What to Ask Yourself when Your Employees are Afraid to Commit

When employees are given the opportunity to “do good” through their work, they are more likely to feel that their well being is valued by their company, and will reciprocate by developing affective commitment. You’ve never heard of affective commitment? Not only is it the key to effective management strategy, but it’s the secret to understanding what’s going on with your employees, your families, and the world around you.

It’s really nothing to be afraid of.


By Angela Parker

In this context, commitment refers to the degree of attachment an individual feels toward the organization he or she works for. If you’re a manager or the leader of a company, this is something you obsess about. Do my employees want to stay? Will they stick it out through tough times? Do they believe in this organization as much as I do?

While nothing is going to stop us from obsessing about those questions (not necessarily a bad thing), let’s at least organize the conversation into three types of commitment and then – perhaps – make our way to better questions.

1. Normative Commitment

“Son, we don’t quit.”

Did your dad ever say that to you? If so, you understand normative commitment, which builds upon a sense of duty, obligation, and/or loyalty. This type of commitment is common in the older generation that remembers when it was very difficult to get a job. They fundamentally believe that once you have it, you keep it. And you thank the Lord the whole way. You may find normative commitment less – ahem – normative in the millennial generation who have the opportunity to experience many lines of work throughout their lives.

Here’s the key: you can only depend on normative commitment if the intrinsic sense of loyalty in your employee is unbreakable, and that’s a difficult metric to gauge.

2. Continuance Commitment

From a cynical perspective, continuance commitment can sometimes be seen in marriages where it would be more of a pain to break up than to stay together. Things aren’t that great, but leaving would be just so terribly inconvenient. Essentially, continuance commitment boils down to a cost analysis. Would leaving cost more time, energy, money, and resources than staying?

The key here is that if your employees are only staying because it’s too much work to bother to leave, then you may have a problem.

3. Affective Commitment

To continue the analogy, affective commitment is the marital ideal. It’s when it becomes delightful to serve what you love, as stated in a recent, highly recommended article by David Brooks. In business speak, this is when in exchange for receiving support from organizations, employees reciprocate with emotional dedication. Adam Grant suggests in his study, Giving Commitment: Employee Support Programs And The Prosocial Sensemaking Process, that employees who are enabled to act pro-socially (give, volunteer, and otherwise “do good” for their colleagues or communities) are likely to respond with increased affective commitment to their organization.

This is huge. Affective commitment produces the results companies need in order to profit and to thrive. From a 2010 article in the International Journal of Management:

Affective commitment, or how much an employee actually likes or feels part of an organization has a tremendous effect on employee and organizational performance. High levels of affective commitment in employees will not only affect continuance commitment, but also encourages the employee to try to bring others into the talent pool of the organization. An employee with high levels of affective commitment acts as a brand ambassador of the organization. On the other hand, an employee with high continuance commitment (due to lack of alternatives), but poor affective commitment may harm the organization by criticizing it in his/her social circles.

Are your employee volunteering and giving programs producing affective commitment? How are you measuring the results? Adam Grant’s research is heavy, but it’s worth digging into. We also recommend his book Give and Take, for a high level look at the success of people who behave pro-socially.

Realized Worth works with companies to design and implement employee volunteer programs. We want to see your employees develop affective commitment to your organization! Give us a call, email us via contact@realizedworth.com, or reach out to us on Twitter and Facebook to talk about the programs that work best for you.

Angela Parker
Co-founder/Partner, Realized Worth
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A Looming Employee Engagement Crisis?

There’s something brewing in executive boardrooms around the world, and it ain’t pretty.

Companies are beginning to feel the impact of what Deloitte calls a “looming crisis” – employees are disengaged, no longer true believers in the company to which they signed their lives over. In fact, Gallup has shown that only 13% of employees are engaged at work. While disengagement has been lampooned in our culture for decades – think Homer Simpson – a more data-driven approach to the issue has uncovered some very interesting and uncomfortable trends.

