Culture is a big topic in today’s work world. Whether you believe that Ping-Pong tables and nice cafeterias are recruitment differentiators, or that developing educational curricula and training will keep employees passionate and proud, community and engagement are Jobs 1, 2 and 3 for most organizations seeking to attract and retain talent inside and outside IT. With unemployment rates at historic lows and employee benefits fairly standardized, being present in the community and enhancing the employee experience can make the difference in successful recruitment and retention of strong talent.
Taking a strategic approach to local initiatives while tightly linking the corporate strategy to community involvement and employee relations can lead to more satisfied employees, easier recruitment and longer-term retention of strong workers.
Hatching a Plan
Here are four key areas for developing a local plan for community and employee engagement:
- Marketing and branding. Simply putting a billboard along the highway will not work. Following corporate guidelines and getting creative on where the logo and brand is displayed will make the difference for the community and employees. For example, Cognizant sponsors Iowa Wild, the Minnesota Wild hockey affiliate, and our logo appears on the ice at the arena in Des Moines. The logo is viewed for 32 home games and – this year – a handful of playoff games, including some that were televised. Location is everything in the recruitment game. You need to be where the talent is.
- Employee engagement. Captivating employees inside and outside the office drives retention across generations of workers. Corporate social responsibility and volunteer opportunities can make or break a decision on which company candidates choose. Sponsoring events inside the office such as a simple popcorn day and inviting employees to external activities like a day at the zoo makes a difference. Events like this happen every year at our Minot, ND, office. Pairing a sponsorship with marketing and branding while adding an employee event both solidifies the brand presence for the community and employees while also highlighting our culture for potential recruits.
- Family, friends and recruiting. It’s no secret that current employees often refer the best new candidates to work alongside them. Having a referral program is definitely a big help in luring the best talent. So is inviting family and friends to employee events. A day at the ballpark with our office in College Station, TX, is a prime example of this. Providing tickets, food and fun allows a family to experience a great day mingling with co-workers and meeting colleagues from other departments. This is especially important in situations that require work function separation due to confidentiality and security. Hearing comments from spouses or significant others like “my company doesn’t do this” shows the value placed on these events. Saying “thank you” to current employees for their contributions not only encourages others to join the company but also invites support from loved ones outside the office. Pairing a sponsorship with an employee outing that includes family and friends ties the first three focal points together and can be used as a recruitment opportunity for future talent.
- Volunteer and non-profit efforts. Giving back to the communities in which we live, work and play is virtually considered table stakes in corporate America. In-office donation opportunities, such as food drives, clothing drives, holiday presents for soldiers and pet drives, to name a few, have proved successful across many of our U.S. offices. For example, we brought a meal-packaging assembly line into our Phoenix office, where employees packaged 15,000 meals for the less fortunate. Both exempt and non-exempt employees were invited to participate, including call center employees, who often are not able to participate in half-day or full-day events due to our client-first focus.
Bringing it All Together for Maximum Benefit
When we tie together all four focus areas, we can have the biggest impact on the communities we serve and the employees who serve them.
Take the Iowa Wild hockey example. Not only are our marketing and branding seen on the ice, but our commercials are also showcased on the arena jumbotron. Part of our sponsorship includes game tickets for employees and their families, plus food and drinks. We’re also able to recruit on the concourse at the games and are present at the annual Iowa Wild job fair.
Further, we packaged meals through the same organizations that the Iowa Wild selected as its charity of choice for the year, The Outreach Program, making an even bigger dent in hunger in the area and facilitating further in-office employee volunteering.
By combining as many focal points as possible, we provide the biggest benefit for the least cost and maximize the budget dollars that should be spent for community and employee engagement. Through recruitment and retention, employee satisfaction, community brand recognition and beyond, the cost to be a key player in each community is minimal for the short term and provides long-term benefits.
Working strategically on community and employee engagement can help businesses shape their culture and the way they’re perceived by both employees and targeted recruits. And with proper planning and execution, the war for talent can be won – be it locally, regionally, nationally or globally.
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