Championing Purpose Together: How to Keep Employees Engaged

Prepared by Coast Capital

April 11, 2023

In 2020, Coast Capital made the decision to become a social purpose business.  We adopted a social purpose because we believe that social purpose is the business model the world needs to tackle the complex, systemic issues we face today but also because it represents an opportunity for us to continue to evolve our business to meet the changing needs of our employees, members, and communities and provides an opportunity for all of our stakeholders to engage with our business in a new and unique way.   

To ensure that our purpose would be meaningful to all of our stakeholders, our first step in defining our social purpose was to truly understand the issues facing people and businesses in Canada and how we as a financial cooperative could play a role in addressing barriers.  To better understand the underlying issues affecting financial resilience and well-being across the country, we conducted both primary and secondary research, the learnings from which led us to our social purpose of Building Better Futures Together with a vision to unlock financial opportunities for people and businesses in Canada.   

Creating Social Purpose Ambassadors

From defining our social purpose, to building our social purpose impact plan and embedding our purpose across the organization, stakeholder engagement has been critical.  As a financial cooperative, engaging our members (customers), employees, and local communities was a given, but as we set out to build and deploy our social purpose we also recognized the importance of connecting with others within the ecosystem who would be able to provide unique insights in to our aspirations and the societal issues we are tackling through our purpose.

While we have engaged a multitude of stakeholders throughout this journey, we recognized from the outset the absolutely critical role of our employees in advancing our social purpose and have made it a priority and key focus of our work over the past two years to engage them in a variety of ways to ensure that they support and understand our purpose and can see how they both benefit from and participate in the purpose.  

Coast Capital’s Employee Engagement Plan

To ensure our employees would be active participants in and champions of our shift to a purpose model, we designed an employee engagement plan that focused on three key objectives:

And, to deliver against this plan, we have leveraged a number of employee touchpoints, recognizing the need to adapt our approach for differing needs.

Building in Partnership: engaging employees in the development of our social purpose

To ensure that employees were engaged in the development of our social purpose and other key related initiatives, we connected with them in a variety of ways to hear their insights and experiences.  This included:

  • Employee Interviews/Workshops

At every key phase of our social purpose journey we have invited employees from across the business to participate in 1:1 interviews, workshops, and feedback sessions to hear directly from them on the issues affecting their members, their communities, their families, and themselves.

  • Table Talk Program

As part of the roll out of our five year strategy and our social purpose, we stood up a Table Talk Program which promoted open, facilitated dialogue and conversations with employees across the organization.  These interactive discussions were hosted on a regular cadence to engage employees in group discussions focused on key themes or topics that either impacted or informed our social purpose and provided them the opportunity to share insights and perspectives from their respective areas of the business. 

Deepening Understanding: supporting employees to understand our purpose

The main focus of our employee engagement activities over the past two years has been to drive employee understanding of the purpose economy and of our unique social purpose.  We have done this through a variety of educational engagement opportunities, including:

  • Social Purpose Hub

We launched a Social Purpose Hub on our organizational intranet that serves as a central source to learn about our social purpose.  The hub includes content that educates employees about the purpose economy, our unique social purpose, and our purpose partnerships; a section on research that informs and guides our purpose; a recent news section; and much more.

  • Online Learning Modules

Following the launch of our social purpose we developed a Social Purpose 101 online learning module and assigned this as mandatory training for employees.  Our plan moving forward is to launch a minimum of one online learning module related to our social purpose each year for employees.  

  • Lunch/Morning on Purpose Learning Series

In 2021 we kicked off our Lunch on Purpose Learning series.  Through 2021 and the first half of 2022, this series was hosted monthly as a 45 minute webinar on a select topic related to our social purpose and has now moved to a quarterly session.  The series invites internal and external guests to share insights on a particular topic with sessions recorded and shared on the Social Purpose Hub for employees who could not attend the live session.

  • All Staff Events

Over the past few years Coast Capital has hosted an annual all staff virtual event where employees across the business can learn about key initiatives.  Each year the Social Purpose Office hosts a session at the event with sessions ranging from 30 minutes to an hour.  Topics to date have included unveiling our social purpose, sharing our social purpose impact plan, hosting a panel discussion with a purpose partner, and hosting a session on bringing our purpose to life for members/customers.  These sessions are recorded and made available for employees who are unable to join live or who wish to revisit the content.

  • Internal Articles/Blogs

We regularly share updates, impact stories, and new programs with employees via our intranet site through articles, blogs, and interviews. 

Driving our Purpose: engaging employees to drive purpose across all facets of our business

To encourage our employees to embed purpose in to their day-to-day work, we have leveraged a number of different engagement opportunities and tactics, including:

  • Social Purpose Operating Committee

The Social Purpose Operating Committee, which is made up of key leaders and decision makers from across the business, is responsible for advising, collaborating on, and driving internal and external implementation of Coast Capital’s social purpose. It helps champion social purpose integration across the organization, prioritize initiatives and allocate resources to move our social purpose forward.  This group typically meets monthly and is brought together as needed for in personal planning sessions.

  • Goal Setting

As part of our performance management process, every employee is asked to set a social purpose goal for the year.  To support this process and ensure that all employees can see how social purpose shows up in their work, we launched a goal library which provides examples of social purpose goals and highlights key areas of focus for the year. 

  • “Living Purpose at Work” Video and Meeting Guide

To open up dialogue on embedding social purpose across the organization and living our purpose through every employees’ day-to-day work, we launched a team meeting guide and “Living our Purpose at Work” video in 2022.  The meeting guide is designed to help teams define the role their group plays in advancing our purpose and consider how they can drive impact, with the video serving as inspiration and an opportunity to hear from individuals from a multitude of departments on how they are embracing social purpose in their roles.   

  • Ideas on Purpose Employee Contest

In 2023, to help spark thinking around how we can lean in to our social purpose to address key issues impacting our employees, members, and communities, we launched an Ideas on Purpose employee contest where employees can share their ideas on how we can build better futures, together.

  • Decision Lens

Supporting employees to embed social purpose in to their daily decision making is critical to authentic social purpose delivery. To that end, we have been developing an enterprise decision lens to help employees consider purpose in their day-to-day decisions which we will be launching later this year.

As we have shared above, there are a number of ways to engage employees in the development and delivery of your social purpose.  As we continue to build social purpose in to all phases of the employee lifecycle and further embed our social purpose in all that we do, we continue to evolve our employee engagement plan and connect with employees to understand the topics that are most relevant to them and the best ways to engage them. Continued evolution and willingness to try new things is key to driving an effective employee engagement strategy and creating social purpose champions throughout the organization. 

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