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By Corey Diamond

According to Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends study, which involved surveys and interviews with more than 3,300 business and HR leaders from 106 countries:

  • 87% of HR leaders cite culture/engagement as one of their top challenges, and 50% call the problem “very important.”
  • 12% believe their organizations are excellent at effectively driving the desired culture.
  • 7% rate themselves “excellent” at measuring, driving, and improving engagement and retention.
  • 66% reported that they are updating their engagement and retention strategies.
  • Organizations that create a culture defined by meaningful work, deep employee engagement, job/organizational fit, and strong leadership are outperforming their peers and will likely beat their competition in attracting top talent.

If you’re responsible for your company’s corporate citizenship activities, then you are among the small percentage of people actually meeting your company’s engagement challenges head on. You have likely seen the positive impact that volunteering has played on improving engagement in your office.

Despite this, there are times when you feel like you’re facing the battle alone, and days when you’re convinced it’s all a waste of time. We’re here to tell you (and your boss) that you’re not alone; what you’re doing is important and absolutely worth every second invested in it. And to help convince you, we here at Realized Worth have put together a simple, BuzzFeed-style list illustrating the correlation between corporate volunteering and engagement at work. The direct link between a well-designed program and overall morale and performance at the office are made obvious here, and can provide you a daily reminder of the real impact you are making in the lives of your co-workers.

How Volunteering Engages Your Employees

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87% of employees who volunteered with their companies reported an improved perception of their employer, 1 while 94% of employee volunteers believed volunteerism was a core component or positive influence on job satisfaction. 2

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When companies act pro-socially, employees view themselves in a positive light, generating trust between you and your employee.

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A company’s commitment to the community can live or die with middle management – employees will believe in their boss if they know they meaningfully support causes they care about.

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64% of employees who actively volunteer said that volunteering with work colleagues has strengthened their work relationships. 3 Millennials who frequently participate in their company’s volunteer activities are twice as likely to rate their corporate culture as very positive, as compared to Millennials who rarely or never volunteer. 4

In a major study by the University of Georgia, employees who volunteered “worked harder, were more willing to help their colleagues, [talked] positively about their company, [and] were less likely to waste time at work or miss meetings.” They just tend to be better performing individuals. 5

For people that volunteered within the last year:

  • 74% say that volunteering makes them feel healthier.
  • 94% say that volunteering improves their mood.
  • 78% say that volunteering lowers their stress levels. 6

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A 2008 study found that companies that enable employees to volunteer produce affective commitment, creating a warm perception of themselves and the organization they work for as helpful, caring, and benevolent. 7

Are your employees or co-workers re-energized after participating in a corporate volunteering program? Reach out to us on Twitter or Facebook or comment below and tell us your story.

Corey Diamond
Partner, Business Operations
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  1. Walker, Gavin “Businesses in Northern Ireland know its better to give than to receive”, http://www.businessfirstonline.biz/?p=216
  2. True Impact, “Volunteerism ROI Tracker”, http://www.trueimpact.com/blog/bid/74811/Key-Findings-from-the-Volunteerism-ROI-Tracker
  3. United Health Group, “Doing Good is Good For You – 2013 Health and Volunteering Study” http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/~/media/UHG/PDF/2013/UNH-Health-Volunteering-Study.ashx
  4. Deloitte “Volunteer Impact Survey”, http://www.deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-UnitedStates/Local%20Assets/Documents/us_2011DeloitteVolunteerIMPACTSurvey_ExecutiveSummary_060311.pdf
  5. Rodell, Jessica “Finding Meaning Through Volunteering: why do employees volunteer and what does it mean for their jobs?” http://dx.doi.org/10.5465/amj.2012.0611, http://onlineathens.com/uga/2014-03-14/volunteering-creates-better-employees-according-uga-study
  6. United Health Group, “Doing Good is Good For You – 2013 Health and Volunteering Study” http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/~/media/UHG/PDF/2013/UNH-Health-Volunteering-Study.ashx
  7. Grant, Russo, Dutton, “Giving Commitment: Employee Support Programs and the ProSocial Sensemaking Process” http://csi.gsb.stanford.edu/we-commit-when-we-give

Rethinking the Pin-up Campaign

Pin-up campaigns ask that a retailer’s customer donate a dollar to a charity during checkout. In exchange, the customer gets to put their name on a piece of paper and hang it within the store. I recently saw a press release that announced a pin-up campaign at a regional pawn store chain, of all things. Charity pin-up program at retailers are ubiquitous; you can hardly go into a grocery store, pharmacy, corner deli … or apparently even a pawn store without being asked if you want to participate.

