Employee Engagement: From Buzzwords to Business Goal

Feb 13, 2014 12:00 PM ET

Register Now! April 3-4, 2014 for the Charities@Work 13th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship.


Charities@Work Blog Series 

By Peter Dudley (Manager of Community Support Programs group, Wells Fargo)

I don’t trust trends. Trends start from good ideas, but too often when they hit the mainstream the original idea has gotten lost or transmogrified in a blizzard of buzzwords and bullet points. This is bound to happen in a world managed by sound bytes and elevator speeches. And if you’re not careful, you could follow a hot trend that actually leads nowhere, or in circles.

A few years ago, for example, the big idea was to align a company’s corporate philanthropy with its business goals.  This is actually a great idea that’s not terribly new. (Harvard Business Review wrote about this in 1994, the year Netscape was founded.) And these days, you can’t walk through a CSR conference without hearing the phrase “creating shared value” every ten feet. Again, another great idea which is not terribly new. Remember the phrase “enlightened self-interest”?

Don’t get me wrong; I think these are both great ideas that help define a healthy relationship between corporations and the community. But when managers cling to these trends, they forget one critical business goal: employee engagement.

Ask any top manager what their company’s most important asset is. My guess is nine times out of ten they’ll answer, “Our employees.” Then ask them how their corporate philanthropy aligns with their business goals, and I bet that zero times out of ten you’ll hear “engaging our employees” as a key business goal.

And yet these managers sincerely care about their employees; they know that high engagement levels result in gains in recruitment, retention, productivity, and, ultimately, a more effective and profitable company. The problem is that when they think of community involvement, they think of their workforce as a resource to be leveraged. But properly designed and executed programs can achieve community and business objectives, create shared value, and drive up employee engagement.

Why is this important? Some of the things we’ve learned in our research and I’ve blogged about in the past answer that question:



Register Now!

Join us this spring, April 3-4, 2014 for the Charities@Work 13th Annual Best Practices Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship.

The Annual Charities@Work Summit is one of the country’s leading conferences on employee engagement and corporate social responsibility.  Attendees include Fortune 500 companies across all sectors of business, each with philanthropic and employee engagement programs of varying sophistication and a desire to collaborate on best practices for practical improvements.

2014 Summit Theme:  Collaborating for Impact

Incorporating various formats, including key note presentations, panel discussions, workshops, and peer-to-peer breakout sessions, topics from this year’s summit will include:

  • Building successful cross-sector collaboration initiatives
  • Engaging employees in the non-traditional workforces
  • How digital culture is transforming philanthropy
  • The evolution from workplace giving to employee engagement