Danielle Holly, CEO – Common Impact

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Well, it was another blockbuster year at the annual Charities @ Work Employee Engagement Summit, with close to 200 CSR professionals braving the humidity and downpours of a NYC June to exchange, debate and laugh about all things employee engagement.  While there are too many nuggets of wisdom to share in a single recap, here are some of the major themes that were buzzing in the halls of the summit.

Co-Create! On a rockstar panel featuring Target, the NFL and IBM, it was clear that “what’s working” in employee engagement strategy is making your employees – from your HR teams to your senior leadership to your front line workers – a part of the design process.  Yes, it makes things harder, messier and it takes more time – but it’s 100% worth it in creating engagement programs that resonate throughout your company.  There was also a lot of chatter about how to get your natural volunteer champions – you know, those guys that are at every event and bring 50 of their nearest and dearest – into a more formal leadership role.  They’re just waiting to be tapped on the shoulder.

Holy brain chemistry, Batman: Oh, Realized Worth’s Chris Jarvis is so charming…And in his charming ways, he reminded us that at the core of engagement is our hardwired brain chemistry – and that it can be both helpful and harmful to creating an engaged and inclusive environment.  We naturally want to engage with each other, but a residual part of our need to survive in the wilderness during our caveman days is to create clear boundaries on who’s on our team and who’s not.  Fast forward to modern times within the walls of purpose-driven companies: that same brain chemistry leads to our stereotypes and unconscious bias getting in the way of our success.  Check out his presentation and take the implicit bias test to get a sense of where you’re at! (Spoiler alert: we’ve all got implicit biases, we just have to increase our awareness of the leaps in logic we make so we can fight against them).

Skills-Based Volunteerism: While it’s not new to the scene anymore, figuring out how to crack the skills-based volunteering nut was a hot topic amongst our speakers and attendees.  How do you scale such a high touch program?  How do you find the right partners?  What’s the right model? How do you get HR truly engaged? The answers to those questions are different for different companies, but Gary Levante of Berkshire Bank led a panel of folks from across industries that shared their success with immersion programs, city-wide models, and taking a mission-oriented approach.

After a packed few days of shark tank style conversations, healthy debate and loud laughter, we wrapped with delicious cocktails at the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery (go there now if you know what’s good for you!), our minds full of ideas and connections to bring back to continue our work.  This year will be hard to beat, but no doubt that amazing Charities @ Work team will do it – see you all in 2020!