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By Alyson Genovese

Nonprofits love them. They are a fairly easy way to get their brand in front of a lot of consumers and they do raise a lot of cash. A ton of cash. Joe Waters at SelfishGiving.com, for instance, noted that Children’s Miracle Network raised more than $100 million in 2014 from printing 75 million pin-ups reaching 65,000 corporate partner retail locations nationwide.

And corporations love them. The funds raised by these programs are included in the charitable giving totals reported by corporations, significantly boosting their rates with little to no cash outlay. They offer a highly visible in-store reminder of their commitment to philanthropy and there’s little risk to the company or its brand.

Win-win relationship, right? Not so fast.

Here’s why:

1. They allow corporations to use OPM to pad philanthropic totals

When starting out in the field of cause marketing, one of the first terms I learned was the value of OPM – Other People’s Money. A 2013 survey conducted by Cause Marketing Forum found that point-of-sale consumer donation programs like pin-up campaigns raised $358 Million from 62 corporate programs nationwide in 2012. This total represents just a fraction of the total programs happening everyday across the country. All of it is claimed by corporations as part of their philanthropic commitments, but all of it was donated by consumers. Allowing companies to lay claim to hundreds of millions of dollars of their consumers’ funds is disingenuous and creates an inaccurate perception of a company’s investment in our local communities.

2. It makes companies look lazy

Companies across the globe are thinking more creatively than ever about their role in the communities in which they live and work. In an earlier post, I examined how companies are using their assets strategically to help solve remarkably complex social issues. Companies – particularly retailers – are constantly trying to demonstrate distinctiveness. When your company is the fourth of the day to ask for a dollar donation, that is the exact opposite of a distinctive experience. Many companies that do use pin-up campaigns have remarkable and thoughtful philanthropic strategies. But what the consumer sees is an uninspired pin-up campaign.

3. It’s annoying to customers

When I walk into my local convenience store, I wish to get the closest cold caffeinated beverage and be on my way. Instead, I am asked if I want to donate $1 to the charity du jour, delaying my enjoyment of said cold beverage. I decline the donation, and am now feeling slightly annoyed and/or guilty. I doubt this is the experience the brand had intended for me as a customer.

4. It doesn’t help lift the brand

Perhaps one of the most important reasons why companies should just stop with the pin-up campaigns is that they ultimately don’t help reach business objectives. These pin-up campaigns are strictly transactional; they offer little “stickiness.” Ultimately, consumers don’t equate donations at checkout with feeling more affinity towards the retail brand. This is particularly an issue for companies that use pin-up campaigns for a number of different charities throughout the year. There’s no way for consumers to truly understand what you stand for if you don’t have a strategic tie-in or consistent presence.

But what alternatives are there? Understanding that companies wish to share the experience of giving with their consumers, what other models are there to consider?

1. Consider a “gift with purchase” model

Kohl’s and Macy’s have both effectively created point-of-sale-fundraising programs that allow dollars to be raised via their consumers, but unlike other programs, these offer actual value for each donation. Whether a book for their grandchild or a coupon for a special purchase day, consumers have a tangible reason to feel good about their small donation, and can reflect on that donation long after they’ve left the store. A number of online retailers such as Halo Pets also offer similar gift-for-donation opportunities.

2. Examine “matching dollars” options

Although this doesn’t eliminate the ever-annoying pin-up campaign entirely, it’s safe to say that consumers would feel better about making the donation if they knew that the company was matching their donation dollar-for-dollar.

3. Allow consumers to donate “loyalty rewards” to the charity

My local gas station offers me points for filling up at their location, but I never seem to be able to take advantage of the savings. Aggregating my small points with others, the company can donate those to a local nonprofit in need of gas cards or heating oil. I get to feel better about giving something away that literally cost me nothing. Target’s 20+ year old Take Charge of Education program allows you to use your Target card in store while 5% goes back to the school of your choosing. It’s an easy reminder for me to pull out that card at the register, and I feel great when the school newsletter tells us how much was raised by our collective spending.

