From corporate giving and team building to individual volunteering activities such as skills-based volunteering, employee engagement programs are becoming more and more popular among companies all over the world.
The success of employee engagement programs is important in more ways than one. Companies invest in volunteering or donations programs because they help them retain top employees while also having a positive impact on society. But employee participation rates remain low.
Many companies have implemented employee engagement programs within their organizations as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy. Even though employees like that their company has such programs, there are still some barriers to their success, such as low average participation rates. This reduces the positive impact such initiatives could have on all stakeholders.
What causes low participation rates, and how can your organization ensure that your employee engagement efforts are successful?
We recently hosted a webinar featuring Chris Jarvis, Executive Director of the RWInstitute, and CSR professionals from our clients ABN AMRO and BNP Paribas Germany, to discuss these challenges and how they can be overcome.
Challenges to employee engagement programs can be grouped into 4 main categories:
- Challenges linked to employee skepticism
According to Chris Jarvis, employee skepticism doesn’t arise because of bad employees, but because of a natural bias. These challenges arise if employees are not convinced that your company’s social impact efforts are genuine, or if they are not aligned with your organization’s stated purpose.
- Employees may question the company's genuine commitment to CSR if they perceive initiatives as mere public relations efforts.
- Doubt about the company's true intentions can lead to reluctance to participate in CSR programs.
- Prior experiences with poorly managed or ineffective CSR initiatives can foster skepticism.
- Employees may be skeptical if the organization does not share information about the impact and outcomes of CSR initiatives.
- If employees perceive a disconnect between CSR initiatives and the company's core values or business practices, they may be less likely to engage.
- Challenges resulting from insufficient communication
Many CSR professionals are restricted by the number of times they can communicate with colleagues to inform them about ongoing or upcoming initiatives.
- Employees often receive numerous emails and announcements, causing important CSR messages to get lost.
- Inadequate or poorly chosen communication channels can limit message reach.
- Ambiguous or confusing messaging can lead to misunderstandings or disinterest.
- Infrequent communication can cause employees to forget about giving and volunteering opportunities.
- Generic messaging might not resonate with employees, causing them to disengage.
- Challenges of competing priorities within the company
As a CSR manager, you compete with many priorities that employees have to juggle on a daily basis. Just as you may not be able to adequately communicate with employees, you must also keep in mind that your employee engagement program will take second place to employees’ daily responsibilities.
- High workloads can make it challenging for employees to prioritize CSR activities.
- Employees may struggle to find the time for giving and volunteering outside of their regular work hours.
- Some employees may view social impact initiatives as unrelated to their job roles or career objectives.
- Employees may prioritize tasks that directly impact their performance evaluations over CSR activities.
- Overburdened employees may not have the mental capacity to engage in CSR initiatives.
- Challenges arising from the complexity of engagement programs
These challenges arise when the processes related to your employee engagement programs are not user-centric. For example, if employees need to get too many permissions, or if it takes too much time and effort to sign up to volunteer, they will be less likely to do so.
- Complicated procedures can discourage employee participation in CSR programs.
- If the impact of CSR initiatives is not easily quantifiable, employees may struggle to see their value.
- Vague guidelines can lead to confusion and reduced motivation.
- Cumbersome approval processes or excessive paperwork can impede employee involvement.
- Limited guidance or resources can make it challenging for employees to navigate complex CSR programs.
There are several solutions and support strategies to consider as you try to increase motivation and engage employees. During our webinar, we looked at these challenges in-depth, presented the RWInstitute’s 'Nudge the Good' support program aimed at increasing employee engagement, and drew on the experience of two CSR professionals to learn about industry best practices that will set your programs up for success!