Employee Volunteering Makes Shared Value Possible: The Transformative Value Series

How is corporate volunteering and workplace giving essential to achieving the ambitions of Shared Value? Good question. Not everyone agrees that these types of programs have any role to play in Shared Value strategies. We argue that without providing these experiences for employees your best ambitions will have serious limitations. 

Blindfolded_by_BirdRibsNot everyone sees value

The aspirations of new frameworks such as Blended Value, Shared Value, Mutual Benefit, Triple Bottom Line, Conscious Capitalism and others represent significant and important paradigm shifts in current business models. Many forward thinking companies are adjusting current business practices and redefining success by adopting these progressive understandings in an effort to remain competitive.

Yet despite the noble and forward thinking aspirations of these frameworks each of them are limited in achieving results.


Your employees don’t agree with you (see why this happens here).

What about employees?

In a recent article posted on MIT Sloan Management Review, Gregory Unruh notes that today’s sustainability managers are leading what he call’s a ‘sustainability insurgency’ inside their organization. Traditional approaches to strategic implementation and ‘on-boarding’ have reached the limit of efficacy. Now, Unruh says, the goal is “to alter the way business is done in every function and unit of the company.”

Unruh notes that the traditional role of sustainability and CSR managers has to evolve. He’s right. It’s not enough to have a great program design and implementation strategy. If the decision makers at every level do not see a personal and compelling reason to adapt to these new frameworks the effect will be business as usual – mostly.

It is remarkable that current models of strategic theory do not include employees in the role of primary actor for successful implementation.  In a review of 60 articles of strategic management practices, employees are not mentioned: “Surprisingly, not a single definition mentions the (non-managerial) employees and their crucial role in turning strategic plans into results.” (Making Strategy Work: A Literature Review, pg 6)

At Realized Worth, we are convinced of the importance of the Shared Value initiative:

  • Re-conceive products and markets to provide appropriate services and meet unmet needs.
  • Redefine productivity in the value chain to mitigate risks and boost productivity.
  • Enable local cluster development by improving the external framework that supports the company’s operations.

The role of the employee, however, is relegated to:

  1. Beneficiaries of Shared Value because now employees are able to better connect with purpose in the workplace (which is true)
  2. A source of Shared Value because employees are an element of the company’s value chain and represent a significant opportunity for cost reduction, i.e. reducing health care costs for the workforce (which is true)
  3. Drivers of Shared Value because employees, as with other stakeholders such as governments, customers, and communities, are demanding that ‘business step up’ to address social and economic issues (which is true)

Adapted from ‘Creating Shared Value’ , HBR, 2011

Employees are Primary Actors

Talk to almost any CSR manager and it becomes quickly apparent that despite the best-laid plans and resources, without middle manager and front line employee support – failure is inevitable. Almost every strategic theory advocates for the following tactics to address this potential barrier:

  • Senior support that is both visible and reoccurring
  • Proper training and support materials
  • Effective communication with numerous feedback loops
  • A clear implementation plan with SMART goals
  • A collaborative approach to design and execution
  • Etc.

What’s missing from this list?

Nothing really. This is a good list. In our work with clients we always advocate for these well known and proven tactics of change management. Yet on their own they are not enough.

The issue isn’t what needs to be done but rather for whom it should be done.

Transformative Value is about empowering the right people

We’ve had to fire clients in the past. This is never an easy decision and we take careful steps to ensure that everyone’s dignity and business objectives are respectfully guarded. But there is only ever one reason why we let clients go – they are unable or unwilling to believe in people over process.

A good strategy demands the right process (which can be broad and very complicated). More importantly, a good strategy demands the right people. What makes someone the right choice? The right person already believes that the new framework is right for the company because it connects with their personal beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.

Here is a simple comparison of the two approaches:

Typical Implementation Strategy

Transformative Value Strategy

Goal: Buy-in of everyone Goal: Find small number of people with the right experience, energy and enthusiasm
Training through manuals or workshop Experience first learning
Extrinsic motivation through carrots and sticks Intrinsic motivation based on personal experiences and beliefs
Appoint the appropriate functional or departmental roles to lead Collaborate with any employee already possessing the right beliefs and experiences


Still not convinced?

Be sure to watch this compelling video “The Business Case for Sustainability” by the late Ray Anderson, Founder and Chairmen of InterfaceFLOR.