I mentioned this article at a recent conference on corporate philanthropy and got some interesting visceral responses. What are your thoughts on pin-up campaigns? Are they the program that people love to hate but can’t part with? Are they here to stay? Ideas for alternatives? We look forward to hearing from you.

Alyson Genovese
Guest Blogger
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Is a Woman Worth More With an MBA?

This article was written on International Women’s Day on a flight from Indianapolis to Madrid.

Today is International Women’s Day and I find myself feeling proud and humbled as a woman traveling the final stretch of a long road to my first graduate degree. Friday the 13th (hopefully not an omen) is the day of the ceremony where I will receive a degree stating that I am a Master of Business Administration – whatever that means.

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By Angela Parker

Before I started this degree I wondered if I was making the worst decision of my life. I questioned whether I would drown in feelings of inadequacy and anxiety, if I would be able to manage work and life while studying, and if I was overestimating my abilities. Why did I want to study business in the first place? Aside from my terrible grades in high school and as an undergrad, I am not a typical businesswoman. I am an artsy girl who likes to read. I am great with kids and creativity. I spent the mid-2000s cleaning houses to make a living and only co-founded a consulting company in 2008 because I was surrounded by people who believed in me more than I believed in myself.

I know now that their belief in me was well founded. It’s true; I do have something to offer. But that was true long before I started business school, which didn’t give me anything I didn’t already have except, I suppose, a belief in myself. And that’s the part that disappoints me …

As a product of middle class America, I measure my value based on what I have been taught. Do I have the degrees that prove my words carry weight? Have I earned the right to your respect?

At Realized Worth, a fundamental part of our work involves designing corporate volunteer programs that double as self-perpetuating leadership development systems. What that means is that the design of each program is unique to the company it lives within, but the framework is consistent. It takes into account the natural behaviors and motivations of human beings and allows what’s already working to be even more effective.

But here’s the thing: that self-perpetuating leadership development system is not just governance or the delegation of responsibility; rather, it is a movement from transactional volunteering to transformational volunteering. Our aim is to take as many employee volunteers as possible along a continuum that gives them the opportunity to be changed by the experience of volunteering. The psychological effects of this process on individuals can make it possible to address major societal issues in ways that currently take place only on a very small scale.

If I can summarize that psychological effect into one concept, it is equality. And perhaps taking it one step further, it is a concept of value. As a product of middle class America, I measure my value based on what I have been taught: lessons that ask questions about where I’m from, what I drive, what I do, how much I know, and so on. Am I young enough, old enough, fit enough, humble enough, assertive enough to deserve your attention? Do I have the degrees that prove my words carry weight? Have I earned the right to your respect?

When we enter spaces outside our comfort zones where men and women live in the margins of society, we are faced with a cognitive dissonance … that can empower us to see that the person we are “helping” as no different than ourselves.

Like you, I know that these are not true measures of value. And like you, I am still knocked over by them on a regular basis. But there is one place, one consistent experience, where I find myself gently eased into a clear and calming reminder of my own intrinsic value as a human being, and more specifically, as a woman. It is the only experience I know where this reminder finds its way to everyone who is ready for it – and it happens again and again, without reserve. It is, of course, the experience of volunteering. When we enter spaces outside our comfort zones, whether at an animal shelter, disaster zone, environmental cleanup, or in my case where men and women live in the margins of society, we are faced with a cognitive dissonance. If we are ready – when the circumstances in our lives and the openness of our hearts allow it – that dissonance can empower us to see that the person or people we are “helping” as no different than ourselves. We are equal in value, separated only by upbringing, economic status, or maybe a series of unfortunate choices. When that moment happens to us, we remember our value – a value that cannot be earned or taken from us.

I can only hope that on Friday the 13th, when I am handed a piece of paper that says I am more valuable today than I was yesterday, I will hold it lightly and refuse to display it as a label that demands deference. I hope that I will not separate myself from those affected by inequality, but I will intentionally put myself in situations that teach me we are all the same. I hope that I will use the privilege afforded me to fight the accepted objectification of marginalized people; educate against a deeply held belief that it is “us and them,” and refuse the temptation to believe that my education makes me worth more than I was before.

Angela Parker
Co-founder/Partner, Realized Worth
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