Finding purpose through Employee Engagement: how a few employees hacked their way into making an impact for global entrepreneurs

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Discover how a few employees from BMW created a bridge between their organization and changemakers around the world to help them tackle problems that truly matter... all while reconnecting with their own purpose and engaging even more employees with BMW in over 10 countries.
employee engagement

Incorporating purpose is not only a matter of increasing profit and staying market competitive anymore, but a matter of hiring and retaining good talent. 

Today 90% of executives recognize the importance of having “an aspirational reason for being which inspires and provides a call to action for an organization…and provides benefit to society,” according to an EY / Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey.

Employees with a Purpose

We understand the importance of having purpose beyond the balance sheet but if we are being completely honest, change in big organizations must start from the inside to really stick and that’s how BMW’s Employee Engagement Program started… with a few intrapreneurs who wanted to contribute with a positive impact in the wider world. 

It was a lovely day in Bogota back in 2017 where a few BMW employees attended the famous summit for young leaders from all over the world, One Young World, with the aim of tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as poverty alleviation, climate change, and access to education.

In attendance at the Summit are prominent global figures and members of the international community, including the Kofi Annan, Tawakkol Karman, Salil Shetty and Professor Muhammad Yunus, all critical thinkers and agents of change. 

Inspired by social entrepreneurship and surrounded by people doing and promoting business for good, BMW employees met the ChangemakerXchange (CXC) community, another key player of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, a community providing a safe and empowering space for young changemakers that fosters profound and lasting connections, nurtures wellbeing, and enables peer-learning and meaningful collaborations.

BMW Employees returned to their headquarters having re-connected with their purpose and thinking that within their organization there were many more people filled with talent, amazing skills and that naturally wanted to do good in the world. The question was: 

How can we activate their talents and foster a culture of positive change and intrapreneurship?

How was the BMW Employee Engagement program built?

Good thing, we’ve always been close allies with ChangemakerXchange so they added us to the mix and we became the bridge between BMW Employees and global changemakers. BMW formed a team of employees from Germany, U.S.A and France that had a shared interest in making things happen, they treated the program itself as an intrapreneurship activity and with all hands on deck we started co-creating our perfect Employee Engagement Program to support social entrepreneurs in the development of their purpose-driven businesses.  

Along with ChangemakerXchange and Bridge for Billions, BMW wanted to create and run an entrepreneurship program for global changemakers while leveraging the skills & expertise of top BMW employees. 

The goals of the program were to give social entrepreneurs from the global ChangemakerXchange community a chance to get quality mentorship, to allow both mentors and entrepreneurs to develop new innovation skills and a more agile mindset, to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and a systems mindset. 

In the first edition of the program, 10 BMW employees mentored 10 entrepreneurs following the Bridge for Billions structured online program. The mentor-entrepreneur teams not only got all of our remote collaboration benefits like a shared online workspace, the ability to leave comments on the business tools, and a private video room, we also organized specialized calls for the mentors and entrepreneurs with tailored content for each. 

We ran an initial mentors training call for the BMW mentors, weekly group check-ins throughout the 3 months, and a closing session, all of which allowed the BMW employees to get to know new coworkers of theirs from around the world. Both entrepreneurs and mentors work together while being guided by the online activities and with regular check-ins from Bridge for Billions and CXC to ensure that the experience was smooth, efficient, and productive. 

What did BMW Employees think of the program?

“Bridge for Billions should be the backbone of any mentoring program. Without the well-structured platform and its guiding role, the program would not have been a success! What differs Bridge from any other program is the human aspect; the support received from Bridge staff throughout the program was outstanding.”
employee engagement
Jonas Nipkow
ChangemakerXchange Program Manager
“Using Bridge for Billions was very important; the program would not have been successful without it.… It makes sure both the mentor and the mentee get the best out of the program and the final result is a ready to use business case.”
employee engagement
George Bogey, Mentor for A Cry for Help
BMW Group, Marketing Service Specialist

What were the program challenges? 

As many organizations, BMW had the question of what would costs look like for a program with the intent of global reach. In-person mentoring and entrepreneurship programs add up quickly due to the dispersed network of people involved, event and transportation costs, and all of the required planning.

At the same time BMW was facing other questions like:

1. What core methodology would the participants follow? 

2. How would they make sure their employees were trained for the task and had the right tools to be the best mentors possible? 

3. How would they coordinate meaningful collaboration across many countries?

When it came to creating a program that guides employees to become mentors, BMW knew that we had all of the right tools already in place. Our entrepreneurship mentoring process fit perfectly with busy schedules and the easy-to-use online platform eliminated physical constraints and time limitations for this international group.

What were the results of the program?

Not only mentors were able to further develop their leadership and management abilities and take pride in their work by giving back in a meaningful way but founders got access to a step-by-step structure, support and personalised mentorship from talented employees at BMW and a sense of belonging into a community of like-minded people as they developed their social impact startups. Here are a few of the founders who went through the program:

employee engagement
Gloria Hortence Muyziere, Founder of African Pregnant Women, providing information to pregnant women in rural areas regarding their health in Rwanda
employee engagement
Akira Sakano, Founder of Zero Waste Academy, working on waste reduction in Japan
employee engagement
Pritish Bhavnani, founder of “A cry for help”, reducing mental health issues among teenagers in India

Mentors stated that with the guidance of Bridge for Billions they gained more confidence in their work and took pride in the company they work for while learning how to become more flexible and open-minded. Meanwhile, the entrepreneurs were able to develop a business plan and new skills that they could use to improve their business idea. Thanks to the volunteer mentors, they developed the confidence and structure needed to move their ventures forward.

"Just completed the program! New tools for my toolbox! I wouldn't have done this without my superhero and mentor from BMW Marcus Leser. Give this man at least a medal!”
employee engagement
Constantina Tsiplakis
Founder of Mangfold Forlag
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Different sectors of innovation

If you’re an organization with amazing talent and you’re looking to increase your brand value, foster a culture of change from within, increase employee engagement, retention morale and/or productivity, attract new hires, create new relationships within your community or develop specific skills in your team or you’re an employee who wants to promote change from within, this is a clear example of how a few committed employees can ignite change. In both cases you can contact us below to create your new Employee Engagement Program in less than a month.

Nadia Gómez

Nadia Gómez

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