Engaging Your Workforce: How United Way Is Collaborating With Local Leaders To Promote Employee Engagement

Written by: United Way of Cass-Clay

United Way of Cass-Clay works every day to harness the power of community across Cass and Clay Counties – resulting in a better tomorrow for everyone. The organization improves lives by activating Resources to solve complex community issues and create lasting social change.

What United Way Does

  • Activate the Community- We have a unique ability to connect partners and resources to solve complex community issues.
  • Invest Strategically- We innovate the way people, organizations and systems work together to solve the most pressing complex problems in our community through our Bold Goals to reduce hunger and homelessenss, prepare children to succeed, help people be independent and ultimately lift families out of poverty.
  • Empower Volunteers-We rally a community of change-makers to build connections, develop talents and make a meaningful difference.
  • Practice Stewardship- We ensure resources entrusted to us are invested efficiently and responsibly, with a focus on results. Ignite Social Innovation-We inspire the community to invest in everyone’s tomorrow.

That’s the Power of Community. Realized.

United Way of Cass-Clay identifies the biggest challenges in our community, brings people together to develop solutions and rallies the community to provide the resources needed to create change. But don’t just take our word for it. We sat down with four community pillars to learn more about the power of community

Homelessness is one of the biggest challenges our community faces, and with your help, United Way is working to solve this challenge.

  • On any given night here in our local community, 1,022 people are homeless.
  • Of the individuals who are homeless in our community, 23 percent are children.
  • Two out of five people who are homeless have a chronic health condition.
  • United Way is rallying the community to provide the resources to invest in Housing Stability Specialists which will focus on preventing homelessness for 90 percent of children and families by 2023.
engaging your workforce-United Way

Facts about Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND):

  • #1 Most Engaged Workplace on the 2019 United Way Top 25 Most Engaged Workplaces list
  • #8 on the 2019 United Way Top 50 Most Generous Workplaces
  • Winner of the 2019 United Way LIVE UNITED Leader of the Year Award
  • Over 336 employees made an investment in United Way during their campaign last year with over 55 serving as
  • Emerging Leaders and Leaders in Giving
  • BCBSND Emerging Leaders are actively taking part in the volunteering, networking and skill-building events throughout the year
  • BCBSND hosted two Eat United Food Truck Feed events in 2019 where hundreds of community members came together to support United Way
  • The BCBSND and Marvin United Way 5K event engage more than 100 runners and raised over $2,700; employees families and friends enjoyed a morning filled with energy, enthusiasm, and good company

Q & A With Dan Conrad, President & CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota

engaging your workforce-Dan Conrad

How has United Way played a role in developing your workplace culture?

Our partnership with United Way has provided an amazing avenue for our team to get outside of our walls and volunteer in the communities we serve. United Way has helped us see our communities through a new perspective, learn about the community issues that impact our daily lives and the health of our customers, and then gives us ways to take action to create change in our communities.

How has prioritizing giving back to the community impacted your ability to recruit and retain/engage your employees?

One of the number one issues we’re all facing as businesses, is finding talented employees and then keeping them—workforce development and hiring are at the forefront and on the minds of so many of us as leaders. United Way gives us a way to attract the kind of workforce that we need at our company. When potential employees see photos of our employees giving back, having fun while helping people, getting to go out and about in the community at United Way events, it signals to them that our company values volunteerism, that our company doesn’t just “talk the talk” we “walk the walk” when it comes to giving employees opportunities to serve their community.

You were recently named the #1 Most Engaged Workplace on United Way’s Top 50 Most Engaged Workplaces list—how does this benefit your company/what does this mean to you?

I think it signals to our current and prospective employees that we care about the communities we live in and the members we serve. As an integral part of our community, we’re proud to be able to do our part.

What is one tip you would share with other business leaders about how to engage employees within their community?

One factor that has made volunteerism and community engagement such an enduring part of our culture is that it grew from within our team, as opposed to being a leadership-driven initiative. We empowered our employees to take the lead and our “BlueSquad” committee has done an amazing job. United Way has been a terrific partner for those employee-led efforts and provides so much support and guidance to our teams in how to impactfully give back.

Q & A With Matt Leiseth, President of Hornbacher’s

engaging your workforce-Matt Leiseth

Facts about Hornbacher’s:

  • #10 on the 2019 United Way Top 50 Most Generous Workplaces
  • Coordinated the Hornbacher’s Gobble It Up for United Way lunch event for the past 13 years which has raised nearly $300,000 for United Way
  • Matt serves as a Volunteer Board of Trustees Member at United Way of Cass-Clay

How did employee morale and culture play a role in your experience these last few months throughout the challenges of the pandemic?

When faced with a crisis like our current pandemic, employee morale will naturally be strained. Culture made all the difference. The teams have always supported each other through holidays, blizzards, floods, and family emergencies. They continue to support each other to make sure the work gets done here and they can take care of family at home.

As a business leader, you see how today’s students are tomorrow’s potential employees. What can we do to support students, so they are able to take the jobs we need to fill someday?

Many students are today’s employees! Knowing some students need to work to help support the family magnifies the work of United Way. Ensuring we provide access to learning through the United Way School Supply Drive is important to our workforce and our community. For example, this year United Way made sure that more than 6,000 students had a backpack and school supplies to start school this year—despite the pandemic, United Way made this happen for students and also helped ease the burden for parents who are in need and struggling to make ends meet. As employers, this impacts us all. Kids are ready for school and parents have the support they need.

