84This post was featured in Forbes.com

Amidst continued economic uncertainty, it’s ever more important to recruit and retain employees who will show long-term loyalty to your company. Staff turnover is a costly exercise, and it’s particularly damaging when you lose top talent.

According to Curt Coffman, co-author of First, Break All the Rules, engaged employees are builders. “They use their talents, develop productive relationships, and multiply their effectiveness through those relationships. They perform at consistently high levels. They drive innovation and move their organization forward.”  On the other hand, Coffman describes “actively disengaged” employees as the “cave dwellers” (Consistently Against Virtually Everything.) “Every day, actively disengaged employees tear down what their engaged coworkers are building.”

Understanding the keys to employee engagement is important because employee retention can be a major source of savings in both training time and money.  According to a 2012 Gallup study, replacing an employee can cost a company three times the employee’s annual salary, affecting the overall economy by more than $350 billion dollars per year.  It doesn’t help that Millennials (those born after 1980) are especially quick to change jobs if they feel bored, unappreciated or disconnected.

That’s why human resources professionals are always searching for the right ingredients for employee engagement programs.  But shhh….here’s a tip on the secret sauce: corporate philanthropy.

There are three areas where corporate philanthropy builds a momentum of engagement that helps build employee pride and loyalty:

1. Customers

A 2009 Edelman study found that when choosing between two brands that are the same in quality and price, 43% of consumers are more interested in the social purpose of a corporation or brand than design or innovation.  Your employees are your best brand ambassadors, so when you deploy them into the community via corporate volunteer programs, people have a way of discovering that you walk the corporate philanthropy walk. Initiatives such as a matching gift program, volunteer days and disaster relief campaigns go a long way in elevating your reputation and building brand loyalty; executing on corporate fundraising ideas earns you the eternal appreciation of non-profit beneficiaries.  When you specifically demonstrate that your corporate values extend to your entire organization – including (and especially) your employees, customers will know that you authentically stand behind your cause marketing talk.

As such, corporate philanthropy programs are as good for your bottom line as they are for those receiving your gifts of time and treasure. When you can align your corporate social responsibility with your brand identity, revenues invariably increase.  Wherever you can demonstrate concrete results, investors or board members will also be assured that your charitable spending and volunteer efforts are strategic, cost-effective and adding value.  Return on Involvement becomes just as important as Return on Investment.

2. The world at large

Whether you’re helping out a local soup kitchen or victims of a tsunami thousands of miles away, you’re making the world a better place when you practice corporate philanthropy.  And the power of your efforts is amplified when it resonates throughout your entire organization.  If I were to get really “big picture” on you, I’d say the more we can help those in need, the more stable the world economy will be.  And an improved standard of living for all will increase the buying power of consumers and help stabilize democratic governments for expanded trading and investment opportunities.

But if that’s just a little too grandiose for you, let’s get back to basics for a moment….

3. Corporate culture

One of the more unique forms of corporate philanthropy comes in the form of employee volunteer programs, with benefits that include increased employee recruitment and retention potential.

When your company is known for its philanthropic efforts, recruitment requires less effort. Potential employees are familiar with your volunteer and philanthropic initiatives and are attracted to a company that shares their own values.  Deloitte’s 2011 Volunteer IMPACT study found that 61% of Millennials who rarely or never volunteer themselves would consider a company’s commitment to the community when making a job decision.  And the Deloitte study found that Millennials who frequently participate in workplace volunteer activities are more likely to have higher employee satisfaction, as compared to those who rarely or never volunteer.

Engaged employees participating in corporate philanthropy efforts develop a sense of commitment to their company, resulting in improved customer service and a willingness to work toward a common goal. Many companies encourage their employees to get involved through employee giving campaign perks, such as time off for volunteer work, dollars for doers programs and pro-bono volunteering projects.

Corporate philanthropy is a win-win situation for all concerned.  Customers and top talent are attracted to your company, your employees are more motivated to stay, and best of all, the legacy of your community impactcan be profound.

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