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Employee engagement has become something of a phantom. Every time we think we know what it takes to create sustainable employee engagement, Gallup tells us engagement numbers are unchanged, yes, again, and poof engagement quickly slips away from our grasp.

According to the 2015 Global Human Capital Trends report, 87% of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges, a concern that seems to be recurring year after year. Why are employers consistently unable to increase employee engagement long-term? What is missing from employee engagement strategies that makes them sustainable? Maybe the solution isn’t so complicated…

Meaningfulness in Employees’ Work

53% of employees believe “a job where I can make an impact” is important to their happiness and happy employees are typically higher performers. In fact, companies with happy employees outperform competition by up to 20%! But, employers have much less control over an employee’s happiness than they do engagement levels.

So, how can employers fulfill this need for meaningful work? Immerse employees in corporate giving programs. The options for charitable giving are virtually endless and what’s more is employee volunteer programs give employers the chance to put the skills and talents of their workers towards a good cause that, at the end of the day, will connect them more deeply than ever to the culture and values of their company.

Leadership Who Actually Cares

Gallup recently released an upsetting statistic: managers account for up to 70% of variance in engagement. 70%! The power of influence leaders have over employees is clearly evident. No pressure or anything! Even more interesting is how a manager’s demeanor affects employee engagement. Emotional impact has a far greater effect on engagement than any amount of complimentary lattes and muffins do.

What’s an employer to do? Show employees you care by implementing an employee giving program that connects employees to the charities they care about most. It could be through a company-wide day-of-service, matching gifts or paid-time off for volunteering. And, leaders, get out there and volunteer! 71% of today’s workers want to work for an employer whose CEO is actively involved in corporate responsibility and environmental issues.

A Career Development Component

One of the top 3 things job seekers take into account before accepting a job is career growth opportunities, so it makes complete sense that the most engaged employees are those with managers who help them set performance goals and focus on building their strengths. The astounding thing about these facts? Employees are practically begging for career development, whether or not it comes in the form of a promotion. It’s every employer’s dream to have employees this motivated and driven to improve. Career development is a key component to creating sustainable employee engagement.

How can employers make their career development efforts unique? Develop employees’ skills through corporate giving programs that offer volunteer opportunities. Employee volunteer programs like pro bono work or a company-wide day of service provide a wealth of development opportunities in the form of:

  • Building on employee strengths, at every stage of the employee lifecycle
  • Strengthening relationships with coworkers
  • Demonstrating potential leadership skills

Creating sustainable employee engagement programs doesn’t have to mean fully stocked kitchens or flashy wellness programs. Corporate philanthropy programs give employers the chance to truly engage employees in their work through meaningful, unforgettable experiences all while carrying out social responsibility goals. It’s a win-win, and a downright satisfying one at that.