Long Read

Employees Only

Second Course from our Learning Bites Series

Learning Bite 2
illustration by Ellice Weaver

Business of Impact in Venice was a smash but the feast is not over! We continue to serve you small portions of great wisdom on the topic of corporate social investing.


What’s the value of employee contributions?

The business benefits of employee engagement are no secret. It strengthens employer branding and recruitment, attracts talent and fosters an engaged workforce. But it also raises awareness among employees around social and environmental issues, which is key for a company to embark on its impact journey.

Employee engagement is any formally organised support or encouragement from companies, albeit in varying degrees of collaboration with CSIs, to leverage employee resources (time, knowledge, skills, financial resources, networks) to support not-for-profits and social enterprises. It can be beneficial to the corporate social investor – and their impact – in two ways:   

1. It can contribute to the corporate social investor’s financial support through corporate giving (payroll giving, employee matching). 

2. It can contribute to the corporate social investor’s non-financial support through corporate volunteering (hands-on or skill-based, virtual or on-site volunteering).

Engaging employees in non-financial support is what makes corporate social investors stand out from other stakeholders in the ecosystem and will probably add the most value.

When employees volunteer their skills and offer strategic support, the results can be surprisingly impactful:

> Hear the World Foundation supports projects around the world enabling children with hearing loss to develop appropriate to their age. As the corporate foundation of the hearing aid manufacturer Sonova, it engages employees who share their expertise to train local professionals.

> ENGIE Rassembleurs d'Energies, the corporate social investment vehicle of ENGIE Group, relies on the expertise and technical skills of committed employees. ENGIE Group facilitates involvement in the humanitarian field by providing specific technical skills to implement the projects.

These examples show that employee engagement can be at the core of a CSI’s strategy and a key differentiator from other stakeholders. There’s a fine line, however, between skills-based coaching and ‘telling’: 

“Corporate employees do not know how to run a foodbank. So, they should never tell. They should coach and impart the knowledge and skills they have. But ultimately, they should always respect the [impact enterprise’s] understanding of their beneficiaries and their knowledge to work within the space they are in”
– Fiona Halton, Halton-Bridge

Successful employee engagement projects define clear roles, the better to achieve the mutual respect Fiona describes.


What type of support can employees provide?

There are five key areas in which corporate employees can provide added value to not-for-profits and social enterprises, listed from low to high engagement.           

1) AWARENESS AND VISIBILITY focus on informing individuals about a social cause and help educate a large number of employees around a certain issue, provide visibility to the work of particular impact enterprises and inspire individuals to become active. It usually requires little time commitment and targets a broad audience.     

  Such activities can include advocacy on social media, blogging and campaigns (i.e., large-scale planned activities with the primary purpose of raising funds).

2) FUNDING is about sharing financial resources. It requires little (additional) effort from employees and can involve a large group of employees. The more people involved, the higher the impact on the funding streams of impact enterprises.

  Such activities can include payroll giving programmes, matching programmes and co-investments programmes.

3) OPERATIONAL SUPPORT involves employees in an impact enterprise’s daily activities to help it deliver more or better services to their beneficiaries by leveraging generic skills.

  Such activities can include hands-on volunteering (not involving any workplace skill) and generic skill-based volunteering (usually based on personal skills of the volunteer). 

4) ORGANISATIONAL RESILIENCE is provided through skills-based volunteering, relying on the employee’s professional skills. It’s about consulting the impact enterprise on specific topics (e.g., legal advice, one-off IT support) and transferring skills and expertise that the impact enterprise’s employees need to strengthen their organisation’s resilience and performance.       

  Such activities can include hackathons and accelerators, low-bono or pro-bono services or board services.

5) STRATEGIC SUPPORT is about helping impact enterprises build a stronger business strategy and support its CEO and top management.       

  Such activities can include (1) refining their business model to be more efficient, effective and sustainable (e.g., refine their long-term strategy, sustainable revenue streams, market entry strategies) and (2) conducting market and risk assessments to assess the challenges the impact enterprise will face in the future, how their environment will change or where strengths and weaknesses lie.


Get practical with our toolkits and quiz!

Check out our employee engagement toolkits, which can help you find out where you are on the employee engagement journey.

Toolkit #1

Unravel your own role in developing and implementing employee engagement programmes. Discover the programme and roles most suitable to your context and social mission. Take our quiz!

Toolkit #2

Create impact-driven activities that place the needs of the impact enterprise at the heart. Learn how you can match employee engagement activities with the impact enterprise’s most crucial needs, assess what you can offer and explore the action strategies available.