Employee engagement is the powerful connection an employee feels to their employer. It is accepted that the more engaged an employee is, the more effort the employee will exert.

The usual view

Traditionally, employee engagement was seen as an HR function. Typical employee engagement strategies focused around an organization’s culture, creating a workplace that recognized, valued and rewarded an employee’s contribution. Tactics employed to boost employee engagement still include: empowering employees, having transparency, talking with and listening to employees, creating feedback loops and team building.

HR has focused on employee engagement as studies have overwhelming showed that the more engaged an employee is, the more willing the employee is to go above and beyond job expectations and the more likely the employee is to remain with the company. The high cost of employee turnover and a tightening labor market, however, make employee engagement a critical component in a company’s success today.

Newer approaches

Recently, many companies have expanded their Employee engagement strategy to encompass initiatives around corporate responsibility (CR). Companies are finding this can pay off. In fact, Project ROI, a report authored by I O Sustainability and Babson College and underwritten by Verizon and the Campbell Soup Company, states: “Research finds that strong CR performance increases the commitment, affinity, and engagement of employees.

This in turn enhances job performance, increases productivity, reduces turnover, lowers absenteeism and even reduces the incidence of employee corruption. In addition, employee engagement links to CR in a virtuous cycle. Together they reinforce one another and enhance financial performance, sales revenue, brand and reputation value, and innovative capability.”

Companies that examine their purpose or, put another way, why they do what they do, are finding new ways to engage their employees through their CR initiatives.

Put into practice

So how does this all tie together? Some say, and I would agree, it comes down to the “Why?”

Most of us would agree that a company’s main purpose is to increase shareholder value. What’s changing is that for many companies there is a desire to look beyond short-term profits. Companies that examine their purpose or, put another way, why they do what they do, are finding new ways to engage their employees through their CR initiatives. And as it happens, employees are also motivated by the “why” of an organization.

Aligning the “why” of the company and employee is where magic happens. Take Starbucks as an example. Starbucks’ mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” One way they tie their employees to their purpose (or mission) is Starbucks Community Service. The program allows their partners (Starbucks’ name for their employees) and customers to come together to tackle community projects. The result is an uplifting volunteer experience for both their customer and their partner, a better community and ultimately, one of the lowest turnover rates in retail. Starbucks turnover rate is 140 percent better than the average.

Going forward, expect that more companies, as they define their purpose, will also find ways to engage their employees and deepen community ties delivering a triple win — company, employee and community.