The single most important contributor to success in engaging employees in your Employee Relief Fund (ERF) is to be absolutely sure that the program is what employees want and need.
You might think you know what they want, but those of us sitting in human resources or corporate citizenship or another department probably aren’t in touch enough with employees in the field to know what “relief” means to them. It’s critical that you do your homework before you launch.
Surveys will give you some information but response rates, as you know, can be disappointing. And depending on your company, you might not be able to survey your entire employee population. The other issue with surveys is that open-ended questions will depress completion rates—and open-ended questions are important for this research. It’s worth it to invest in focus groups, in-person or virtual—to hear the voices and be able to ask follow-up questions.
There are two main areas of inquiry: types of relief employees find appealing and what motivates them to give.
There’s an array of scenarios in which employees might need help from a relief fund. Which ones are the most appealing to your employees? The answer may be different by gender, location and function. A survey can gather the initial data but make sure you don’t ask simple yes/no questions. Given a list of possibilities, people’s natural compassion might cause them to check “yes” for every scenario. You can’t cover everything, so ask respondents to rank or score the importance of the scenarios.
In a focus group setting, the moderator can set up the premise for an ERF and then solicit ideas on what scenarios an ERF should cover without prompting. The group can then discuss the merits of each scenario and how much assistance could be provided. You can gather interesting data on what employees consider “fair.” You can also probe about any concerns employees might have about privacy—or discover concerns you hadn’t thought of.
Besides researching potential ERF grant policies, you need to know what would motivate an employee to donate to the fund. Donating is the first important step to engagement, so start there in your query. Are their motivations purely altruistic or because they might need the Fund at some point? Perhaps it’s both. Perhaps it’s because they already know a colleague who could benefit from an ERF. By gathering their motivations, you know what points to hit on in your communications about the Fund.
In the next blog, we’ll talk about building your communications plan based on your research.
Linda B. Gornitsky, Ph.D.
President, LBG Associates
BLOG SERIES: For a Successful Employee Relief Fund, Think Engagement, Not Just Participation.
Dr. Gornitsky is president and founder of LBG Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in the development and implementation of strategic CSR, corporate citizenship and employee engagement programs. Her firm also conducts benchmarking, community attitude and evaluation studies, creates image-building/communications campaigns and identifies efficient management practices.
Prior to establishing LBG Associates in 1995, Dr. Gornitsky directed a variety of corporate communications programs, developed strategic contributions programs, managed contributions, public issues and public affairs departments and identified new management directions. She developed and managed strategic contributions programs for Citibank and Pfizer.
Dr. Gornitsky publishes on various aspects of corporate citizenship and has completed over 15 groundbreaking studies on subjects such as volunteerism, the environment, disaster relief and diversity. The most recent ones are on pro bono volunteerism (2018, 2016), global employee engagement (2014), and the building blocks of a successful volunteer program (2012).
Dr. Gornitsky is an adjunct professor at NYU, where she teaches classes on strategic philanthropy/volunteerism, and was a faculty member at the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College.
Dr. Gornitsky is president of LBG Research Institute, a CSR think tank, and on the boards of Skokie Jewish Family Service and UJF in Stamford, CT. She helped found and was on the board of Autism360. She was honored for her volunteer activities in 2007, 2016 and 2017.
Dr. Gornitsky earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Psychology at City University of New York. She also holds a Master of Philosophy, Master of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees, all in psychology.