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Exclusive: How the UN plans to harness employee engagement on a global scale

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The United Nations is turning to the lessons from employee engagement to help it deliver its eight Millennium goals. Wayne Clarke, managing partner of Best Companies Partnership, reports live from the UN in New York.

I arrived in New York for the United Nations/Junior Chamber/Global Compact meeting on Saturday. I had been asked by the Junior Chamber to give a presentation on the power of engagement in helping the United Nations to deliver on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were set out in the year 2000. They are a set of eight specific plans to be delivered by 2015. They include goals like providing better access to education, eradicating deaths from malaria, reducing hunger and poverty and increasing gender equality. Over 1,500 heads of state and CEOs from global businesses (many of them employ over 50,000 people) arrive in NY on Thursday for the UN Global Compact Summit. This entire week is devoted to the UN helping to build better partnerships with business to achieve their goals.

Last night was one of those mind-blowing moments. I attended the opening session, which had followed a tour of the United Nations building. A huge motorcade of US Government officials had pulled up, toting some serious guns. It turns out they were transporting the secretary general of the United Nations Mr Ban Ki Moon who, amazingly, would also turn up at our opening session a few hours later. He made a heartfelt speech to drive home the need for governments, private sector business and international organisations to co-ordinate their efforts for positive global change. We also had a guy called Ted Sorensen speak. He was John F Kennedy’s speech writer and he was amazing. He’s in his 80s and an amazing presenter with some wonderful stories.

It’s not often that we get to share the message of ‘employee engagement’ on such a global stage, and delegates are attending the meeting from every country you can imagine.  I made my speech today and focused on the need for private-sector businesses to use the Millennium Development Goal framework as a catalyst for business to drive CSR effort with greater clarity and focus. I shared our research which demonstrates there is a clear business/commercial case for orchestrating time, people and money in a way that enables positive global change, I also talked about the eight factors of workplace engagement we measure, and unveiled an exclusive piece of research which demonstrates the effect of an engaged workforce on an organisation’s desire to give something back. As an example, 13% of the most engaged organisations donate a set amount of net profit to charity compared with just 2% of the least engaged organisations.

I sat on a panel with a senior adviser to the United Nations for the UN Global Compact and the UN representative for the International Chamber of Commerce. The feedback has been excellent. I have been invited back to speak at the United Nations and I’ve been invited to attend a private reception at the Turkish embassy tonight, again back at the UN.

I have met people from many different countries, both from highly developed and developing economies. And I’ve been truly reminded that we are one big global village, As I'm writing this I was interrupted by a lady who runs a packaging company in Zimbabwe who has invited me there to address business leaders.

On a more sombre note: this experience has opened my mind to the scale of challenges that the world’s poor face, and we can chose to see that as something to cause great despair or something that is of great opportunity. I sat today and saw an independent film on the challenges Malaria presents to sub Sahara Africa. It featured a woman who had lost her baby; it choked me up and I had to get on the phone to my wife. We have a baby daughter who would have survived because I would have access to and could afford the necessary medication. Malaria is still the biggest killer in Africa today.

 We also learned about how villages in China are empowering women, and heard from the vice president of Coca Cola about how they are empowering people and small companies to rise out of poverty across the world. We also heard from a Japanese chemicals company that is using its expertise to provide a coating for anti-malaria bed nets, and then from a guy who is currently advising the Finnish and Swedish governments on a range of challenges.

I felt truly humbled today, and I felt small, so small. Sometimes in my day-to-day life I can fall into the trap of believing that everything before me is everything there is. I have had my blinkers removed; a new world has opened for me in terms of the power of our work – the power of engaging human beings. I need more people to join me on this mental journey. If you are interested in this sort of stuff then let me know and let’s continue talking about it.

The Junior Chamber is an amazing organisation run by an amazing president, Roland Kwemain. It is a voluntary organisation that empowers young global citizens to make positive change and it represents one of the most cost-effective ways I have ever seen to grow your people, especially if you have a tight training budget. The UK president is called Leslie Young, http://www.jciuk.org.uk. Get involved if you can.

I will return to the UK a more enlightened and happier man as England is through to the last 16.