Truly effective employee engagement requires innovative thinking. active listening and an instinctual understanding of what your employees want and need. Take nutrition, for instance. Everyone wants to eat healthy, but those working nine to five and beyond often don’t have the time or energy to prepare healthy meals. Management at Aprilaire, a Madison-based company, recognized this challenge and offered their employees shares in Burr Oak Gardens, a community-supported agriculture project based in Rio.
Aprilaire has joined a long list of companies that now offer CSA’s to their workers. Human resource managers at these firms recognize that unhealthy employees are a financial drain on the company. According to a white paper produced by the investment firm Manning and Napier, employing unhealthy workers costs American firms $576 Billion last year. This cost includes wage replacement (sick time), long-term disability, short-term disability, health insurance, pharmacy, and lost productivity.
What is Community-Supported Agriculture?
A CSA is exactly what it sounds like, an agricultural effort supported by a community. In the case of Burr Oak Farms, the CSA that Aprilaire uses for employee engagement, those who purchased shares did so at the beginning of the growing season, sharing in the risk. At Harvest time, shareholders reap the rewards in the form of fresh produce delivered to their office. In this case, fifty-two employees are signed up. Produce delivery day is a festive occasion at Aprilaire including HR sponsored cooking lessons on how to cook your new produce.
Of course, Wisconsin isn’t the only place you’ll find CSA’s in the United States. In New York, world-famous Goldman Sachs sponsors a CSA for their employees. Danielle Natoli, a vice-president at Goldman, related in a recent Wall Street Journal article that she has now added Kale to her daily smoothies as a result of the CSA program in her workplace. “You can hardly taste it,” she confides.
Employee Engagement Benefits of CSA’s
According to Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup, “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” An introvert who took over a struggling company in 2001, Conant developed a leadership program and emphasized employee engagement as a key element in redefining what at the time he described as a “toxic” work environment. During his ten-year term as CEO, he personally wrote over 30,000 notes to employees commending them on jobs well done.
Conant also recognized the value of reducing Campbell’s carbon footprint by investing in solar energy, environmentally friendly farming, and employee CSA programs. Recognized as one of the “Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles” by the National Business Group, Campbell’s employee engagement rate is estimated at 17:1 (engaged to unengaged), significantly higher than Gallup’s “world-class” standard of 12:1. For their stockholders, that has translated into a 64% return in the past decade. Obviously, healthy employees are productive employees.
Health Benefits of Community Supported Agriculture
According to nutritionist Dr. Lisa Young, in an article published in the Huffington Post, “Veggies and fruits (both fresh and frozen) are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, which have been shown to protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.” In other words, bringing fresh produce into your office by way of a CSA is more than just employee engagement. It’s potentially prolonging the life span of those who work for you.
Fruits and vegetables are healthy. There’s no other way to express this other than in those few words. Community supported agriculture brings fresh vegetables and fruits into the workplace in a way that’s fun and nutritious for all of your employees. Think about it as an employee engagement exercise. Implement it because you care about the health of the men and women you work with.
What does your workplace do to improve employee wellness? Would CSA’s work well for your business?
For more creative ways to encourage employee engagement, you’ll enjoy our FREE eBook, “The Ultimate Guide to Employee Gift-Giving” below:
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