The Transformative Value Series

In this series we will explore how external constructs expressed as policies, strategies, manuals, performance reviews and mission statements must be internalized by individuals in order to achieve the promise of both blended and shared value.

Here are some questions we’ll be answering:

  1. How is Transformative Value essential to achieving the ambitions of Blended Value and Shared Value?
  2. How is employee volunteering and workplace giving connected to Transformative Value?
  3. What are the Five Phases of creating Transformative Value through corporate volunteering and workplace giving programs – and where is your company on the continuum?

Some ways we can help

If you’d like our help with your employee volunteering or workplace giving program, please feel free to drop us a line at contact@realizedworth.com or call us at 855-926-4678. Or take a look at the services we offer here.

Be sure to check out our newest offering – Cohort Consulting. Receive all of the services we provide for Fortune 500 companies. Each month, collaborate with others in your field to discuss best practices, address challenges, and receive tools for running a great program.

Click here for more details about Cohort Consulting.

What Motivates Millennial Employees to Give and Volunteer?

Want to know what triggers Millennials to participate in corporate volunteering and giving programs? The 2014 Millennial Impact Research project will tell you everything you need to know.

By Chris Jarvis

Millennials are different – kinda.

I love working with Millennials. They are passionate, driven and open to new ideas. Yet, as with all generations, they come with some idiosyncrasies that employers need to pay attention to if they expect to get the best out of them.

This video captures some of these idiosyncrasies in a hilarious manner (if it’s not funny to you, just read on—this research project is for you!)

The secrets of engaging Millennials

Achieve, an organization that we at RW have a ton of respect for, specializes in Millennial research. This year, they will be conducting research on Millennial employee participation, interest, and attitudes towards the company’s community engagement programs. It will cover general, pro bono, and skills-based volunteering as well as broader social responsibility programming and other philanthropic efforts.

With support from the Case Foundation, Achieve has been looking into Millennial behaviors and motivations since 2009. Since then, they’ve revealed how the generation connects (mobile, social media, and digital), interacts (micro-service, group volunteering, and pro-bono or skills), and gives (micro-giving, transaction methods, and peer fundraising) to and with causes. This work represents the influences of more than 14,000 Millennial individuals through surveys, focus groups, user tests, and tracking.

Why does this matter?

Corporate volunteering and workplace giving programs are gaining importance as key strategies to boost engagement among existing employees and attract the best talent from universities. This new research will help corporations understand the connection between these programs as well as the interests and motivations of Millennials.

For example, Millennials expect to have careers that include social impact.

How does it work?

Through a series of surveys, interviews and monthly tests, the opinions of Millennials (age 20-30) regarding community investment programs will be collected and evaluated. The goal is to understand what motivational factors need to be present within the environment for Millennials to connect and get involved with company service, CSR, and philanthropic efforts. 

The research will be conducted across 15 corporations consisting of 5 large cap companies ($10 billion+), 5 medium cap companies ($2-$9 billion), and 5 small cap companies ($300 million to $2 billion).

Why should your company consider participating?

  • An advance briefing of the 2014 Millennial Impact Report findings before they are released publicly in June 2014.
  • A report with the survey responses from their Millennial employees and benchmarks against the complete survey pool.
  • Recognition in the 2014 Millennial Impact Report on The Millennial Impact website and at MCON14.
  • Click here for the application form.

What is the research timeline?

  • Research Partners identified and selected (November 2013)
  • Promotion and distribution of the online survey (December 15, 2013 – January 31, 2014)
  • Research Partner briefings (May 2014)
  • Research Partners receive custom survey results from Millennial employees (June 2014) 

Where can I see a copy of past research?

Research from previous years is available to download at http://themillennialimpact.com/research.

For more information or questions about the Research Partner expectations or the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, please contact the Millennial Impact Team, or send us an email at contact@realizedworth.com.

Chris Jarvis
Realized Worth Co-Founder

Transformational Companies: The Breakthrough Approach

At the CBSR Summit, John Elkington, the “Grandfather of Sustainability,” gave the keynote address through which he illustrated the need for companies to become transformational in their approach to CSR and Sustainability.

By Christine Johnston

Realized Worth attended the 11th Annual CBSR Summit on November 6, 2013 in Toronto. It was a fantastic event, at which John Elkington, the keynote speaker, began the day with an important message for everyone involved in the CSR and Sustainability fields: global change is ripe but companies must become transformational to secure the breakthroughs necessary for significant and lasting change.


