Employee Engagement: Thinking Globally And Acting Locally

Last week, an amazing crew of employee engagement experts gathered on the stage at Sustainatopia to share how they empower employees by connecting them to purposeful work.We heard from Atlanta McIlwraith, who discussed Timberland’s volunteering and sustainability initiatives, Mark Stephan, who is leading employee engagement in sustainability for Dell-EMC, Brad Peirce, who now consults but was the leader of TD Bank’s Environmental Affairs department, and Morgan Close, from Project WET, which helps educators inspire people to learn more about water conservation.

One of the questions from the audience was about how to localize programs based on roles or geographic locations, and how critical the panel thought it was to make programs more local vs. global.  This conversation sparked what might be one of my favorite examples of the power of local – particularly when thinking about employee engagement.

Timberland operates a factory in the Dominican Republic and uses an Ambassador model, called The Global Stewards program, to engage local employees in their social impact work.  Like all Ambassadors, the team wants to make sure that employees knew what the company was doing related to sustainability and CSR at the company.  However, as in most companies, getting employees attention was proving to be a struggle.

But did they put up signs?  Send emails?  Hold a fair and see what happens?  No, these creative employees asked two absolutely critical questions to engagement.  First, where do we have a captive, but receptive audience during the work day?  Two, how do we make them care about what we have to say?

The answer for Timberland’s employees in the factory in the Dominican Republic:

  1. Employees generally ride a bus into the factory every morning or night. So the Ambassadors began using the bus rides to share information about what was happening.  This is a genius idea that can be replicated in so many different ways.  Conference attendees from other companies talked about sharing at stand-ups, “tailgate meetings”, shift briefings, and break rooms.
  2. Timberland Ambassadors in the DR put together a contest for teams to write and perform Merengue songs about their CSR initiatives.  They held a “battle of the bands” and the winning song was recorded and played over the PA system while the employees worked in the factory.

There is likely no way that a central corporate team would have ever come up with those ideas.  As McIlwraith stated, “By infusing local knowledge and leadership into the effort and initiatives, we were able to engage employees at a deeper and more memorable level.”

At WeSpire, we’ve learned how critical it is to encourage our customers to “act local” by bringing in local program owners to access the platform and think through how to design and run targeted programs based on role, geography or interests.

What tactics do you use to engage your employees at a local level?