Employee engagement around the world: A practitioner’s guide

Have you ever considered taking local programs global? Do you want to further engage your employees both in your headquarters country and abroad? Today, many companies are wrestling with the challenges and opportunities that global employee engagement poses in order to remain competitive, protect intangible assets such as reputation, and manage the risks associated with complex global operations.

The cultural and economic climates in which businesses operate are more interconnected than ever before. Executives and citizenship professionals are expected to not only help deliver stable growth and strong financials, but cultivate a diverse workforce and ensure the health and well-being of all of their employees—no matter where they work.

As a result, companies are increasingly paying attention to employees while developing their corporate citizenship efforts. According to the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s 2014 State of Corporate Citizenship survey more than 80 percent of executives report that they consider employees as a key stakeholder group when planning and implementing their efforts. This increased attention on the employee experience reflects a business environment in which companies may need to invest more in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) programs that engage employees more deeply than in the past. In an effort to differentiate themselves from other businesses so they can attract and retain talent, many companies are seeking to extend their employee engagement programs to their locations outside of the United States. However, with such ambitious goals comes the daunting task of navigating cultures and organizational structures often dissimilar to those found in the United States. CSR professionals must learn to navigate foreign bureaucracies, variations in definitions of philanthropy, roles of nonprofits, and the differing needs of local communities in multiple global regions.

So how can companies practically address these new challenges? Our September webinar, Global Employee Engagement: A Practitioner’s Guide for Taking Programs Global, brought together representatives from Adobe, Alcoa, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to discuss the rewards and difficulties of instituting employee programs abroad. Findings and analysis from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Global Employee Engagement Report: A Corporate Responsibility Practitioner’s Guide bring to light the importance of knowing the cultural contexts of the countries and regions in which your company operates, and determining the best methods by which to localize your existing employee engagement programs.

As members of the Center and participants in the Silicon Valley research, Adobe and Alcoa serve as compelling examples for customizing employee engagement efforts in multiple settings around the globe. Our September webinar features representatives from both companies who will share insights, best practices, and lessons learned from implementing programs in regions outside of the United States. Examples of their global initiatives include:

  • Adobe’s numerous international programs provide their employees with opportunities to not only interact with team members outside of their divisions, but also with members of the broader Adobe community. For example, Adobe’s Pro Bono Initiative places employees in worldwide volunteer positions based upon the professional skills they currently have and wish to further develop. Participants in this program note a positive impact upon their own work, and 100 percent of the partnering non-profits state that participation in the program improves their organizations.
  • Alcoa’s employee engagement programs offer their employees a myriad of options to give back to their local communities, no matter where they may live. The company’s major volunteer program, ACTION, is a global initiative where teams deliver time, energy, and skills to vital community programs and projects as determined by Alcoa employees. For instance, a team in Australia runs a monthly community meals program, serving approximately 9,000 meals each year. They also partner with a local school to help encourage public service and community involvement in local youth.