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How do social responsibility activities support employee engagement?


Katri Kemppinen

HR Consultant

In the ICT industry, talented people have plenty of job choices. As a result employers need to concentrate on providing a competitive working environment as well as career options to both attract new talent and engage existing employees. To create and maintain engagement, you need to feed the employees’ sense of purpose and passion. One of our initial assumptions was that our Spice Program activities might support this, so we decided to devise a way to measure its impact.

What is employee engagement?

We have used the fuzzy concept of employee engagementEmployee+engagement+and+HRDA+seminal+review+of+the+foundations.pdf) to describe employees’ positive emotional attachment to and elevated involvement in their work and organization. This wider perspective on employee engagement and its measurement differs from engagement concept analyzed in recent master’s thesis written for Futurice by Erik Stenberg. Because Spice Program contributions are made during employee’s free time, we assumed that they might be related to engagement on an organizational level rather than engaging in work tasks.

One of the Futurice’s slogans “The passion and vision of our people drive this company” captures why it’s important. Engaged employees feel pride and enthusiasm. They move the company forward as they proactively try to find ways to improve things around them - not only to achieve their own goals, but promote employer’s goals, too. They are more likely to recommend their employer and stay at their job. There are obvious positive business outcomes, but benefits for the engaged employees, too: their wellbeing is demonstrably higher.

But employee’s engagement doesn’t come out of thin air. It is based on perceptions of work environment quality and the opportunities it offers. In short, it’s mostly about being able to do interesting and meaningful things, in a meaningful way, in a supportive environment. This promotes positive feelings and active behavior. We found support that social responsibility activities can have a role in promoting employee engagement, too.

Spice activities support positive feelings about Futurice

According to 213 responses in Futurice’s employee engagement survey in March, engagement was quite high. On most questions related to employee engagement and its drivers, Spice participants (n=68) got slightly higher scores than others.

For example, they trusted their colleagues more, were proud of being a Futuricean, enjoyed working at Futurice, had challenged themselves to try, learn or share new things and were more willing to recommend Futurice as a place to work. On the other hand, though Spice participants answered positively to having interesting work tasks, they still had slightly lower scores for feeling energetic and enthusiastic about their job, but were equally absorbed by it.

Although no explicit connection exists between these scores and Spice participation, when asked about events, activities, programs or initiatives that make people enjoy working at Futurice, 90 people chose the Spice Program. This makes it the third most mentioned option after free breakfasts and Friday beers. Not surprisingly, 75 % of those who chose Spice program activities were Spice participants, and for them it was the most mentioned option. It seems that Spice activities endorse feeling positively about company.

It’s worth noting that the question was phrased unclearly and several people provided additional responses saying that it’s the great people at Futurice, the interesting work itself and Futurice’s culture that makes working enjoyable. It’s clear that these kind of essential things supporting employees’ motivation and a great working environment are core factors for enjoying your work - more so than offering Friday beers, breakfasts or sponsoring free time Spice activities. They aren’t really comparable.

If you really only enjoy company sponsored beers and free time activities, you’d be far from engaged (and for the beer part, you might need help). In addition, enjoying working in your organization isn’t exactly the same as being wholly engaged to it, but it is part of the emotional engagement.

Foster empowerment. And keep in mind the value of doing good!

Although company supported activities are more like nice bonuses at work, they reflect the company’s culture. They might make you feel like the employer cares about you and shares similar values. Many activities foster a feeling of being able to relate to your colleagues, which is one of the basic psychological needs - in addition to autonomy and competence. These, when filled, create meaning, enthusiasm and a drive for doing things.

Spice Program activities also promote the social side. You get to know new people and share your enthusiasm in a like-minded group. According to discussions with participants, these activities also support:

  • Developing, challenging and showing your skills in a way chosen by you
  • Getting feedback
  • Having an impact on what you value
  • Giving back to open source community.

So in addition to fulfilling some other basic psychological needs, it has potential to foster the newest candidate for such: beneficence, the sense of being able to give. All this makes you feel good, and it also inspires positive feelings about the employer that supports your good causes.

Sponsoring social responsibility activities will not magically make employees engaged. In fact, nothing will. It’s always a personal decision.

To enable engagement, work culture and basic conditions, like having nice colleagues, fair reward system, and the meaningfulness of the work itself need to be in order. Social responsibility activities, like Spice Program, can add their own input to this engagement by enhancing meaningfulness that comes from the alignment of values and a sense of community they create. Great things can be built on a foundation like this.

We have already achieved relevant positive results with our Spice Program and we’ve just scratched the surface of what is possible.

This blog post, including both the text and images, but not the linked documents or web content, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Attribution to Futurice Oy (www.futurice.com)..)

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