In Employee Engagement

Building true engagement, or better yet, earning it, depends upon connecting employees in meaningful ways. Here are four tips for creating a culture of generosity in the workplace, along with free resources to help you assess yourself and improve. 

Employee engagement is critical to organizational success, and traditional methods of improving it have their place in the landscape. 

However, for an organization to have strong employee engagement, it must focus on factors like meaningful work, personal growth, and positive relationships. 

The bottom line is that one overarching, umbrella strategy can achieve these goals as well as supporting tactical programs you already have in place: building and sustaining a collaborative, helping culture. 

A “giver” culture

University of Michigan Professor and Givitas co-founder Wayne Baker calls it “a Giver Culture,” which is one where people freely ask for, and offer, help to others. They share help, advice, and assistance with coworkers routinely and without any expectation of repayment. They also ask for what they need. “When people ask for what they need and generously help others,” Baker explains, “they become more engaged at work and more productive. They experience positive emotions and thrive. Giver workplaces are more productive and profitable, experience lower turnover (and costs), and have more loyal customers.”

Humanistic technology can help us create a giving culture in our workplaces, which will in turn drive the kind of employee engagement we spend billions of dollars chasing.

“Earned” employee engagement

Building and sustaining a collaborative, helping culture drives what I call “earned employee engagement”. If you have such a culture, there is less of an impetus to focus on costly wellness programs, inconsistent rewards, or rarely-viewed employee engagement surveys. Not that you shouldn’t still pursue those programs, but they become fun perks rather than cornerstone engagement strategies.

Here’s how to facilitate a marked shift in focus from short-term programs to a long-term culture of reciprocity and giving.

1. Support stronger, high-quality social connections and strong networks.

When asked what makes them willing to work hard and go the extra mile, the number one answer from American employees is good peer relationships and camaraderie. People are highly motivated by positive interactions with colleagues, which also boost engagement and higher performance.

Moreover, managers should focus on helping teams build what University of Michigan Professor  Jane Dutton calls “high-quality connection,” or those marked by feelings of “vitality and aliveness,” a “heightened sense of positive regard,” and a feeling of mutuality, the idea that both people are engaged and actively participating.  

Initiatives like softball teams and happy hours can begin to improve workers’ social connections, but a humanistic  technology platform like Givitas facilitates new and developing connections with people with whom you may not typically interact.

Workers may or may not want expanded social lives; they do want more people in their professional network.

Building professional networks to include a broader range of people with different skills and life experiences within your organization will improve employees’ job satisfaction, engagement, work product and efficiency. 

2. Facilitate easy, efficient, effective collaboration.

Nearly half of employees report that people in their organization don’t collaborate enough. Yet collaboration and engagement are entwined, driving productivity and innovation.

Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile has found that a sense of progress on work projects is crucial to staying engaged at a job. In fact, making progress in one’s work, which often requires collaboration, is more frequently associated with positive emotions and high motivation than any other workday event.

While workplace design has long been the focus of efforts to improve collaboration (lower walls on office cubes, more communal spaces). Technology, however, has become an inextricable part of the solution. 

Technology solutions already in place in most large companies include platforms like Slack or Yammer, which provide an opportunity for employees to be in constant, frequent touch with each other. Such tools are great for small groups collaborating on projects and reinforcing communication.

However, they also have a cost: they can be a distraction, a time waster, and often contain trivial content that doesn’t improve work outcomes. Video meetings like Google Hangout and Zoom facilitate more face-to-face time, which can boost collaboration and provide a warmer culture, but they only work if you know who to talk to. 

Givitas is designed specifically to encourage knowledge collaboration without all the noise and constant interruption of Slack or Yammer, which are still important tools. It is a place people can come for the specific purpose of asking for and giving help on a problem or project. Since it integrates with existing collaboration tools, Givitas becomes a driver of positive and giving work cultures, rather than just a communication tool. 

3. Make it easy to be a giver.

Most people in a healthy environment want to be givers, they want to help their co-workers with advice, an introduction, or a missing piece of knowledge. However, they are busy doing their own day jobs. 

Adam Grant, author of the bestseller Give and Take and a co-founder of our company, advocates for setting up a block of time to do what he calls “five-minute favors.” His research shows that not only are we helping others with these favors, we see a measurable impact on our happiness levels and work satisfaction. His findings also show that bundling these acts together creates an even bigger impact on our sense of wellbeing than spreading them out. 

Givitas empowers workers to help by sharing their expertise or connecting them to multiple people who know the best answers in less than five minutes per day, making it easy to help others and enjoy all the benefits that accrue from doing so. 

“It may be better to give than receive, but it’s best to give and receive.  Giving and receiving turn the wheel of reciprocity.” Dr. Wayne Baker

Download our free checklist to help you evaluate whether your organization makes it easy to be a giver, or take a quiz to evaluate your culture.

Checklist: Do You Have a Generous Culture?


4. Reduce the stigma to asking for help.

While it’s true that most people want to be givers, Wayne Baker’s research for his forthcoming book shows (All You Have to Do is Ask: coming this January)  there are real reasons that asking for help is hard. While some barriers are psychological (worrying about how we’ll be perceived), sometimes it can be as simple—and as profound—as not knowing what to ask for or how to ask.

However, Baker says “a reticence to ask for help is one of the most self-limiting, self-constraining, even self-destructive decisions we can make.”

Givitas makes it easy to ask for help and reduces the stigma attached to doing so. Givitas gives us a network of people willing and able to help us right at our fingertips, that we can tap anytime. And just the act of bringing Givitas into an organization–a platform built to encourage asking and giving help–is an important signal to employees that asking for help is not only okay, it’s encouraged. 

Download our checklist to assess whether your workplace makes it easy to ask for help, or check out Dr. Baker’s free ebook.

Checklist: Make It Easy to Ask for Help Download the Ebook


The culture, the culture, the culture!

The trends of the last 20 years of employee engagement should not be abandoned. Employee recognition, wellness programs, employee surveys, and better manager training are all important initiatives. But without a positive culture of collaboration and giving to back them up, they will not achieve the results you want. 

Download Larry’s full ebook on how to create true employee engagement.

Download the Ebook


Schedule a demo with Givitas today to see how we can help you create and sustain a giving culture. 

Request a Demo


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