Learning Series | Employee Engagement Trends for 2023

November 14, 2022

Andy VandenBerg:Ben, it's great to see you again. Uh, you can't see the snow behind you, but I noticed snowing in Bend, Oregon.

Ben Sampson: It's cold here. I was going to put my beanie on then realized we're recording today, so I need to have a good hair day.

Andy VandenBerg: So yes, your hair looks incredible.

Ben Sampson: It's the nicest thing I've heard all day.

Andy VandenBerg: Um, well it's fitting because it's the start of winter and as we were talking about before we jumped on here, we are in prime planning for 2023 right now. Not only for our own company and our goals, but we have been speaking with our clients pretty much nonstop about what 2023 has on them and so, and has in store for them. And so we wanted to get together and pull out maybe two to three of the most common threads we're seeing from the companies we work with.

Andy VandenBerg: Typically, just for our listeners, these are Fortune 2000 companies we would say and what they're predicting for 2023. So with that prompt end, what is the number one thing that's being talked about at companies?

Ben Sampson: I'll say, you know, usually we rewrite this in a annual report that kind of gives like state of the industry and what to look for in the next year. And I think we got together and went, you know, it's tough to read through a 20 page report. Let's make this short and concise and highlight the big things that, that we're noticing right now, um, as we come into 2023. And so I can touch on a few things and Andy, I definitely want your take on this as well c you're pretty embedded in a lot of this. Um, one of  you know, employee engagement continues to be a real challenge.

Ben Sampson: And that's, you know, for volunteer experiences, that's for just probably employee engagement experiences across the board. Um, and a big reason for that is the kind of experiences that employees are doing, um, having a negative experience and, and you know, not wanting to participate moving forward. So it's really hard to bring employees back up into really new and unique experiences that are engaging. Um, and so it's a big challenge for companies. Um, and so it's becoming an even more of a forethought, uh, for 2023 in regards to how we engage employees, how we message about volunteer experiences and engagement experiences way ahead of schedule, get them in people's calendars, get them excited about the events. I mean, we're seeing more, more companies think about, uh, these volunteer days, these engagement days, almost like concerts, right? There's these buildup, there's teaser, there's marketing, right? You have to get people really excited about these things c there's so much coming in at people these days.

Ben Sampson: And so you're seeing a ton of that and a lot of that good forethought. Um, I think, uh, excited for us. We're, we're working with more and more companies, uh, on an annual basis working with them, thinking about their entire year of volunteering and we're seeing a lot of success there. So a big trend and, and Andy and I have lots of videos and notes about how to do that successfully and what that looks like. But employee engagement, a big trend that we'll continue seeing next year. Um, you know, we talk a lot and, and you and I were talking about this today, we're seeing this transition from CSR to E. Um, it's happening faster than I think we realize it's happening. You know, I think you and I were talking the other day and we're like, you know, two years. I think everything will be

Ben Sampson: Um, I think it might even be a year. Um, like it is moving so quick. Um, so I think companies are really thinking about how they structure their CSR or their ESG teams. How do they enable social impact across their company? Does ESG or that kind of management structure make sense for a company that's my size? Maybe it's a private company, maybe it's a public company. Um, and so there's a lot of those discussions happening right now around the ESG format. Um, and I think the last point I'll bring up is specifically around the world of employee volunteering and engagement. Um, the numerous different formats that are existing or rising, uh, for volunteerism. You know, Andy and I talk a ton about hybrid formats, remote formats where we're shipping the homes, purely virtual formats, skills based. But you're seeing more and more in, you know, we talk a lot about self-guided formats where employees are, uh, our companies actually are reaching higher engagement rates by giving employees self-guided opportunities that they can do on their own time to volunteer.

Ben Sampson: We're seeing new technology that enables engagement and stuff like augmented reality, virtual reality, and really immersing people in these experiences to drive more impact. Um, and so I think you'll continue seeing more and more formats in 2023 for volunteering in just a wide array of ways that you can get your employee base engaged and maximize impact, which is great for companies, right? Cause we have this challenge of getting employees engaged. How do we increase impact and maximize amount of impact we can make per dollar? This is all helping, uh, folks get there. So, um, I'll start, stop rambling for a second, Andy, but three kind of big areas that we're talking a lot about and spending a lot of time on.

Andy Vandenberg: Yeah, no, it's, it's all very valid. I think just to double click on a few things, I think, you know, coming out of covid, I think a lot of, you know, the CSR teams and ESG teams we're hoping, oh, things are just gonna go back to normal and we'll be able to rely on all the old tools and old ways that we engage our employees and made donations.

Andy VandenBerg: And I think over the last six to nine months people have realized like, we are not returning to that world and it's a whole new world that we need to figure out new best practices. And I think this is, you know, increasingly challenging on the employee engagement side. Um, you have the consequences of employees working from home. They're more, you know, they can be more productive and they don't have a huge interest in wasting time when they could be spending time with their families. And so they view it as a time waste. You know, it's not gonna be a good, a good pull for them. So we really need to make these incredible experiences that they want to opt into and they understand the impact. And I think that really touches on your marketing piecesand communicating what, what you're doing around employee engagement and why it's important.

Andy VandenBerg: And so to me, I think that's the biggest trend that we're seeing. And I think that the impact of that is this just takes more time. If you had everyone in the office, they had to be there nine to five and everyone was in their local offices, you could plan a volunteer event two weeks in advance, put up a poster, walk around and say, Hey, this Friday come over at three to four, we blocked the entire company's calendar easy. But now you have, you know, workforces all over, different teams on different schedules. Um, you need to start marketing this very far in advance. And I think that's caused stress and, you know, made it really challenging for companies to meet their goals. And so the more that people realize that they're now trying to plan months and months in advance and forecast appropriately and engage employees nine months before, six months before.