Elkington outlined in his presentation that societal pressure caused by shifting demographics and the increasing prevalence of cross-sector issues are the main forces currently driving change in CSR and Sustainability efforts. He credited “Shared Value“, a concept brought forward by these drivers, with being one of the most significant contributions to the field to date, but asserted that its full potential has yet to be realized due to a lack of transformational change contributing to breakthroughs.

Elkington outlined the 3 trajectories through which change happens:

  1. Breakdown Trajectory: change results in reverting to previous operating systems and goals.
  2. Change-as-Usual Trajectory: change results in incremental steps, out of touch with societal trends and with significant time lags.
  3. Breakthrough Trajectory: significant change and solutions are secured through new systems and goals.

Successful Breakthrough Factors

To jump from a Change-As-Usual Trajectory to a Breakthrough Trajectory, Elkington argued that companies must become transformative in their overall business approach. To do this, he suggested that a form of “integrated accounting”, which would incorporate different types of capital, (human capital and social capital, for example) into a company’s balance sheets to demonstrate the benefits of transformational business approaches. This concept is also advocated for in William Eggers & Paul MacMillan’s new book, The Solution Revolution (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). Elkington cautioned that if companies do not recognize the potential contribution of operating in a transformational way, breakthrough change will not be achieved and we will continue on the path of incremental “change-as-usual”.

Where are you?

Is your company transformational? Is it working to achieve breakthroughs, rather than change-as-usual in the CSR/Sustainability field?

Christine Johnston Project Manager


Doing Good is Good for You

The following is a guest post from Kate Rubin, Vice President of UnitedHealth Group and President of UnitedHealth Foundation. It has been gently edited for the purposes of the RW blog. Enjoy!

At UnitedHealth Group, building healthier communities is the mission of our social responsibility efforts. Using data we’ve collected on health, we link it to business goals and then leverage it to drive high-impact social responsibility initiatives.

This is why we’ve invested in research that demonstrates how volunteering is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. In Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study, we found that people who volunteer feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Volunteers tell us they are convinced their health is better because of the things they do when they volunteer. Doing good is, indeed, good for you!

Volunteering Makes a Difference

People who volunteered in the past 12 months told us volunteering has made them feel physically healthier. Additionally, volunteers are more likely than non-volunteers to consider themselves in excellent or very good health, and they are more likely to say that their health has improved over the past 12 months.

There is an even stronger connection between volunteering and mental and/or emotional health.

Volunteers gave higher ratings than non-volunteers on nine well-established measures of emotional well-being, which includes personal independence, capacity for rich interpersonal relationships, and overall satisfaction with life. Volunteering also improved their mood and self-esteem.

Volunteering can also help us manage stress. The majority of people who have volunteered in the past year say that volunteering has lowered their stress levels. Volunteers stated that they felt calm and peaceful most of the time over the past month, which is much higher than the overall population. Last but not least, most surveyed reported that they had a lot of energy most of the time, again, doing better than the average adult.

It’s true: volunteering makes us feel better. And while we’re feeling better, other people who benefit from our efforts feel better, too.  Everybody wins.

Employers Get Healthier, Too

The health impacts of volunteering cascade into the workplace as well. Healthier employees lead to lower health care costs and increased productivity. Employers find employees who volunteer are less stressed, more engaged and are developing important work and “people” skills.

Throughout our research, we found that employees who volunteer through company sponsored events are up to 24% more engaged than employees who do not volunteer. It is well-documented that engaged employees deliver more value to an organization, demonstrating that investing in volunteering programs in the workplace can deliver a real return on the investment.

There’s more: job skills and employee attitudes toward colleagues and employers are also enhanced, particularly for employers who actively enable and encourage volunteering among their employees.

Whether you are talking about functional job skills or interpersonal team-building skills, volunteering provides an opportunity for employees to learn and develop skills that make them more proficient and effective in the workplace.

Volunteering supports healthier individuals, healthier communities, and healthier employers. It’s a win-win scenario that should be seized by individuals and businesses alike. Doing good is good for all of us!

Additional information on the healthy benefits of volunteering, including the full Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study can be found here.

Tell us how volunteering has benefited you in unexpected ways in the comment section below!

Kate Rubin
Vice President, UnitedHealth Group
President, UnitedHealth Foundation