By Kate Olsen
Last week, Fast Company featured an article by Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden on “How to Foster Outrageously Awesome Employee Engagement”. The article is an excerpt from their book Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk, Revised and Expanded: The Plain Truth about Employee Engageme... (now on my reading list!).
While I was reading the article, I couldn’t help making clear connections between Catlette and Hadden’s recommendations for fostering a productive, vibrant and fulfilling work environment and what I know to be effective for employee-driven corporate responsibility (CSR) efforts. While the words “corporate responsibility” never appear in this article, the connection is implied: a company that cares about its employees and respects them as individuals will undoubtedly respect the ecosystem of stakeholders in which it conducts business.
I particularly appreciate the way Catlette and Hadden reframe the social contract between employer and employee as one based on optimism, empathy, opportunity, and collaboration. They rightly assert that, “you are likely to get just the kind of behavior from employees that you expect.” What is harder for many companies to see is how such expectations are institutionalized. As an employee, it can be very confusing when the message from the top is motivating and encouraging, but the policies and practices of everyday employment are restricting and limiting. In sum, employees will “either live up or down to your expectations because your policies, procedures, and employment practices had at their bedrock those same assumptions [about employees as either opportunities or liabilities]”.
Expectations can be particularly confusing in the realm of corporate responsibility. Many companies talk about CSR and leverage social and green buzz for reputation enhancement, but don’t authentically weave CSR priorities into the core of the business. These companies miss the true opportunity CSR brings to employee engagement. Making environmental impact, community investment and social return a part of everyone’s job is a powerful way to meet and exceed employee expectations about their work and achieve better work in return.
Here is a list of what employees want, as defined by Catlette and Hadden. It looks to me like a list of benefits achieved from a commitment to authentic CSR. What do you think?
- Meaningful Work
- High Standards
- A Clear Sense of Purpose and Direction
- Balanced "Worth-its" (commitment to ‘best’ work and latitude to learn and grow in a personalized way)
- A Level Playing Field
- To Be and Feel Competent