose in 2019, 62% felt highly motivated when they were. In companies where purpose is clearly defined, 65% of employees reported being “passionate”about their jobs (PWC)

> While 50% of employees are thinking about leaving their current roles, that drops to just 12% among those who believe that their company is making a positive impact in the world (WeSpire)

OK, that’s enough stats. Hopefully, you’re convinced that it’s possible to improve employee engagement through an effective social impact programme.  

The question we’ll turn to now is “how?”


Source: freepik.com


How To Improve Employee Engagement Through Social Impact


#1 Involve Employees In Deciding Goals

Employees are more likely to get behind goals that speak to their own day-to-day concerns (eg pay and conditions, their local community, sexual harassment) than more distant, political goals. So, it’s important to ensure that employees are involved in setting the objectives of Corporate Social Responsibility, ESG, and social impact strategies.

One of the best ways to do this is to appoint staff delegates to feed into CSR management over time. They will also help you to keep in touch with how effective your work is in improving employee engagement. 


#2 Ensure Social Goals Are Consistent With Business Goals

All too often, businesses fail to align their social objectives with their business goals. Frequently, this results in them being seen as in competition with one another, with CSR activities becoming a nuisance that divert resources away from “real work”. 

For example, consultant Stephen Leo gave this warning to companies working on their social value strategies:

That’s often the step that gets missed out – that the social value strategy needs to understand the requirements around resources and commercial impact as well. A lot of people don’t do that and then they complain that social value is costing them a lot of money to implement.”

The closer the causes you support sit to your company’s day-to-day activities, the less promoting them will “cost” and the greater your organisation’s likely competitive advantage in doing so. That is, the more your business can do for less than others could. That synergy between social and business goals is key to maintaining momentum and staying committed. 


#3 Provide A Portfolio Of Ways To Get Involved

Many companies do a lot of good in society by giving money to their preferred causes. That’s all very well, but it does little to improve employee engagement when the only part they can play is that of donor. So, a good employee engagement programme will include lots of ways for people to take part. These can include:

  • Payroll giving 
  • Opportunities to use their professional skills in support of social goals (skills-based volunteering)
  • Fundraising events
  • Organised volunteer programmes (see Thrive’s Volunteering Module for a best-in-class software solution to the problem of managing these schemes)
  • Advice and opportunities for promoting social objectives through personal behaviour (eg reducing your own carbon footprint through car-sharing, bike loans, etc)


#4 Tie It In With Personal Development 

Skills-based volunteering is just one of the ways in which employees can promote social goals and pursue personal development at the same time. 

Employee involvement in CSR efforts can also help them develop new skills and give them new experiences by extending opportunities to engage in activities they might never have tried otherwise, and to meet people they might never have encountered. 

As we’ve already mentioned, opportunities for development are an important driver of employee engagement:

  • Udemy has found that 80% of employees feel more engaged when such opportunities are made available
  • A LinkedIn study reported that 94% of staff would stay at a company longer if it invests in their career development 

By connecting social impact with development opportunities, the effect on employee engagement is doubled!


#5 Keep Reporting Back 

A lot of businesses talk a lot on CSR, ESG, sustainability, and social impact, but deliver little. In the worst cases, this is deliberate “social washing” or “greenwashing”. But in most, it comes from loss of impetus, confusion, and a lack of review mechanisms. 

Persistence, authenticity, and sustained commitment matter. A Gartner study of the general population found that stakeholders are:

  • 11 times more likely to respond positively when they believe a company is staying true to its values
  • 4.5 times more likely to respond positively when that engagement is seen as consistent with business goals
  • 6 times more likely to respond negatively to messages they believe to be inauthentic

The best way of ensuring that a CSR programme delivers on its promise is for the business to hold itself accountable by reporting its achievements – for better or worse. 

That means:

  • Setting up well-designed metrics at the outset, to measure the impact actually made (not just the pounds spent)
  • Tracking performance over time and collecting all the relevant data
  • Acknowledging staff whose efforts are making a difference
  • Putting this information in front of the people whose opinions matter – employees and the public

It’s not always easy to benchmark performance, design metrics, and capture data across an entire organisation – let alone interpret the impact your activities are having. 


If this is something your business is struggling with, or which you’d like to find out more about, why not book a demo of the Thrive platform to see how our software can help you capture the whole impact of your CSR work, and maximise the employee engagement boost that it generates.