Influencing Employee Engagement, Fulfillment and Purpose through Professional Extracurriculars

By:   |   Updated: 2023-08-25   |   Comments   |   Related: More > Professional Development Management


Truly identifying what motivates us and our teams and then taking steps to encourage tasks that align with those motivators, positively impacts our productivity, performance, relationships and culture, overall personal and professional satisfaction, and retention. Coming up with ideas to influence fulfillment and purpose is easier said than done, especially with major time constraints.

An earlier tip outlined seven ideas for Influencing Employee Fulfillment, Engagement and Performance through Purpose in the day-to-day responsibilities and project/s. In this Part 2 follow-up of that tip, we focus on additional ways to drive fulfillment and purpose in your employees through professional, extracurricular activities.


One of our favorite shared mentalities and life formulas to live by is the 80:20 rule. When you think about different things in life and work, you can see the 80:20 rule reflected everywhere. Innovative companies, and smart employee-centric managers, recognize that applying the 80:20, or even the 90:10, mentality in the workplace around responsibilities can do wonders to increase employee fulfillment, help employees develop skills and new workplace friendships, and even benefit the team, company, customer, and/or community in new ways! It's a win: win. A win for the employee. A win for the company. A win for everyone.

First, what do we mean as we encourage you to determine how to apply the 80:20 or 90:10 responsibility breakdown for your team and organization? It's breaking down a job description or responsibilities where 80 to 90% of the time is allocated to core functions needed by that role and then allotting 10 to 20% of the time, especially for more tenured employees, to include extracurricular type responsibilities and learning opportunities that they have a choice in. Providing that 10-20% allows employees to fulfill their purpose in a different way, fueling their overall performance and productivity across their entire workload!

Second, what specific professional "extracurriculars" should you and your team consider? Here are four ideas:


One of our Vice Presidents says, "If you want your team to thrive and grow, give them something meaningful to own that they are passionate about!" Most of our teams/groups have active committees with clear SMART goals for each. Here are some of the best practices we've found around committees:

Why are Encouraging Active Committees Important and Beneficial?

There are many benefits of having a committee strategy for your team and encouraging individuals to join! The main four we've seen include:

  1. Gives team members a "break from the grind" or variety and contributes to something different than their day-to-day.
  2. Helps foster relationships with team members they may only work with occasionally and strengthen connections over common interests.
  3. Fun and rewarding.
  4. Enables learning and building new or different skills.

What are Some Common Committees?

A few of our staples, i.e., most common committees, include:

  • Welcoming (focus on New Employee Orientation Experience)
  • Training and Development (plan a quarterly collaborative training session focused on both skills needed for the job and soft/human skills)
  • Philanthropy (plan 1-2+ hour quarterly #ApexGivesBack volunteer event and share company philanthropy updates/campaigns)
  • Teambuilding (plan quarterly teambuilding events and come up with ideas for fun, quick icebreakers for team meetings)
  • Recognition (responsible for celebrating major achievements, birthdays, anniversaries, life events, etc.)
  • DEI (plan a quarterly DEI event, share resources, and share company DEI ERG events)
  • Networking/Community (share tech Meetups, Conferences, etc.)
  • Innovation (keep a pulse on relevant trends and share relevant podcasts/articles with the team).

Who is on a Committee?

We encourage employees to join once they've hit the 6-12 months of tenure, are done with initial training, and have gotten their feet under them. During a 1on1 in their 6th month, their manager will review all the committees and what they do and determine compatible committees based on the employee's interests.

When and where? Committee members are encouraged to meet once a month for 30 minutes. In a monthly office/team meeting, a representative from each committee gives a 2-3 minute update debriefing previous initiatives/events, sharing company news/events, giving an update on what's coming and/or asking for feedback and addressing team questions/ideas.

Skills-based Volunteerism

I still remember the first team volunteer event I organized, where eight of us went to the Ronald McDonald House, made dinner for the families and hosted an activity night (Bingo!). One team member commented, "That was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done." Another commented, "I didn't realize I could have so much fun volunteering." The impact on us as individuals was huge, and as a team. We talked about it for days and decided to make it a regular thing, volunteering there once a quarter by making breakfasts or dinners, doing different activity hours, organizing Drives to support their Wishlist, and even helping with spring cleaning at the House.

Nothing amplifies purpose quite like seeing your direct impact helping someone in need. There are hundreds of studies about the benefits of giving back as an individual and other studies around the effects of team volunteerism. The biggest challenge we've heard about why teams don't volunteer more is not knowing where to start. Here are our favorite ideas for tech professionals:

  • Local STEM development program or data/coding school with anything from being a guest speaker to hosting them for a facility tour and employee 'Meet n Greets' or resume reviews/mock interviews to career showcase (i.e., where different team members explain their tech career journey, including which role they started in, how they progressed, and what they learned along the way).
  • Plan a volunteer teambuilding such as helping at Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, Hope Lodge, Ronald McDonald House, etc.
  • Identify a nonprofit to help with a tech project. Odds are that someone in your group/team is involved in a nonprofit. I'd also wager that one of those nonprofit organizations desperately needs technology help, such as getting set up with Power BI Dashboards or updates to their website.
  • Find a local civic technology group or initiative/event, such as a charity or college hackathon, and get your team signed up.

