Businesses often create volunteer programs for employees in order to build relationships within the community and strengthen philanthropic hearts. One oversight exists for employers, however, in making this an organization’s only focus to breeding success within its wellness program.

Employee engagement can increase when a company lives in the sweet spot that integrates how to effectively manage chronic conditions in the workplace and encourage employee focus toward serving others. Educating employees about the value of disease management is an important first step—followed by providing them with the tools and information to enhance their self-care. Then, an employer can significantly leverage the value of the education by synthesizing the “doing” portion to those employees who are unaffected by diseases in honor for those colleagues who might currently suffer.

The solution to make this happen is to utilize non-traditional avenues through securing relationships with health non-profit organizations. An employer, in essence, will have a positive impact on employees that can be measured.

Many health non-profit organizations set out to find cures for chronic conditions—diabetes, ALS, cancer, stroke and other related heart conditions are several of them—and work with companies to develop programs that impact employee population health. For example, in 2012, American Express worked with Community Health Charities (CHC) and their member, American Diabetes Association, to create a communication plan as it rolled out its educational program Healthy Living with Diabetes. Six major work locations with onsite clinics received the program, followed by all U.S. American Express employees the next year. Diabetes laboratory testing, webinars, lunch and learn sessions, and one-on-one with on-site clinic experts were several of all resources provided to employees.

The impact on employees in three years’ time showed significant behavioral and blood sugar changes to the better—several hundred employees joined the Healthy Living with Diabetes program; fifty-eight percent of them saw a reduction in blood glucose levels to healthy levels. Another 53 percent started to exercise, followed by almost 48 percent of those employees who lost weight.

An employer can also further impact its entire employee population by encouraging all employees to participate in another valuable offering that partnering with a non-profit health organization would bring: corporate volunteering. Volunteer efforts strengthens relationships among co-workers. Fundraising for continued research to cure these chronic conditions is one avenue an employer can pursue with a health non-profit and learn what is available. Running races such as a company-sponsored local 5k with work colleagues who train together in honor of affected employees leverages not only what is available from a health non-profit but also co-worker relationships.

Leveraging is defined as using something to its maximum advantage. Because health non-profits act as intermediaries between charitable groups and employers, they are able to respond to employers’ concerns by providing the educational tools and networking strategies needed to bolster employee engagement and manage chronic conditions. Their influence in the workplace can also serve as a means to reduce healthcare costs, improve productivity and enhance a company’s mission to embark on serving the greater good of society.

I hope you’ll join me and other CSR professionals for the Charities@Work conference in March in New York for more peer-to-peer sharing and networking. Click here to register today.