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McGugan: A new narrative for employee engagement

Photo of Author discussing employee engagement
Chris McGugan, above, is CEO of Televerde. (File Photos/DigitalFreePress)
Chris McGugan | Point of View

The work landscape has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, marked by disengaged employees, work-life imbalances, and a growing disillusionment with traditional office roles. This shift, further accelerated by advancements in AI and other technologies, has ignited a critical dialogue among industry leaders: “Why has the passion for work diminished?”

In my quest to find the answer, I’ve realized that the issue is complex. People haven’t lost their zeal for work; instead, they crave a deeper, more fulfilling connection beyond office boundaries. This realization has driven me to seek ways to nurture a culture that not only engages employees but also enriches their lives.

Unfortunately, the concept of company culture is losing its potency, exacerbated by the rise in remote work and the increasing demand for autonomy among employees. The pandemic has amplified this detachment, with many finding the traditional office setup less appealing due to long commutes and rigid schedules. This resistance to reverting to old office norms has been a wake-up call for many organizations, although some still cling to outdated work methods, reluctant to embrace the changing tide.

The Power of Purpose

The need for purpose is at the heart of this quest for a more meaningful work experience.

While it’s true that most people don’t dream of their 9-to-5 jobs, they do yearn for a sense of purpose that often eludes them in the workplace. According to a Harvard Business Review article, corporate property-homes can be a powerful tool for companies to gain a competitive edge. But its impact goes beyond good PR; it creates a culture where employees feel part of something bigger than themselves.

At Televerde, we’ve taken this to heart. While we offer employees two paid volunteer days a year to dedicate to causes that resonate with them, our commitment to community engagement and social responsibility extends far beyond.

We proudly partner with the Televerde Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting women impacted by incarceration. This collaboration further amplifies our impact, fostering a deeper connection and sense of pride among our employees. Our Arizona, Florida, and Indiana programs employ incarcerated women, equipping them with educational opportunities, job training, and meaningful work experiences, all while facilitating a smoother reentry into their communities.

This symbiotic relationship not only enriches the lives of those we assist but also fosters a profound sense of purpose and community cohesion within our workforce, making every day a day of giving back and growing together.

The Ripple Effect of Corporate Charity

Corporate charity is one of the most transformative ways to inspire greater employee engagement.

Strong corporate culture and engaged employees benefit companies in numerous ways, including better relationships with management and other employees, increased productivity, and greater corporate growth. Organizing charitable opportunities for employees significantly improves company culture. However, it’s not just about writing a check to a good cause; it’s about involving employees in the process.

By creating charitable opportunities for employees, companies can create strong traditions of giving while promoting a sense of pride and ownership among employees. This helps companies build value and instill greater purpose in their teams.

Here are some actions companies can take to improve employee engagement:

Empower Employees to Spearhead Philanthropic Initiatives

Encourage your employees to take the reins in shaping the company’s philanthropic endeavors. By fostering a bottom-up approach, where employees actively participate in the formulation and execution of volunteer programs, you nurture their passion and potentially cultivate more organized and successful initiatives.

According to a Harvard Business Review article, companies can amplify the impact of these programs by backing employee-led efforts with corporate resources and infrastructure.

For instance, if a faction of employees is enthusiastic about initiating educational programs for underprivileged children, the company can bolster this grassroots initiative by developing a structured curriculum, providing financial support for educational materials, or facilitating partnerships with local schools and educational institutions.

This collaborative approach not only inspires more employees to get involved but also potentially leads to more structured and effective volunteer programs, thereby amplifying the positive impact on the community.

Implement Paid Volunteer Days to Foster Employee Growth and Community Engagement

Employees often find it challenging to carve out time for philanthropic activities in the corporate world. Introducing paid volunteer days can be a game-changer, illustrating the company’s commitment to fostering community engagement and personal growth among its workforce.

This practice, known as “Volunteer Time Off” (VTO), has its roots in the 1970s when Ben & Jerry’s pioneered the concept by offering up to 5 days of paid time off for employees to volunteer in their communities. Since then, the initiative has gained traction, with over 40% of U.S. companies now offering some form of VTO program, according to a report by Frontstream.

Workplace volunteer programs’ benefits vary, extending to employees, employers, and the broader community. Volunteers often experience heightened job satisfaction, a sense of purpose, and personal and professional development opportunities.

A Deloitte survey highlighted that 89% of respondents felt that volunteering enabled them to enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which can be translated into their roles at work.

By offering paid volunteer days, companies facilitate employee skill development and foster a culture that values community engagement and corporate social responsibility, creating a positive ripple effect in the community.

Create Community Outreach Programs

Community outreach is a powerful bridge for companies to foster meaningful connections between employees and their local communities, nurturing relationships and enhancing brand visibility. Moreover, engaging in community initiatives often translates to a happier workforce and a loyal customer base.

A significant 82% of U.S. consumers weigh corporate social responsibility heavily when making purchasing decisions, positioning companies active in community outreach favorably with socially conscious customers.

Google stands as a testament to the positive ripple effects of community involvement. Through the Google.org Fellowship, a segment of the company’s philanthropic arm, Google facilitates pro bono collaborations between its employees and non-profits or civic entities for up to six months full-time. This initiative addresses many challenges, from enhancing access to city services for low-income households to supporting small businesses.

This allows employees to engage in meaningful projects beyond their regular roles and nurtures personal growth and a deeper connection to their communities.

Consequently, Google elevates its brand awareness and cultivates goodwill within the communities it serves, fostering a cycle of positive impact and corporate responsibility.

The Road Ahead

As we navigate the complexities of the modern work environment, it’s clear that the old ways of doing things are no longer sufficient. We need to think outside the box or perhaps even get rid of the box altogether.

By focusing on purpose, experience, and community involvement, we can create a culture that attracts top talent and brings out the best in them.

So, the next time you wonder why your employees seem disengaged, consider this: Maybe it’s not about them but about the culture you’ve created.

And remember, culture is not a destination but a journey that requires continuous effort, innovation, and most importantly, a sense of shared purpose.

Editor’s note: Chris McGugan is CEO of Televerde, a global revenue creation partner supporting marketing, sales, and customer success for B2B businesses around the world.

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