Talking Point: Moving from transactional to emotional engagement through sport

Deloitte Ride Across Britain campsite. Photo: Threshold Sports

Deloitte Ride Across Britain campsite. Photo: Threshold Sports

As part of our theme on engaging with employees, stakeholders and consumers, we talk to Julian Mack, founder of Threshold Sports, about how a bike ride can tick all the boxes.

Creating so called ‘engagement’ is a tough business. Employee engagement as a term is up there in ugliness alongside ‘ecosystems’ and ‘stakeholders’ but its growing importance is undeniable as the next generation decides to which organizations they’ll devote themselves.

A recent study on so called Millennials (Deloitte, The Millennial Survey, 2012) showed that they are far more interested than their predecessors in what an organization really stands for beyond net profit, how seriously it takes the welfare of its people and what tangible manifestations exist to back up the glossy annual report.

A closer look at the report authors, Deloitte, shows they are leading in a rather surprising way.

The Deloitte Ride Across Britain (RAB) is widely recognised as the UK’s premier long distance cycling event. Every year, the Ride takes a 1,000 cyclists from Lands End to John O’Groats, covering 960 miles in just nine days. Built on the principles of ‘more is in you’, the Ride is all about helping ordinary people to achieve something extraordinary.

It’s not obvious, however, why one of the world’s most respected professional services firms would choose to sponsor RAB.

The answer lies in using the ride to capture a number of ‘emotional engagement’ objectives under one roof. These objectives include sincere promotion of a healthy and balanced lifestyle, fund raising for their nominated charity, unifying their employees in a challenge that takes months of physical preparation, organization and resilience (transferable work attributes) and providing an excuse to get to know clients in a totally different, ‘breathless’ environment – the very opposite of the rather tired, traditional corporate hospitality box.

The results are impressive.

Sense of Purpose

Deloitte employees have raised over £1.4 million for the British Paralympic Association (BPA) with prominent Paralympians like Dame Sarah Storey sweating alongside fellow riders. In itself, a much more engaging way to bring an ambassador relationship to life.

Deloitte RAB’s social contribution isn’t limited to its relationship with the BPA. While Deloitte employees have raised over £1.4 million for the BPA, £1.5 million has been raised by members of the public for charities of their choice (calculations based on VMG data and post-event survey), bringing the total to just over £3 million over 5 years.

Deloitte team completing Ride Across Britain. Photo: Threshold Sports

Deloitte team completing Ride Across Britain. Photo: Threshold Sports

Emotional engagement

Deloitte are not alone in cottoning on to the positive cultural outcomes of unifying people behind a shared endeavour. Vodafone hold an annual ‘calendar moment’ known as the Big Bold Challenge where people from all UK offices choose to take on a challenge ranging from easy, a 10km walk, to harder e.g. cycle 100 miles in a day.  Fund raising is a key element with employees asked to raise a minimum of £100 using JustTextGiving technology.

Employees who participated in the 2013 event scored an average of 13 points higher on the Employee Net Promoter Score, were 16% more likely to endorse Vodafone as a company that supports health and wellbeing, and were 10% more likely to feel pride in working for their local Vodafone Group.

Another primary goal of Deloitte RAB was to engage and motivate Deloitte employees with the chance to achieve something incredible outside of the office. They wanted to help foster a sense of pride in their employees, and to increase their emotional engagement with the brand.

In 2012 a CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) study found that that the second biggest driver of emotional as opposed to transactional engagement in employees was identification with an organizations’ goals, culture and values.

Deloitte RAB was designed to fit into this picture of a company existing for more than just profit. Not simply because it enabled Deloitte to give back to society but because it showcased Deloitte as a company that invested in its employees, that valued personally formative experiences, and that worked as a team to achieve extraordinary results.

If you’d like to find out more about the sort of events Threshold Sports (insert link) create or you have a better term for ‘employee engagement’ please get in touch with  julian.mack@thresholdsports.co.uk 

To find out how hotel companies are engaging with employees, stakeholders and consumers, check out the following Green Hotelier articles. Join our Twitter debate on ‘Engagement’ 30th October 13:30 GMT @Green_Hotelier #GHdebates

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