Driving Employee Engagement & Social Impact through a Skills-Exchange Program

May 8, 2018

Driving Employee Engagement & Social Impact through a Skills-Exchange Program

Corporate social impact has gained attention by media, consumers, and leaders across the globe, compelling businesses to consider how to best implement these initiatives within their organizations. These programs demonstrate how companies are addressing some of society’s biggest challenges, and are increasingly becoming an important way to attract, retain, and develop talent--particularly millenials.

According to a 2017 study on employee job satisfaction, 40 percent of respondents said an organization’s commitment to addressing societal issues is very important, while only 29 percent were very satisfied with their organizations commitment. Effective engagement strategies are critical, as people want to work for companies that do well by doing good. Unfortunately, the numbers reveal that businesses aren’t keeping up. As demand grows, businesses must seek innovative ways to deepen program impact and employee awareness and engagement in these efforts.

With 51% of the U.S. workforce disengaged, businesses face pressure to find creative and relevant ways to engage talent.  Social impact programs can help fill this gap, providing numerous possibilities for employee engagement through business immersion, leadership development, and volunteerism. By connecting employees to community engagement opportunities, participants build and share their expertise with others--all while making a difference in the world.

Mondelēz International has found a recipe for success through its Joy Ambassadors skills-exchange program. Our company is committed to driving business growth with positive change in the world through our Impact For Growth social impact platform. As one part of this effort, we send a small cohort of colleagues, or Joy Ambassadors, to serve and learn in cocoa-farming communities in Ghana--the birthplace of Cocoa Life, our third-party verified sustainability program.

During the two-week journey, Ambassadors work side-by-side with farmers and learn about the challenges and opportunities in securing a sustainable cocoa supply. They share diverse business perspectives--from marketing, manufacturing, finance, law and more--to help strengthen the skills of farmers to amplify the impact of the company’s sustainability efforts. Joy Ambassadors develop and deliver interactive workshops to help build the capacity of farmers on the topics that help them run their cocoa farms better, like budgeting, alliance building, strategic planning and more.

Joy Ambassadors also work on cocoa farms, visits processing plants, volunteer in local schools and meet with important stakeholders in the Ghanaian cocoa industry.

Here are just a few of the benefits we have experienced through our skills-exchange program:

  • Connecting Employees: These programs create space for employees from different backgrounds to work with and learn from one another. Cross-cultural learning was one of the top skills Joy Ambassadors developed as a result of their experience. Employees expand their network and knowledge, and in-turn boost engagement and collaboration. In addition, colleagues further embrace the tenets of diversity and inclusion and increase their understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.
  • Building Leaders: Dealing with ambiguity and pushing the boundaries of our comfort zones in new environments promotes a growth mindset that serves colleagues well, personally and professionally. The instructive nature of these programs helps employees develop teaching and communication skills, two important qualities of strong leaders. These skills are put to the test as they share their expertise, building confidence along the way.
  • Understanding Business Impact: When done right, skills-exchange programs provide employees a greater understanding of an organization’s supply chain and social impact through experiential learning.  They bring their learnings back to the business, inspiring their teams and instilling pride in how the company is making a difference.  However, be careful not to apply a one-size-fits-all approach. Success is highly dependent on building a program within the context of your business strategy and priorities.

Partnerships are critical to effective skills-exchange programs--both internally and externally. Strong collaboration with your corporate citizenship team and external partners who can work with you to create a customized program that aligns with your organizational values will be key to success.  

Creative development programs help increase employee understanding of a company’s social impact efforts while providing  them the chance to play a direct role in shaping it. And the "sweet spot" happens when employees become company ambassadors and develop a passion for ways to grow the business, while making a positive impact on the world.

The Authors: 

Kelly C. France is Senior Manager, Global Community & Employee Engagement at Mondelēz International, one of the world's largest snack companies. For more information, visit https://www.mondelezinternational.com/impact.