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Jun 24, 201311:00 AMSmart Sustainable Biz

with Jessie Lerner

CUNA Mutual’s brilliant approach to employee engagement leads to increased focus on sustainability

(page 1 of 2)

Psst … want to know the secret to making employees feel connected to their workplace? Don’t ask me — go ask them. I know, rocket science … but still brilliant in its simplicity. CUNA Mutual did this, and you know what it found? An overwhelming interest in sustainability.

CUNA Mutual Group, a Wisconsin-based insurance provider that was named a 2012 Best Place to Work For by In Business magazine, asked employees to take the lead on the company’s philanthropic and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

“President and CEO Jeff Post came to the foundation and said, ‘We need to strengthen employee engagement. We need to get more employees involved in shaping and implementing our corporate philanthropy and community involvement,’” said Candace Stohs-Krause of the CUNA Mutual Foundation.

Already active, CUNA Mutual Group, CUNA Mutual Foundation, and staff last year donated more than 15,000 volunteer hours for charitable causes within the community and $1.8 million to nonprofit organizations. In most companies, you’ll find such philanthropic and CSR decisions are made top-down or by a small HR or marketing team, but at CUNA Mutual Group, says Stohs-Kraus, “We want to ensure that our initiatives are a true reflection of our employees’ values.”

So Stohs-Krause and her team reached out to the more than 900 CUNA Mutual Group employees through intranet sites, surveys, social media, and departmental meetings to ask them directly what kind of special initiatives, volunteerism, and charitable giving are important to them. This seemingly obvious approach to employee engagement can help employees feel a greater sense of connection and personal pride in their company. And in turn, those employees tend to speak more highly about their workplace, which can enhance the company’s brand, recruitment, and ability to make strong business partnerships within the community.

And as you might expect, CUNA Mutual Group made some surprising discoveries about its employees’ values and interests that have not only put the wind in the sails of its projects but have also permeated the core of CUNA Mutual Group’s business. When Stohs-Krause asked employees specifically about their interest in sustainability in an employee survey, an overwhelming 90% of respondents said that sustainability was “very important” or “somewhat important” to them personally. At the executive table, it became clear that “this is something we need to work on.”


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