Designing Your Employee Experience? Try Giving Them What They Want: SOCIAL IMPACT

To kick off your employee engagement work you have to answer one crucial question: What do your employees want? 

A company’s employees are one of the greatest untapped resources in social impact. Organizations that can harness the passion of the 65% of employees who say they want to work somewhere with a strong social and environmental conscience, have a much greater opportunity to deliver on their social impact strategy and impact the communities they serve. 

What’s often overlooked, however, is that this passion for social impact is also a very powerful employee engagement tool. With an ever-evolving workforce and shifting employee expectations, meaningful employee engagement is vital to long-term organizational success. Studies show that companies with a highly-engaged workforce have 21% higher profitability and 17% higher productivity than companies with a disengaged workforce. Disengaged employees cost about $3,400 in lost productivity for every $10,000 in salary. Pair this with the fact that highly engaged workplaces see 41% lower absenteeism and the verdict is in on the importance of engaged employees. 

Yet so few organizations get it right. This is particularly evident in CPG and Retail businesses, where employees work in three contrasting environments: corporate offices, retail stores, and warehouses. Many organizations use an employee engagement strategy designed by corporate employees for corporate employees, leading those in the retail and warehouse locations feeling misunderstood, talked down to, and underappreciated. 

This is where looking at the employee experience through a social impact lens comes in. Ultimately, your employees are the primary audience for the CSR work you do, not to mention a proving ground for your authenticity in tackling important issues—you can’t fight for a cause out in the world while you exacerbate the issue “at home”. Proving that you’re walking the walk internally has the power to transform employees into vocal advocates, dedicated participants in your social impact efforts, while also driving their passion for their day-to-day jobs. 

As with any social impact strategy, it’s necessary to work from an understanding of the needs and wants of each group you’re looking to impact, rather than designing from a set of assumptions and generalizations. So to kick off your employee engagement work you have to answer one crucial question: What do your employees want? 

Don’t know where to start? Here are some of our top findings, to get you started: 

Corporate employees

  • Flexible Work Options: 88% of knowledge workers say that when searching for a new position, they will look for one that offers complete flexibility in their hours and location. 43% of workers are likely to look for a new job if asked to return to the office full-time: survey (FP).
  • Work-Life Balance: Workers are increasingly facing burnout. 76% of the workers in a Citrix study believe that employees will be more likely to prioritize lifestyle (family and personal interests) over proximity to work, and will pursue jobs in locations where they can focus on both — even if it means taking a pay cut.
  • Professional Development: In this new working world, the organizations that prosper will be those that deliver learning and development (L&D) opportunities for employees. 56% of HR directors believe that their organization will increase investment in L&D in the next 12 months (by an average of 51%). Citrix 
  • Diverse Workforce: Employees expect inclusive voices when it comes to decision-making. They expect to see more opportunities for, and representation by, women and people of colour both in their working teams and in leadership roles.

Retail employees

  • Respect & Recognition: 68% of retail workers said feedback is very or extremely important to them, but 37% of workers don’t feel heard by their organization and attribute that to the disconnect between corporate and retail workers. 
  • Skill Development Opportunities: Upskilling and professional development is more common in a corporate setting, but frontline retail employees view training as part of the employee experience and would prioritize it over increased pay. Training can be a motivator to help combat burnout. When frontline employees were asked what would motivate them to stay at a company, one third said more career advancement opportunities (34%) and access to more training and skill development (32%).
  • Predictable Schedules: Not only is it challenging to achieve work-life balance with inconsistent and last-minute scheduling, it also inhibits financial stability. This problem can often also signify a lack of adequate staffing.

Warehouse employees

  • Technology to Simplify the Work: 3 out of 4 workers say robots are friends not foes and 90% believe tech is a critical driver in employee attraction and retention. 75% of workers say physical strain in their jobs takes a larger toll on them than the mental strain. The leading cause of physical strain is carrying and/or lifting followed by walking and/or traveling.
  • Fair Productivity Measures: Workers see robots as productive allies but fear increased quotas. More than 2 in 5 believe robots will reduce physical stress (46%) or help them achieve better speed in item picking (44%) or better accuracy (40%). 
  • Safe Workplace: Top causes of mental strain include meeting performance or incentive goals and objectives (25%) and safely maneuvering around the warehouse (20%).

With an understanding of what each of your team members truly wants from their employer, designing a great employee engagement strategy becomes that much clearer. At Public, we see the employee experience as one of the first steps in an organization’s journey to meaningful social impact; a case study for how you can impact the world outside of your own ‘four walls’.

If you get it right, the benefits are exceptional, for you, for your employees, and for the world.

Dominic Smith & Beth Thomson

Directors of Client Strategy

Public Inc.