Engage to thrive!

“Engagement drives motivation. Motivation drives performance,” said every HR manager, ever. Because this truth lies at the heart of all HR programmes: engaged staff perform better.

The data back this up. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, business units in the top quartile on engagement are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile.

How can you build engagement that drives profit?

A strong CSR or responsible business programme can make the difference. Great Places to Work uses a culture audit and employee surveys to benchmark and rank good workplaces. In their ranking of the UK’s best workplaces, 85% of employees feel positive about their employer’s CSR programme compared to just 56% in the average workplace.

And right now, the UK clearly has too many ‘average workplaces.’ Gallup reports that only 10% of UK staff feel engaged in their work, while the news is full of how productivity has flatlined for the past ten years, leading to sluggish growth and stagnating pay. The millennial generation is the first not to earn more than the previous generation in over 70 years.

But therein lies part of the answer. That millennial generation—those people born roughly in the 80s and 90s—already make up more than a third of the global workforce. As well as wanting to earn well, they expect businesses to act responsibly, but according to Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey, two-thirds feel that companies are only interested in making profits.

And that is a problem for your business. You risk losing good talent to your competitors, unless you show your millennial employees that they can live their values at your work. And replacing good people is not only a headache, it also costs you yet more lost productivity until those new people are up to speed. An Oxford Economics report from 2014 estimated the real costs of replacing a single employee at over £30,000—a significant dent in the bottom line, no matter what size your business.

So how can you use CSR to engage your staff?

Here are Junxion’s top five tips to using corporate social responsibility to engage staff—and in turn to enhance your business’s performance.

  1. Articulate your social purpose. Why does your business exist? What is the positive difference you seek to make? A recruitment consultancy is not just about “making money from CVs.” It’s about helping individuals get into work, and supporting companies to find the best people for their businesses. “Make profits for the owners” will not motivate people to turn up for work. But making a difference to people’s lives will.
  2. Share stories and data. People can be cynical, so you need to be able to bring to life what you say you stand for with real activities that have real results. What are the major areas you are focusing on? How will you measure your success? Tell your people what your CSR programme aims to achieve and share the stories of your successes. People love a good story. The fictional recruitment consultancy might offer local unemployed school-leavers the chance to spend time in the office and learn about the world of work. They can gather data about how many young people were helped in a year. And they could profile one young person who went on to get a job and cites what they learnt at the recruitment firm as a crucial step in their journey. Now you’ve got your people emotionally engaged in their work.
  3. Use volunteering and pro bono opportunities to build strengths. Better than the apocryphal “painting the scout hut” is finding creative ways for people to do what they do for a good cause. In a law firm, that might be diligently ensuring people use their pro bono time. For digital identity company Yoti it means encouraging its people to work as mentors with the Coderdojo movement, which develops coding skills in young people. Employees who are given opportunities to build their strengths are more likely to be motivated by their work, according to Gallup.
  4. Delegate responsibility. The Gallup report also mentions opportunities for personal development as key to making employees more productive. You could form a team from all levels within the company to be the CSR steering group. Now you have created shared ownership in the success of the initiatives. Younger, less experienced members of staff have the opportunity to shine in front of their more senior colleagues. And employees who feel that their opinions matter are more engaged and invested in their work.
  5. Identify your leaders and laggards. Seeing how people step up when given those opportunities is also a way you can support the future senior managers and leaders of your business. Conversely, those who seem to take a step back are worth a look as well. You should ask yourself ‘are they values-aligned?’ Maybe they aren’t a good fit for your business, or maybe something else is going on that’s worth discussing—for their wellbeing and for your business’s success. Increasingly in our work, we are seeing companies hire first for shared values and cultural fit, and then for skills. This holds true across all sorts of sectors, from financial sector companies such as Nordea, Scandinavia’s largest bank, to performing arts college The Urdang Academy.

Having a robust CSR programme and being mission-led can improve your people’s engagement, which will save you money, increase your productivity and help you build a better, stronger business. If you’re already doing this, congratulations. We’d love to hear how you’ve done it. If you haven’t yet, what’s stopping you?! Can we help?


Adam Garfunkel runs Junxion Strategy’s London office. Junxion integrates strategy and planning, branding and communications, and impact reporting to help organisations thrive in the next economy where business is a force for good in the world.

An earlier version of this article appears on the Heart of the City website.

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