Employee Engagement and CSR Make for an Engaging Twitter Chat

Fenton, a leading public interest communications firm, kicked off a bi-weekly Twitter chat series (#CSRChat) on February 3. The topic, which will change each session, was Employee Engagement – the Good and the Bad. Fenton facilitated the session in which there were more than 75 participants who sent over 300 comments and responses to 15 questions. It’s remarkably innovative for a PR firm to make the leap to handling an entire dialogue openly on twitter. Here are the main topics and a summary of responses.

Define Employee Engagement
Employee engagement means different things to different people. Participants had many different responses, including:

  • Employee engagement means buy-in, support, relevance.
  • Employee engagement means employees have a real voice, not a token voice.
  • In terms of #CSR strategy development, engagement is crucial to identify, assess strengths, weaknesses, risks, opportunities.
  • Employees often know better than anyone where the risks and opportunities lie, and capacity of org to address and innovate.
  • Engagement means ideas from many sources, action from many sources, creativity and interest in the company beyond the job duties.
  • Employee engagement means values are embodied throughout the organization.
  • Employee engagement is not about programs, perks, or pay.
  • If the #csrchat were a company, all of us taking part would be employee engagement.
  • Employee engagement has many definitions and many answers. It is as unique as you.

How Do You Measure Engagement?
There were few responses to measurement, perhaps signifying that organizations don’t quite know how to best measure employee engagement effectively yet. One participant tallied the number of employee suggestions to “make the company a better place and improve work processes and results.” Another surveyed their employees (no details as to the questions asked) and two indicated that if an employee recommends the company in a social setting that’s the best gauge of employee engagement.

How Do You Align Engagement with Daily Tasks?
When the discussion turned toward aligning corporate CSR vision with employees’ daily lives, the consensus was to develop a “framework of interconnected strategy-policy-programs-tools.”

What are the Goals of Engagement?
When asked what the goals of engagement are, only a couple of responses were noted. One person thought it was to “influence him/her to apply additional discretionary effort to his/her work.” And the other thought the goals should be to “build organizational and individual capacity, positive corporate culture, and deliver results.”

Whose Responsibility is it to Create Engagement? Organization? Employee? Both?
Responsibility is split, but most seem to feel that the company needs to create a conducive environment for engagement, but it’s the employee’s responsibility to engage and utilize all the opportunities the company affords.

Can Aligning with a Nonprofit or NGO Help with Engagement?
Generally participants thought alignment with a nonprofit or NGO was a benefit, but only if the company was supportive. One participant was a vocal proponent, saying that “Having a strong philanthropic vision is a powerful way to engage employees and inspire them.”

Good Examples of NGO/Corporate Partnerships that Inspire Engagement?
A few successes were cited, including TNT in the Netherlands and their sponsorship of the UN World Food Programme, IBM’s partnership with CDC for its corporate service corps. Additionally, Nike partnered with the MGR Foundation for the Chicago Marathon and mentored over 100 high school students, and Novartis has Community Partnership Day.

Who Should Implement Employee Engagement? HR? Marketing? Corporate Communications? C-Suite?
Participants seemed to respond based on perhaps their own role or perspective. Some were sure it should come from the top, and others advocated for marketing, communication and HR to be the lead. Only one responded that a “team drawn from various departments could be ideal.”

Is Employee Engagement only Important for Large Companies?
A resounding NO. Everyone agreed that it was crucial regardless of company size, but it may take different forms depending on the size and culture of the organization.

How Can Environmental Sustainability Play Into Engagement?
One participant summed it up: “How can it not?” Others suggested ride sharing, recycling, paperless office, sustainability goals embedded into benefits packages, and participation in athletic events that benefitted environmental causes.

Best Way to Sell CSR or a Sustainability Program to Company Leadership?
Plainly – show them what’s in it for them. One suggestion: “Show the money.” Another is to show the relationship to “strategy and market differentiators, which equal the best practice for selling.” For more ideas, a participant recommends the Climb the Green Ladder book.

What About Fun?
The response was divided, some believe fun is essential, while others thought that not all workplaces could be Zappos and fun shouldn’t be forced down anyone’s throat.

What Organizations Have Solid Engagement?
Participants were generous in their praise and called out the several organizations: Burt’s Bees, P&G, IBM, Patagonia, Intel, Enbridge, FedEx, Zappos, Radio Flyer Wagon, and CSRwire.

The first Twitter chat in Fenton’s series garnered many insightful comments and advice from more than 75 industry voices. For a complete transcript, times and dates of future chats, upcoming topics, or to suggest a topic, visit Fenton. Join the conversation.

Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at andrea.g.newell@gmail.com and @anewell3p on Twitter.

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