Throughout January I’ve been reflecting on my successful and in some cases not so successful endeavors of 2016. Simultaneously, I’ve been sifting through an unending list of hopes and dreams, plucking out the items that I would like to focus on in 2017 (and that might actually be attainable). I’ve found myself inundated with article after article that details exactly what I “should” be doing to “work smarter,” be more successful, and ultimately be a better me. Although I appreciate the idea of getting organized and starting a new year off strong, I honesty find these articles begin to get exhausting after a while. Let’s face it – each article, tip, and piece of advice we read at the beginning of the new year may have some inspiring themes and points, but at the end of the day it frequently all seems much easier said (or in this case read) than done.
At the beginning of each new year, we all have hopes, dreams, goals, and resolutions, but the challenge is less about the what we should do and more about how we should do it. Sure, each of us can establish a new set of goals, but the key is the steps we are going to take to get there. In other words, how are we tactically going to start to realize those hopes and dreams that we want to achieve?
That’s why I was excited to recently read an article by Zdravko Cvijetic, 13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful, that took the opposite approach. It did not provide me with a list of things I should be doing, or a series of “helpful” things I should start to incorporate into my life. Instead, it did just the opposite by detailing what to get rid of. The approach used in this article reminded me that sometimes it is equally important (if not more important) to eliminate specific behaviors or approaches in order to fully realize our goals.
Therefore, when I looked at 2017, I decided to take a similar tact when laying out my tips for building and revamping corporate giving & engagement programs.
5 things you should stop doing if you want a successful employee engagement program:
#1: Stop Planning “One-Off” Engagement Activities
It is so easy to get caught in the trap of planning a whole series of great “one-off” events or engagement opportunities and lose sight of the bigger picture. Yes, you do want to provide your employees with a wide variety of ways to get involved in your corporate giving & volunteering programs, but you also need to take the time to really think through what each of those activities should be. Think about what the participants’ experience will be like, and the many important details that are unique to each of those particular events. It is important to take a step back and look more holistically at your overall program. In truth, building a great program does not just consist of creating a bunch of engagement activities, it also requires the formation of an authentic culture of giving back. The engagement activities you offer should become an inspirational catalyst to encourage your employees to reflect on their passions, be creative, and ultimately give back even more through your company-sponsored programs and through their own personal endeavors.
#2: Stop Focusing on Quantity
Did you know that there was a research study released last year that concluded if you offer exactly 9 opportunities for employees to engage in either volunteering and/or giving, then you will achieve your desired participation rate? Of course you didn’t, because no such study exists! So, now you may be asking yourself, how many engagement opportunities do equate to higher participation rates? There is no correct answer! The total number of volunteering and giving opportunities that you should offer is extremely dependent on the specific attributes of your particular programs, your employees, and your organization’s overall culture. Therefore, I firmly believe we need to stop obsessing over quantity and start focusing on what really matters, which is quality. What is your employees’ experience and how does that shape and influence their perspective on giving back? Are your employees inspired to engage and give more through your programs or independently on their own? What is the impact for your nonprofit partners? Sure, I get it, we all feel pressure to get as many of our employees to participate as possible. I do think it is important to track your employee participation rate, but don’t forget that it is even more important to track the quality of the engagement and your program’s tangible impact.
#3: Stop Letting Perfectionism Get In The Way
In 13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful, the author talks about how each of us needs to give up on our perfectionism and stop waiting for things to be “right.” I believe that this is equally true for our employee engagement programs. Sometimes we can get ourselves stuck in a perpetual strategic planning cycle and lose sight of the importance of good old fashioned trial and error. Now don’t get me wrong, I frequently speak and write about the importance of building out a comprehensive strategy for your corporate giving & engagement program. Nonetheless, that strategic planning should be equally balanced with a spirit of willingness to try something new, flexibility to work outside the box, and determination to build an environment that cultivates creativity and lets employees and programs grow more organically. In other words, an approach that is too prescriptive in nature and strives for complete perfection often lacks authenticity and inspiration, two of the most important ingredients for true success.
#4: Stop Making Assumptions
On the surface this point may seem obvious and straightforward – and it is – but it is also a mistake that is frequently made when managing employee engagement programs. Do you know which activities most resonate with your employees? Do you know which causes they legitimately feel passionate about? Do you have a sense of how much volunteering and giving they do on their own, outside of your company program? When was the last time you asked? Sometimes we get so wrapped up in planning the “perfect” engagement activities that we forget to simply ask employees for their opinions. It is critical to stop making assumptions or drawing conclusions from basic post-event survey responses. Instead, start proactively learning from one of the greatest resources we have right at our fingertips: our employees’ thoughts, feelings, ideas, and passions.
#5: Stop Going It Alone
Finally, this last step may be one of the most challenging. Most CSR or Corporate Citizenship teams that are managing giving and employee engagement programs tend to be small and under-resourced. Additionally, almost every CSR or HR professional can relate to the idea of “if I do not do it myself, it will never get done.” In some cases, when it comes down to the pure logistics, that may very well remain true. That said, managing a truly successful program is an organization-wide effort that needs to include contributions from everyone. So in the spirit of clichés that are based in some truth like, “many hands make light work” and “teamwork makes the dream work,” here are a few things to consider:
- Turn your executives into champions who can help build a culture of giving back
- Rely more heavily on your inspired employee champions and empower them to manage some of the tactical and logistical items
- Use your employees as a source of information and inspiration; they are a wealth of knowledge and want to be engaged
- Reach out to your peers at other corporations for tips, guidance, and exploring new ideas for potential collaborations
- Set up strategic partnership meetings with your nonprofit partners to identify how you can assist each other in the journey toward success
Looking forward, we have a whole year full of tremendous potential sitting before us. As we finalize our goals, set our priorities, and sift through the list of things we want to accomplish in 2017, let’s not forget that we can also give some things up. Remember, curbing some activities and behaviors can open up a whole new set of perspectives and unlock a world of unique opportunities that can help us achieve even greater success!