Over the last decade the business world has shown significant interest in the concept of employee “engagement.” Identified as an internal state of being – physical, mental and emotional – employee engagement brings together concepts of work effort, organizational commitment, job satisfaction and optimal experience. But does the social engagement of employees lead to a lasting and successful marriage? Yes, says this author.
Employee engagement is about being positively present at work by willingly contributing intellectual effort, experiencing positive emotions and meaningful connections to others. This gives employee engagement three dimensions:
- Intellectual: related to the job and how to enhance it;
- Affective: linked to feeling positive about doing a good job; and
- Social: concerned with taking opportunities to discuss work-related improvements with others at work.
Deloitte’s Volunteer IMPACT 2011 survey found that Millennials who frequently volunteer are more likely to be proud, loyal and satisfied employees as compared to those who rarely or never volunteer. The same research showed that those who participate in employer-sponsored volunteerism were 52 percent more likely to feel very loyal toward their company than those who did not participate. The report also found that 70 percent of Millennials want to work for a company that is committed to its community. Of all Millennials surveyed, 61 percent said that whether an organization were committed to its community and sponsored volunteerism, would have an influence on whether they accept a job offer or not (Deloitte, 2011).
Extensive studies have demonstrated the importance of employee engagement to organizational performance as a business concept that addresses employees’ levels of interest and commitment to the job, resulting in a positive attitude towards one’s occupation and firm and consequently leading to greater productivity. Gallup’s Q12 Meta-analysis of 1.4 million employees conducted in 2012 and examining business performance, shows a positive correlation between employee engagement and business outcomes despite tough economic conditions. More specifically, Gallup found that engaged employees are more productive and customer-focused, as well as more likely to stay with their employers (Gallup® and Q12®, 2013).
Enter the Millennials
The study, which covered different dimensions of employee engagement, shows that employee engagement with corporate volunteerism is increasingly being identified as a key element in attracting and retaining top talent (see box). This correlates tightly with a prevailing characteristic of the current Generation Y, or the Millennials: defined as being between the ages of 21 and 35, the fastest growing segment in today’s workforce and the most sought after talent despite the prolonged recession. Perhaps one of the most distinctive characteristics of Gen Y is their search for meaning in the work place, a platform that encourages them to contribute to society. It is important to understand and engage with members of the Millennial generation as they will represent the bulk of the workforce, the future of economic and social life and the future of business.
While many have claimed that employee engagement predicts employee outcomes, organizational success and financial performance, a considerable number of leaders question the return on investment (ROI) in terms of the amount of time and resources spent trying to address employee concerns. In fact, some observers warn that fixating on ever higher engagement survey scores is wrongheaded and may backfire if employers fail at improving the metrics and ensuring that their more “engaged employees” are behaving in ways that promote higher productivity.
The importance of social engagement
Recognized or not, without a motivated and engaged workforce, even the most brilliant business strategies can falter. The affinity that employees feel toward an employer has the power to create a competitive advantage that can be hard to imitate and is inextricably linked to organizational performance (Deloitte, 2011). Studies indicate that organizations that have engaged employees actually outperform those who do not. In fact, employers who take into account the connection between corporate volunteerism and employee engagement can reap substantial rewards. By sponsoring volunteerism, a company has the opportunity to communicate the values it shares with its employees, which in turn can result in a more engaged and committed workforce that drives the firm’s competitive advantage (Madison, 2012).
Companies seeking to enhance organizational commitment by means of volunteerism may have more success if their employees have the freedom to select from a wide array of volunteer opportunities. This is driven by the increased agreement with organizational values and increased perception of the organization that employees report as a result of participating in employer-sponsored volunteerism (Madison, 2012).
I do. Do you?
At the moment, employee engagement initiatives addressing community involvement and corporate volunteerism are being incorporated into the backbones of leading organizations. Forward-looking companies seeking a lasting “marriage” with their employees are encouraged to embrace the trend and establish social engagement as a differentiating agent of their firms. These organizations should emphasize the importance of employee engagement through offering a holistic kind of experience to their workforce and aligning with their passions if they wish to retain the talent that other firms are competing for.
by Soughit Abdelnour, senior manager, Human Resources, Deloitte Middle East
Barton, F. E. (2012) The Millennial consumer – debunking stereotypes. The Boston Consulting Group.
Deloitte, D. L. (2011) 2011 Executive summary Deloitte volunteer IMPACT survey. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.
Frauenheim, E. (2011, September) A skeptical view of engagement, workforce. Retrieved from Workforce Website:
Gallup® and Q12® (2013) Engagement at work: its effect on performance continues in tough economic times. Gallup, Inc.
Harter, N. B. (2011) Majority of American workers not engaged in their jobs. Gallup® and Q12®.
Khan, W. (1990) Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work. Academy of Management Journal, Vol.33, pp. 692-724.
Madison, W. R. (2012) Corporate social responsibility, organizational Commitment, and employer- sponsored volunteerism. International Journal of Business and Social Science, Vol. 3 No. 1