As the population of developed countries ages, and millennials represent more and more of the workforce, companies are finding it increasingly challenging to recruit and retain qualified, dedicated employees. However, survey after survey demonstrates that companies with a strong social purpose have a significant advantage at attracting and keeping employees, and ensuring the long-term financial health of the organization.

How Engaged Employees Help Your Brand

According to Gallup research, “engaged employees are more productive, create better customer experiences, and are more likely to remain with their employers.” This isn’t just a feel-good factor; increased employee engagement and satisfaction have measurable financial benefits. The Gallup research states that: “companies with high employee engagement levels have 3.9 times the earnings per share when compared to those in the same industry with lower engagement levels.”

How to Create a Brand Your Employees Love

An organization’s purpose is an enduring and succinct statement that explains why it exists, beyond making a profit. It represents what an organization stands for, how it is different, and how people can expect it to act, both today and in the future. It is intended to serve the long-term, supporting the growth of the business and the experiences created for both employees and customers. I’ve written more about that in my blog post on what it means to be a social purpose brand.

To be relevant to your employees (and your customers), this purpose needs to come across in both your external marketing efforts and your internal HR work. Your HR leaders will manifest your brand in your employee value proposition. Your marketers will embed it in your brand positioning. Both your marketing and HR teams need to be closely entwined.

So the big question: How do you make sure your social purpose drives employee engagement? There are five key ways:

1. Engage leadership and influencers.

Make sure that executives are visibly supporting and living the purpose. This will show authentic commitment and help silence critics. But don’t just rely on top-down communications. You need influencers within every level of the organization to help act as change agents and become internal ambassadors for the purpose and brand.

2. Involve employees in articulating your purpose.

While research and executive-level conversations are key to articulating your purpose, it’s just as important to ensure you have visible and meaningful employee involvement. Consider a variety of tactics such as an employee advisory committee, surveys and town hall meetings to gather input. Be sure to report back to the employees on the input they gave and how it’s being used.

3. Start inside, then go outside.

Make sure your employees truly understand your vision, brand, values, beliefs and aspirations before you begin externally sharing your purpose. Your external efforts will require a sustained effort across the whole company, and everyone needs to be on board.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

As part of your internal communication efforts, ensure employees clearly connect their individual roles with the overall purpose of the organization. For example, in “A Brand Is Just A Brand – Unless It Has A Purpose,” Julie Barrier, vice president, purpose-driven marketing at SAP, shares a story about a custodian at a medical clinic (someone who isn’t directly involved in patient care). The custodian described her job as, “I save lives.” This is a perfect example of how any employee can feel an emotional connection to the company’s purpose if leadership helps them understand how they are contributing to it with their daily jobs, regardless of their role.

5. Celebrate and congratulate.

A flashy one-time internal launch or event is seldom effective. Consistently call out and reward behaviours and outcomes from employees who support the purpose of the organization. Encourage staff to recognize one another as well.  

To increase employee engagement, satisfaction and retention in an age of labour scarcity, organizations must develop and demonstrate a strong social purpose their employees can relate to and support. This strong social purpose not only increases engagement and satisfaction from employees, but it brings strong financial benefits and increases the overall health of the organization.

If you’ve had success engaging your employees in your social purpose, leave a comment about what you did. Our readers will appreciate hearing about your experience.

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