Provide Upskilling/Growth Opportunities

According to a 2022 study by SHRM, the Society of Human Resource Management, "48% of employees shared that training was a factor in choosing their current company, and 76% said they were more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training." Training is more than a "nice-to-have," especially within technology companies or teams. Training done right can help with recruitment, performance, team morale and culture, and retention.

How Do We Support the Upskilling and Knowledge Sharing of Our Teams?

Have a Dedicated T&D Committee.  Maybe I'm lucky, but in my 12 years of management, I haven't had one team member who wasn't passionate about continuous development. Most of our teams likely have several people who are learning in their spare or personal time and would enjoy the opportunity to shape a professional development opportunity for their team.

Collaborative Team Development Opportunities.  One of our favorite leadership thought leaders, Simon Sinek, did a poll on LinkedIn and asked, "How does your team learn best together?" 68% of individuals chose "Live, interactive workshops." Whether it's a monthly or quarterly 'Lunch n' Learn' or 'Coffee Chat,' this is an easy suggestion to task your T&D committee with facilitating.

Reimbursement for School, Certifications, or Conferences. I once had a Developer accept a job with a company because they offered each employee an MSDN license. One of the biggest perks of working at another company was that each employee got $10,000 a year in tuition reimbursement that could also be used towards certifications. At our company, each employee has an allotment of money to attend conferences. With such a variety of ways people like to learn, we support having a training budget that can be used across all those learning avenues, whether it be school, certifications, training providers, conferences, association subscriptions, etc.

Highlight/Share Training Resources.  In a recent team meeting, we had each of our 12 team members share their favorite company training resource/program/offering and their favorite webinar topic from the year so far. Another one of our managers takes 10 minutes to review our company T&D intranet page once a year with her team, pointing out programs they should know about. Another manager recently invited someone from our T&D team to share "fan favorite" training programs, resources, and specific relevant channels inside our main on-demand training provider.

Help Team Prioritize.  Allot time for personal upskilling and encourage team members to use it. Our head of Human Resources oversees our T&D group and always urges each employee to invest two hours a month in continuous development, so we've adopted that mindset for our teams. To help team members prioritize, we discuss in a monthly 1on1 what they've recently learned, what they're learning next, and when they've blocked time.

Host Meetup/Tech Events at your Venue.  How do you make training easier for your teams? Two ideas are to block time for team learning and/or have the team attend a conference together. You could also host a group that plans development opportunities for the community. As a Meetup Group organizer who is frequently in contact with other tech group organizers, one of our most significant needs is always meeting space. Do you have space in your organization that could host 20-40+ people even once a quarter or twice a year? Offer your space to the group, then share the details of any events they host with your team. A new tech group recently started in my city, and two senior technology managers wanted to offer more development opportunities for their tech teams. They take turns hosting their Meetup at their company and then send invite/s to their whole teams for the day/s they're hosting, encouraging employees to go.

Other Side Projects or Pilots

Currently, I'm running a pilot program with 10 of our recruiters across the United States, which is a marketing/branding initiative that will eventually be made available to all 700 of our recruiters. When I explained the initiative to one of our Senior Recruiters, she responded, "I'm just so honored that I would be asked to help with something like this! Thank you so much for even thinking of me!" That's a common sentiment when individuals are asked to help shape something new or help improve an existing process/product. It makes people feel special, and we want our people to feel special.

Reflect periodically on "what else is currently happening within our group or company that would be appropriate and advantageous to invite any of my team members to be a part of and contribute to?" Could they:

  • Evaluate a new tool/version/product?
  • Help shape a new program?
  • Improve a current process/program?
  • Join a company-wide steering committee?
  • Participate in any other pilot, audit, etc.?
  • Contribute to UAT/testing of a different product or solution? Or collaborate with the training department or a different team to educate them on various topics or best practices?
Next Steps

Is driving employee engagement, fulfillment, or satisfaction a goal within your team? Could your team operate by the 80:20 or 90:10 rule, allowing individuals to contribute and feel fulfilled in different ways?

Our hope and goal for you is to take at least one idea back to consider in one of the above four categories over the next three months and give your team a chance to do more than their job description!

Do you want more ideas for philanthropy/volunteerism? Check out this earlier tip: 13 Ideas for Driving Employee Volunteerism!

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Erica Woods Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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Article Last Updated: 2023-08-25

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