Andy VandenBerg: So really planning kind of for the year is, is a, I think a big priority for this year more so than we've ever seen before. Um, and so I think that's the, the biggest trend that I would say.

Ben Sampson: Yeah, I totally agree. Are there any other things outside of kinda like the three areas that I mentioned that you think are particularly interesting that we should have mentioned?

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah, I think what, what constantly excites me is, um, the integration between employee engagement and giving. You know, I think these used to be two separate worlds, right? You'd have, you know, making grants and then you'd have volunteering. And we continue to see those integrate more and more. And I think that is only speeding up. And I think in the near future we're gonna have every event be associated with the giving events because that ultimately makes everything more powerful.

Andy VandenBerg: And so I would say more companies are just making that standard instead of it being a special occasion. So that, that's kind of on the employee giving and employee volunteering. The, the other main thing I would say is the importance of data. You know, I think that's what's really driving the shift to esg. It's a holistic data approach to, to all of these things. And so I think we'll continue to see more data requirements, um, for companies to keep investing in this. And I think that's the big rush to get, um, to get the right analysts in place and the right data tracking methods.

Ben Sampson: Yeah, I couldn't agree more and so many areas in esg right? That there struggles. Like there's the data piece. Who do we get to manage that data? Who's managing the e? Who's managing the s who's managing the G within our company?

Ben Sampson: There's, and it's, it's almost like, it's kinda like when companies merge, right? You know, like all these cultural issues and challenges that's happening with esg, like the sustainability team all of a sudden working with the governance team and then you have the social impact team coming in there. Yeah. And it's a huge challenge for companies right now figuring out what's the best way to make this all work together. Um, and we're gonna see a ton of that in the next year.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah. And the biggest pain point I think we're seeing is needing good writers to write the ESG reports . And so if you're a good writer out there, uh, this should be your time to make serious bacon because um, every company needs a well written ESG report. And I think there are more and more examples of, of, you know, the shortage of people that are, that are qualified and capable of doing this.

Andy VandenBerg: So that's the other thing, ain point, the big pain point we're seeing

Ben Sampson: Calling all riders, we have work for you

Andy VandenBerg: Exactly. Those are the main things, Ben, I think 2023 will continue to be a development year for this industry. I mean, I think more money continues to be spent in it and I think the importance of, you know, the area we operate in is only increasing.

Ben Sampson: Yep. I totally agree. Um, I'm trying to think if there's anything else we should cover. There's so many different areas we could jump into. Specifically hybrid stuff like that or,

Andy VandenBerg: Andy VandenBerg: ne, one future future discussion for us is what happens to CSR during a recession? How to think about that. I am not a big fan of manifesting mass recessions and so maybe we'll do a separate topic of that. How to manage CSR and ESG when your company isn't performin r something of that nature.

Ben Sampson: Yeah, that's a big teaser to drop. oming out soon.

Andy VandenBerg: Yeah. Hold your breath.

Ben Sampson: How to operate in a recession. I, we don't have, I was just about to dive into it. We don't have to dive into it now, but I agree we should do one on that because we're already seeing companies that are going through challenging times and we're seeing how they're reacting with their social impact efforts. And just a quick note, I will say it's been encouraging to see many companies hold onto their social impact initiatives through challenging times. I would've thought honestly, candidly, that it would've gone a different direction. Um, but it's cool to see how important this is to companies and more so to the employees, um, that their company is maximizing impact, um, and they're holding onto those programs. So just a quick little anecdote there that I think, yeah, it has been encouraging thus far. A lot more data we can talk about though.

Andy VandenBerg: A lot more data we can talk about though. Yeah. The development of the industry over the last biggest boom cycle has been wildly advantageous, right? And so the, the United States economy, at least for the last 15 years has been very strong. And so we've been able to, companies have been able to invest in this as well as get data from it. Now we're at the point where there's so much clear data on the benefits, you know, that creates even a stronger, you know, urge. But yeah, we're worth diving into more

Ben Sampson: Round two. Stay tuned to everybody. Stay tuned.

Andy VandenBerg: Hold your breath. Like I said

Ben Sampson: Final call out though if companies are having trouble thinking about 2023 and wants to come. And if you wanna dive into detail in any of the areas that Andy and I mentioned, please reach out. This is, we spend our entire life on this. Um, and so we're happy to help and help a lot of companies work through these challenges or just work through these strategies cuz they're complex and they're continuing to get more complex and, um, we're here to help and just, just even just bounce ideas off of. So please let us know.

Andy VandenBerg: Well Ben, thanks again and uh, go have some fun in the snow.

Ben Sampson: Thank you all. Appreciate it.

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Andy VandenBerg
Andy VandenBerg is the co-founder and COO of WeHero where he works closely with hundreds of companies to help them reach their social impact goals. Andy speaks actively about the importance of aligning strategy with social responsibility and how companies can pursue both purpose and profit. Andy’s past experience includes private equity and family office investing. If he’s not in front of his computer, you can find him in the Pacific Ocean or Lake Michigan.
Ben Sampson
Ben Sampson is the co-founder and CEO of WeHero where he works closely with hundreds of companies to help them reach their social impact goals. Ben speaks actively about corporate social responsibility, volunteerism, sustainability, and how companies united with activism drive powerful change. Ben’s past experience includes leading product teams, building startups, and studying sustainable business strategy at Harvard. In his free time, he’s an avid outdoor enthusiast focused on skiing, surfing, and mountain biking.

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