The Radically Engaged Business: Creating a Culture Energized Through Purpose and Citizenship

What happens when an employee discovers a shared "destiny" with the organization he or she works for? A tremendous amount, according to business leaders who participated in this year's Edelman Change Summit, "The Radically Engaged Business: Creating a Culture Energized through Citizenship." The Summit, hosted by Edelman in partnership with CECP, addressed the critical need for strategic employee engagement for organizational health and success.

Executives from fourteen leading organizations joined us for the full-day Summit, ranging from keynote speaker, Doug Conant, the recently retired CEO of Campbell Soup Company, to leading executives from Avon, Starbucks, Vale, Western Union, IBM, Toyota, Time Warner Cable, Macy's, Deloitte, UNICEF, American Express, PepsiCo and PwC. These companies demonstrate exceptional leadership in employee engagement and represent a variety of industries and approaches: B2B, B2C, professional services and an NGO, with employee headcounts from 7,000 to over 400,000.

For over 30 years I've witnessed the power of purpose and citizenship to galvanize and ignite employees' commitment to their companies. When employees discover the connection between what they do and what a company stands for, "magic" happens; they become more thoroughly engaged, motivated, productive, innovative, loyal and committed.

And the payoffs aren't just soft. According to Gallup, engaged organizations have a 3.9x higher earnings per share growth than organizations with lower engagement scores in the same industry. Employees who are most committed to their organization put in 57% more effort and 87% are less likely to leave than employees who felt disengaged, according to a 2010 study by BusinessWeek's Corporate Executive Board.

Employees are powerful engines of organizational success; engaging with them is absolutely critical in our hyper competitive, 24/7, globalized economy. The most committed employees share a destiny with their employers, and the most successful organizations today execute against a higher "Purpose" than just making money:

• IBM believes in creating a Smarter Planet, not just systems, solutions and software.

• Avon crusades for solutions to Breast Cancer and the prevention of domestic violence, in addition to empowering women around the globe.

• Western Union fosters global economic development for the unbanked, beyond just transferring money around the globe to almost every country.

Vale, Forbes' 4th fastest growing Fortune 500, transforms mineral resources into prosperity and sustainable development through a deep understanding of the critical relationships necessary to succeed in local communities.

• UNICEF believes in Zero, helping to lower the preventable daily deaths of 21,000 children and doing whatever it takes to save the life of a child, instead of just asking for a donation.

And these are just a few examples of the organizations that leading the way in engaging their workforce through Purpose. Employee commitment runs deep at those companies that stand for something beyond just making a profit.

A few key elements to keep front of mind when building or enhancing your own initiative:
Lead: The most powerful programs are "leader-led", as said by Doug Conant. "You have to show up, walk the talk and get engaged first, before you can ask your employees to commit," said the former CEO of Campbell's.

Construct: Start with program depth, not scale.

Customize: Great initiatives must be customized for local execution.

Collaborate: Sophisticated companies are learning from continual sharing, not only internally, but also with competitors, recognizing that each organization's program is uniquely constructed and executed and may offer valuable lessons for others.

Measure: That which gets measured gets done. Build campaign participation into performance reviews.

Narrate: Storytelling is key to build emotion and engagement. Our presenters agreed that in order to have a program truly breakthrough, you must "dial up the stories." "They do this by creating local market content, including blogs, videos and a robust social media presence, as well as arming their employee base with the knowledge and key messages to consistently share the story of the organization's Purpose.

Evolve: Constantly evolve program elements to stay relevant. Avon added domestic violence as a core global issue alongside their comprehensive Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, each in over 50 countries.

Purpose is no longer a nice-to-do. It is a must-do in creating and retaining an energized workforce and culture that will truly stand the test of time.

Disclaimer: Vale and Western Union are Edelman clients.