It has been said that events like “Hornbacher’s Gobble It Up for United Way $5 Lunch are “more than turkey sandwiches”—why is taking the time to involve your employees in this event important to your business?

We are blessed in the Fargo-Moorhead community to have many businesses leading the way, but this is not enough. We all must come together as individuals giving our time, talent and treasure for the good of all. When we all share in the success of others, that is when we will win. Each year, our employees look forward to United Way events and I can see the passion they have for making the events successful.

I see our Store Directors rally our employees, and I see our employees truly enjoying the chance to be a part of something that is bigger than our store, and our company. That excitement carries over into how they do their job every day and makes me proud of our employees.

Grocery stores are an essential business that impact all of us, regardless of business sector, income, age, race, etc. – what have you learned about the community working in this sector?

The grocery store may be one of the last great melting pots in the United States. No matter where you were born, the neighborhood you live in or who you voted for, we all come together when we shop.

Q & A With Chris Barta, Senior Director of Operations Marvin

Facts about Marvin:

  • Marvin was just named to the 2020 Top 50 Best Places to Work
  • #8 Most Engaged Workplace on the United Way Top 25 Most Engaged Workplaces list
  • #14 on the 2019 United Way Top 50 Most Generous Workplaces
  • Chris serves as the 2020 United Way Volunteer Campaign Chair

Marvin was just named to the 2020 Top 50 Best Places to Work – how has your partnership with United Way impacted this?

Marvin is proud to be a part of the Top 50 Best Places to work and we know that one of the factors of being a great place to work is the opportunity to give back to your community.

Our partnership with United Way gives our employees so many opportunities to give back, volunteer, and learn about the needs that exist in our community. United Way events give employees a chance to connect with one another and be engaged with their community, and those are all factors as to how employees feel about their work and their workplace. United Way helps us to create a great place to work, and is an integral partner for us.

As the 2020 Campaign Chair, what is one thing you have learned about our community that many others may not know?

Until I started working with the United Way in my role as Volunteer Campaign Chair, I had no idea about the number of students who are homeless in our community.

If I were to poll Fargo INC readers, I wonder how many of you would say that you were aware that there are actually full-time staff members for Fargo Public Schools who are “Homeless Liaisons” and their roles are designed to help students who are homeless.

We know this has been a challenging year for business leaders and employees—how can giving back play a role?

I like to talk about this being a challenge and an opportunity. None of us in our lifetime have seen anything like the pandemic. It is changing us. Our jobs. Our routines. Our families. Our social habits. Our days look dramatically different than what they looked like even a few months ago. In this time of change, I see people simplifying. I see people caring for one another. I see people identifying what is most important. I see people going above and beyond.

Q & A With Kristi Huber, President & CEO of United Way of Cass-Clay

engaging your workforce-Kristi Huber

What is one piece of insight/advice you could share about how businesses can boost morale during these challenging times for our community?

Today more than ever, companies are recognizing how important it is for employees to feel connected not only to their employers but also to their teammates. We have heard from many companies this fall how their United Way campaigns successfully bolstered the morale of their employees because of the fun, virtual events they were able to host even though the workforce was remote. From online games of Bingo, to company versus company challenges, to inviting local celebrity Myles Montplaisir, “You Betcha Guy” to help rally the attention and spirits of team members and highlight the importance of supporting the elevated community needs during the pandemic. In times like these, we know that time and focus are some of our greatest assets. However, when companies invest time and focus on creating events and opportunities for team members to connect and give back, the return on investment greatly impacts the company culture, employee morale and overall health of your company.

What research exists that points toward the benefits of giving back and volunteerism?

Much of the most recent research has focused on how leaders can most effectively build resiliency within their organizations and best position their teams for waves of change that continue to impact their companies. Trust is one of the key factors in building resiliency as well as employee confidence and customer loyalty. According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer’s May report, 38 percent of global respondents believe that business is “doing well or very well” at putting people before profits and that just 51 percent of millennials believe that business is a force for good. Statistics like this highlight how important it is for companies to differentiate themselves by actively supporting the community by giving back, making it convenient for their employees to give through an ongoing payroll deduction as well encouraging teams or departments to participate in engagement opportunities together like packing backpacks for the United Way School Supply Drive. As companies look to recruit their up-and coming leaders, the millennial workforce will continue to look to align their talent with organizations that prioritize social impact as well as bottom-line success.

Why is it important for business leaders to collaborate with organizations like United Way?

I feel fortunate to be able to collaborate with some of our community’s most talented leaders. It is one of my favorite aspects of my role with United Way. I’m grateful for the valuable perspectives that I gain from each and every conversation and project that we work on together. I believe the same thing can be said for community leaders that take time to work with United Way and other nonprofits. They gain a deeper connection to the community and unique challenges that they might not have been aware of. Leaders that connected to their community are also more in tune with their workforce and we all know that a company’s strength greatly depends on their team. Lastly, I know that leaders who collaborate with organizations like the United Way have a lot more fun! When leaders take the time to volunteer and immerse themselves in the community, this creates more moments to relate and connect with employees, and opportunities to have a shared experience with employees from all levels in the company creating cohesiveness and shared understanding. Our team works very hard to inspire others with creativity while at the same time we work to provide meaningful volunteer experiences. This summer we had several CEOs working with us to fill and distribute backpacks for our School Supply Drive. Each leader commented on what an incredible experience it was to be able to help prepare our community’s kids for success.

To learn more, visit unitedwaycassclay.org

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