When was the last time you boasted to friends about the good works your company does in your community? If the answer is never, your organization might be missed out on a new trend attracting talented workers. Many modern job seekers share the value of wanting to promote corporate social responsibility (CSR), and they are focusing on employers who offer meaningful work experiences that include this element. We know this from surveys, like a Harris Poll for Glassdoor which showed that a large majority (75%) of employees expect their employer to support community causes. Having a chance to do good in the world and creating a positive impact seems to be a theme that resonates well with Millennials and Gen Z, two groups who are now represent the largest number of employees. Again and again we hear these generations are searching for meaningful work and having some CSR is a good way to help balance that need. But what exactly is it and how do you get started creating a corporate social responsibility initiative?
How can we define social responsibility?
Being socially responsible means giving back to the communities in which we do business, and making efforts to improve the lives of people in these communities. Sounds simple, right? One great example of corporate social responsibility is the retailer TOMS, which has the social mission of supplying one needy child with a new pair of shoes for every pair that is sold to consumers. CSR can take on main forms from human rights initiatives to environmental impact programs to sustainable development practices but the size and scale of the program is entirely up to the company and it doesn’t have to be huge to make an impact. The key take away is that employees want to feel like they are giving back or part of a larger whole. And it’s not just the employees who gain something from these programs. More and more companies are seeing the benefits from becoming a triple bottomline company, focusing on people, planet, and profit. The welfare of local communities matters and giving back or getting involved can be easier than you think.
Why are employers feeling the need to have CSR and talk about it?
The most transparent answer is that companies are being led by more Millennials and Gen Z workers, and therefore CSR is a push in the right direction. In terms of recruitment, having a platform for promoting social responsibility is a powerful attractant. It can make the difference between a candidate taking a job or moving to another employer who has a CSR program. With technology making the world more interconnected, it’s easy for candidates to research a company before going in for an interview and one of the things many look for now is some sort of evidence of charities being supported or sustainable business practices being implemented. At the end of the day, it’s simply good business to care about the space in which you operate.
What does embracing a social responsibility initiative bring to the workplace and to the corporate brand?
Being involved in socially responsible business practices and community improvement has many benefits for employers and employees alike. First, there is the satisfaction of knowing that the company is giving back through various efforts — like volunteerism, charity fundraising, revitalization projects, and more. Secondly, social responsibility becomes part of the core values of the company, producing a more positive team experience. Lastly, the company brand gets promoted out there in the world and this impact helps to attract candidates who share this value. In a time when a strong employer brand can make or break a job offer, having good CSR gives your brand a real boost.
Setting up a corporate social responsibility program
It’s not difficult to get a corporate social responsibility initiative started. One can simply look around the community for needs. One of the easiest ways is to call The Red Cross and host a blood donation at the company’s location. They do all the heavy lifting with setup and managing the event, and they make things fun for employees. You can offer an incentive to employees who participate such as a free lunch. Or connect with your local boys and girls club and hold a company raffle with all proceeds going to the club.
A good place for locating the best rated and most fiscally responsible charities is Charity Navigator.
Other long-term options include partnering with local charities, like food banks and homeless shelters. Employees can offer to volunteer at soup kitchens, or groups of employees can participate in helping stock shelves. All employees can participate in some way by donating food and clothing during seasonal drives. Bonus points if the company builds “volunteer days” into their benefits so employees can go to good together during the workday once or twice a year. There really are also many many deserving organizations that can use help with volunteers, like animal shelters, nursing homes, and literacy programs — to name a few. You can’t go wrong.
Find out what employees are most interested in via a company survey and choose an organization once a year to invest in. If it’s a good fit, then stick with it and keep employees actively involved. Set up a committee of employees to oversee things such as company fundraising events, raffles, picnics, on-site volunteering and more. Have payroll manage cash donations made by employees and consider automatic payroll deductions as an option. When employees are involved in managing the CSR initiatives, they feel more invested and like they have more of a voice. Plus it’s less for management to worry about and organize. win-win.
What results can you expect once starting a corporate social responsibility program?
It’s important to note that there are many benefits of investing time and resources into corporate responsibility outreach programs. Employees who participate in corporate social responsibility programs tend to get along and relate better to their peers. While employees may spend the greater part of their life working with others, they get to see a new side of their colleagues when they are out of the office volunteering. They also tend to have a greater sense of belonging within the organization because they are part of something bigger. These factors can boost individual and team performance in the workplace, as well as increase employee engagement.
Another interesting benefit of CSR is that employees become more loyal to the organization, and this increases employee retention rates. When employees help others, they grow personally and professionally, as well as having a greater sense of purpose and satisfaction in life. We’ve already mentioned that when companies offer some level of CSR, this is viewed as positive to candidates who are seeking the opportunity to give back to the world.
Being socially responsible as a company is the key to elevating your people to the next level. Get active in the community and experience the numerous benefits it brings.