Why not commit to a greater good?
In my last article I talked about the growing need for companies to get socially involved and why this is important. Over the last 20 years, a number of companies, among which well-recognised ones such as Microsoft, Facebook, Uniliever, Starbucks, etc., have started various initiatives and have impacted the lives of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people. They are reducing environmental damage, helping communities in third world countries through education programmes, supporting and encouraging the growth of small businesses.
For a large number of organisations out there, however, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is nothing but another annoying requirement that they need to comply with. Another social expectation that they have to meet in order to be competitive. And for many businesses too, CSR is simply one more tool in their marketing kit. For them social engagement extends no further than having a CSR section on their website and supporting some charity or even just donating money.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with simply donating money or supporting a good cause, even if it is just for the sake of it, this is not what CSR is really about and definitely neither the best way to contribute to society; nor the best way to align your bigger purpose with what you do well. Being genuinely socially engaged is so much more and has an extensive number of positive direct and as well as knock-on effects on communities, the society, the environment and your company too.
These benefits have been discussed by a number of authors, among which business gurus such as Michael Porter as part of his Harvard Business Review articles, talks about the importance of genuine, well-thought and coordinated social efforts and their advantages to both the world and businesses.
It is these benefits that I would like to discuss here, starting with the most obvious ones – the benefits for your team. I’ve spoken before about the importance of staff to your business. It is your people that essentially drive your success, not only through hard work, but through creativity, innovative ideas and commitment. Financial resources are clearly a significant part of business success but if you don’t have talent and commitment behind you, there’s not much that you can achieve.
Genuine engagement in a good cause and making a difference can help tremendously with your talent struggles and here’s why:
To attract talent on your team!
So how do you find and more importantly retain talent? It is a question that I’m sure has kept many HR managers awake at night. Not only because it is challenging to find people with the right education or meet their financial expectations, but because people’s expectations are changing and so are their requirements from a work place.
Today, it is much more than a good salary and a nice boss to work with. According to the What Workers Want report by Net Impact, 45% of employees would take a 15% pay cut for a job that makes a social or environmental impact. Another 51% of workers say that helping ‘make a better world’ and making a ‘contribution to society’ are essential for their ideal job.
Just to confirm these trends among employees, another research conducted by Achieve in 2015 found that good causes that a company supports are the 3rd most important factor in their choice of employer. It is ahead of company’s products and culture!
I know this for a fact as I saw how a friend of mine, an excellent marketing expert, choose a job at IBM over one offered to her by HP simply because of IBM’s Corporate Citizenship programme through which she can do volunteer work and be paid for that. She just likes their social engagement opportunities at IBM even if they pay slightly less.
To develop your employees’ skills!
Engaging in social and environmental programmes is killing two birds (or more!) with one stone. On the one hand, you are doing something good for the Earth and / or people and communities. On the other hand, you get a sort of a free training for your staff.
An article in Stanford’s Social Innovation Review claims that international skill-based volunteering is the new executive training ground. By giving your employees the chance to get involved and act upon causes they are passionate about, you give them a field for polishing their skills. They encounter different issues and deal with new situations that develop their leadership skills, outside-the box thinking, creativity etc. Such real life experiences are proven to be far better than university courses, academic trainings, etc.
Not to mention, the opportunity the face to face encounter between employees and local people from various communities presents in terms of spotting new market trends and understanding better current and future consumer needs. But that’s just a bonus.
To improve company morale and employee loyalty!
As mentioned in the past, I truly believe that we all carry that inner impulse to be a part of something bigger, to make a contribution to the world. I think, and as proven in the above mentioned studies, this need is growing stronger over the last few decades. People just seek to make a difference and when their job, which is such an essential part of their lives, gives them this opportunity I think they tend to be much more committed to their organisation.
In fact, a study by the Society for Human Resources Management shows that employees in companies with strong sustainability programmes have 55% better morale and 38% better employee loyalty. In other words, by strengthening your organisation’s relationship with communities and the society in general, you also strengthen your relationship with your employees.
To improve employee commitment!
This is somewhat related to the previous point, yet I mean it in a different way. From a standpoint of creativity, it is proven that participation in social activities has a positive effect on innovation among employees as well as on team collaboration. As employees engage in non-job related activities they sometimes find solutions to problems that are also relevant to their jobs. Sometimes they are inspired to come up with ideas for new products or services truly beneficial both to a certain community and to the general public. Such bottom-up solutions are known to increase employees’ commitment to the organisation as they see that their ideas and opinions are valued and their work actually makes a real impact on people’s lives.
From a standpoint of pride, as you can imagine everybody would be glad to say that they work in an organisation that does add to a greater good. And if your employees are proud, chances are they are also happy to work at your company.
There’s also of course the benefit of your company’s positive image of an organisation that truly cares about people, but again – that’s just a bonus.
GE’s former CEO John Welch used to say ‘You build the best team, you win’. If you’ve managed to attract good people that have not only the academic background but also intuition, skills and the right attitude, then you are most certainly on the road to success. Giving them the chance to do something meaningful with their lives will not only keep them working for you but will also give you the chance, through your company’s social engagement, to contribute to a greater good and leave a legacy for the generations to come. If there was a leacy you wanted to leave that makes a difference, what would that legacy be? What difference do you think it would make to focus on building a legacy with your business to you and your staff?
If the above article has triggered something inside you that has been a long held passion to do something more with your business, and you would like to discuss it more to see the possibilities, please feel free to contact me.