“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” - Peter Drucker (maybe)


I am obsessed with the idea of building high performing organizations by connecting people to purpose. I have spent my career veering between organizations massive and tiny, public and private, non-profit, for-profit, and government. I have been involved with organizations regularly cited as world-class and those who shouldn’t have been trusted with a single investor or donor dollar.

One consistent theme: high performing organizations have engaged employees.

Engaged employees aren’t trading time for money. They are creating a community of purpose. Engaged employees are bought into the mission of the organization, bought into their role in accomplishing that mission, and bought into how that role fits into their lives.


Engaged employees give you more hours, give your more work in the hours you get, are less likely to leave, and more likely to promote your organization to others. We all want engaged employees. Yet a 2017 Gallup poll indicated that only 33% of US employees are actively engaged.




The answer: How we think about work is all wrong.


Most managers, having been promoted because they were skilled individual performers, believe that some combination of accountability (threats) and incentives (money) will make people better performers. But, outside of a very narrow range of rote tasks, all the evidence is that isn’t true at all.

The best thinkers (in my mind) on this are Daniel Pink and Daniel Kahneman.

To summarize some of their work, Pink and Kahneman say that in all high performing organizations, the following occurs: the compensation is fair, there is a sense of camaraderie, and the employees feel that they have opportunities for autonomy, mastery and purpose.

In other words, engaged employees have an outlet to own something that uses or builds their skills in service of something larger than themselves, preferably with people they like. Ideally, they are recognized by the organization for doing it.


Now, I have been lucky enough to see some organizations that do this incredibly well through formal programs intentionally supporting all these values. There are paths to career progression, which lead to increasing levels of autonomy. There are training programs that help promote a sense of mastery. And there are clear and regular opportunities to communicate the how an individual’s work supports the organization achieving its mission and vision.


But most do not.


Even when management is bought into these concepts, they often feel that they don’t have the resources to execute on them. “We’re too small.” “We don’t have the time.” “We don’t have the money.” “We make or do X really well, but that’s not about purpose.” “I just want people to do their jobs.”

This is where corporate social responsibility (CSR) comes in.

Connecting your employees with community organizations gives you ways outside of your formal structure for them to be autonomous (planning and organizing engagement with nonprofits or simply going themselves with company encouragement) to use or build their skills (either directly for the nonprofit or in the process of organizing/participating/communicating), and connects them to a broader purpose (particularly if you can authentically articulate how the project, CSR program, or nonprofit is aligned with the values of the organization).


All of those values apply to both individual service and organized group service. But there’s an additional benefit to group service, which is that it breaks down barriers and improves communication within and among teams.

What goes into creating a successful CSR program?

On our blog we have compiled some resources about CSR, like this piece on Company Leadership and CSR and this on Celebrating CSR.


Over the next several months, I’m going to deep dive into every aspect of optimizing corporate social responsibility to get the highest return in terms of employee engagement for the lowest cost, with the help of some of the MobileServe team and some of the rockstars I’ve met in the space.


We’ll talk about:

  • Components of CSR
  • Key Performance Indicators for CSR
  • Incentive Programs
  • Authenticity and Mission-alignment (Start with Why)
  • How to get started if you have nothing
  • How to re-energize a program that has lost steam
  • Assessing what you have
  • Effective Celebrations
  • Using CSR to build connection (and fight isolation)
  • Skilled vs. unskilled volunteerism
  • The laws around volunteerism
  • CSR and trust
  • Effective Storytelling
  • The connection between engagement and performance
  • The pro’s and con’s of Volunteer Time Off (VTO)
  • Introverts, Extroverts, and volunteerism

And probably some other stuff as we get going.


If you want to know more about how MobileServe can help reduce the cost and increase the impact of CSR, check out this one minute video here.

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