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09 Feb. 2015 | Comments (1)

Last year, The Engagement Institute™, a community of more than 100 members under the supervision of a research team led by The Conference Board, Deloitte and Sirota, published DNA of Engagement: How Organizations Create and Sustain Highly Engaging Cultures. The report examines organizations with highly engaged cultures to identify the common approaches and practices that characterize such high levels of employee engagement.

From these examples, the research team extracted “the genetic code of highly engaging cultures”—eight key elements that define the common orientation and approach used by highly engaged organizations. One of these is “an organizational philosophy that emphasizes a core purpose.”

About a “core purpose”

Among other traits, highly engaged organizations emphasize a core purpose that does not entail mere financial or operational objectives. These organizations create a common understanding among employees that they play a role in creating value for the entire ecosystem involved in the business, including employees, customers, and the community. Their cultures are keenly focused on a greater purpose to which employees aspire; they are diligent in reinforcing the notion that the organization is in business for more than just making a profit.

Teach For America, one of the organizations profiled in the report, exemplifies how a community-related “core purpose” can aid employee engagement and shore up the fundamentals of a nonprofit organization, thereby helping it extend social impact.

Teach For America’s engagement philosophy and the programs and practices that support it can be illustrated by concentric circles. At the center is the mission to bring quality education to children in underserved populations.

This mission is supported by an inner layer of dedicated and engaged leadership and employees, who manage operations, recruitment, and funding at national and regional levels. They engage with the active corps members, who serve as local school district employees, to bring the corps members support, communication, and training as they develop their own culture of engagement.

Finally, the corps alumni epitomize the organization’s sustained culture of engagement as they pursue careers as educators, advocates, policymakers, leaders, and mentors to active corps members.

Teach For America aims to contribute additional leaders to the growing movement to end educational inequity, and executives regularly emphasize the importance of retaining engaged and committed employees, invested leaders, and active community partners. Managers in the organization are tasked with making a clear connection between employees’ daily activities and the greater mission of benefitting children and communities.

So what does this mean for social impact?

In 2008, Teach For America employed 837 people. That number swelled to 2,500 in 2014. With a growing number of employees rallied around a core social purpose, it’s not necessarily just grants but also an engaged workforce that has helped Teach For America reach more people.


This blog originally appeared as part of The Conference Board Giving Thoughts series on 2/03/2015.

View our complete listing of Mission&Purpose@Work and Employee Engagement blogs.

  • About the Author:Rebecca L. Ray, PhD

    Rebecca L. Ray, PhD

    Rebecca Ray is the Executive Vice President, Human Capital, at The Conference Board. She leads the US Human Capital Center and is responsible for member engagement and retention as well as the overall…

    Full Bio | More from Rebecca L. Ray, PhD

  • About the Author:Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson is Principal of Parky Communications, a communications agency specializing in sustainability and CSR reporting and communications. He serves as the Co-Leader of The Conference Board Cor…

    Full Bio | More from Alex Parkinson


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