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Top 10 Employee Engagement Strategies

Words by Leon Kaye

What companies offer the top 10 employment engagement strategies? I listed a few firms showcasing employees who shine and take a different approach towards internal corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. While we appreciate what companies, from large multinationals to smaller local companies, do for the environment and local communities, a successful company is one with a motivated workforce--and hence allows “doing good” to cascade throughout the communities in which they conduct business.

Drum roll, please! In alphabetical order, here are some companies from which other firms could learn about how to inspire, motivate and retain talent. These companies show the “S” in CSR starts with their employees.

AMD: Organizing “green teams” to root out waste and inefficiencies is a start. Listen to employees’ insight on how they think the semiconductor manufacturing company is performing. Team up with other companies and non-profits to do good in communities and allow employees to network in the meantime. AMD does all of the above and ties sustainability to leadership.

Clif Bar & Company: Can a company grow stratospherically year after year yet embed socially responsible business practices into all facets of its business? The maker of Clif Bars gives an obvious and clear answer: YES. Plus giving every employee a bicycle for the company’s 20th anniversary? That seals a slot on this list. Hopefully they were not all the same color, although a monochrome-colored bicycle rack would look sweet.

Intel: Long a CSR leader and sustainability report issuer, Intel has tied bonuses to the company’s sustainability performance. Both top executives and individual contributors have part of their bonuses tied to energy efficiency performance and greenhouse gas emissions. (Years ago when I was in sales, I brought marketing collateral to a meeting at Intel’s Santa Clara office and was upbraided for tainting their paperless office--this was before most of us had ever heard of the word “paperless”).

Kimberly-Clark: One company that melds embedding sustainability throughout its business while motivating employees is the maker of Kleenex and Huggies. MIT researchers described the company’s culture of innovation as a bottom-up/top-down approach towards improving products’ performance while reducing their environmental impact. Hunter Lovins notes the company’s encouragement of “out-of-the-box” ideas that can score top employees trips with partner NGOs on various international projects.

KT Telecom: Companies are stepping all over themselves proving how focused they are on developing programs for youth. On one hand it’s understandable, considering the youth unemployment problem festering worldwide. But what about people over the age of 50, or even over 40 who many “HR professionals” deem unworthy of employment? Across the Pacific in Korea, KT Telecom will hire over 1,000 retirees (or forced retirees) to train them on a variety of technology issues from web etiquette to online copyright. Valuing and trusting experienced professionals to share their knowledge and wisdom with youth--not to mention the chance at a second career? That is a win-win situation for KT. More companies worldwide ought to take note.

Marks & Spencer: Few retailers can match the efforts venerable M&S has invested in making its products and stores more environmentally and socially responsible. But because there “is no plan B,” the British department store chain’s Plan A inspires its employees to think sustainably not just in the corporate office or within one of its stores, but at home.  The company encourages all staff to share ideas about sustainability, and also offered employees a free energy monitor and home insulation. Each store has a Plan A “champion,” some of whom have moved onto a management training program. The lesson is simple: if you want to encourage your customers to reduce waste and energy and change their everyday thinking, it is best to start with your workforce.

Mercadona: What’s the best way to engage employees? Well, you have to hire them first. Spain-based Mercadona bucks the global retail trend of keeping head count low at stores. According to the Wall Street Journal, the company invests about $6,500 and four weeks of training into each newly hired employee--plus an additional 20 hours annually thereafter. Workers also have opportunities to score bonuses and the company pays higher than other retailers. While Spain’s unemployment is mired above 20 percent, Mercadona keeps adding head count. And while other European retailers have lagged in sales, Mercadona thrives. Happy and confident employees in turn make for a pleasant shopping experience. American retailers, are you listening?

SAP: Volunteering boosts the morale of employees and communities, and companies are doing an excellent job tallying the amount of hours their employees work with non-profits, schools and community groups. SAP goes beyond that with a competitive sabbatical program that sends its most promising employees to remote communities in Brazil, India and South Africa to advise local NGOs. For a few weeks, these professionals consult on anything from information technology to communications to business model innovation. SAP employees in turn gain new skills and networking opportunities.

Social Strata: Not all companies are miserly with their paid time off (PTO, one of the worst HR acronyms ever) policies. When Rosemary O’Neill announced her social media advisory Social Strata would offer its employees unlimited paid leave three years ago, blogs all over the map were chattering about the possibility of managers actually having faith in their employees to set their own schedules. At last check, O’Neill is still satisfied with her decision. With a close friend of mine having to take vacation time and then even a cut in her paycheck because of recent bereavements, companies (Netflix is another) with unlimited PTO define engagement in one word: trust.

Vodafone: Unless I’m missing something, Vodafone seems to have a CSR agenda tailored to just about every country in which the company does business. Vodafone’s World of Difference program is similar to SAP’s program, only it is more extensive. CSR in India scores a boost from Vodafone’s current class of employees who are working in some of the country’s most challenged communities. And judging by the data, the affinity Vodafone’s workers have for their company is improving.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable BrandsInhabitat and Earth911. At Better4Business in Anaheim on May 2, he will join a panel discussing how companies can present their CSR initiatives to the media. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

Read more about what makes a responsible company on our  social responsibility page here.

[Image credit: Leon Kaye]

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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