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Employee engagement: Actions speak louder than words

In the August issue of Talent Management, Michael Arkes wrote a great Viewpoint article on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and employee engagement. In it, he highlights several studies that demonstrate the significant impact that CSR has on employee engagement.

This analysis is significant to me because it points out the impact that action has above communications or reactive efforts toward employee retention.

CSR requires that a company takes significant steps to engage the outside world to understand how they can make a difference. While this alone is praiseworthy, the big payback comes when the CSR efforts align with what the employees feel is important.

As the employees see this engagement, they, too, are encouraged to become a part of the action and thus become more engaged. And it doesn't have to be about a major CSR initiative; it can just be about things that are important to the employees, whether locally or personally.

Here's a small example. I recently completed a wellness challenge throughout our company. While the point was to encourage a healthy lifestyle, the secondary effect was that employees were more engaged with other employees and the company. I was engaged enough to clip a pedometer on my belt every day for two months (OK, almost every day).

While that's not exactly CSR (we do have many other corporate programs to support green initiatives and charities), it was a good example of action.

It's this tangible action that employees want and need to see to become more engaged in their job or company. And it's a great, sustainable cycle.

Engage with employees. Find out what's important to them. Create CSR programs that matter to employees. Engage employees in CSR programs. And so on.

Ultimately, it's about trust. If my company is showing me action through CSR efforts or employee engagement efforts, will I be willing to trust them with more of my time to be engaged? The answer is yes.

And the question is: What actions are you or your company taking to engage employees (or their worlds)?

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