Home is where the heart is. For a growing number of people, especially Millennials, this proverb holds true on the job. Work is where the heart is if we’re truly engaged with our jobs and employers. One of the touchpoints for the hypermobile Millennial generation is a desire to work in an environment where similar values are shared and being true to one’s self is supported. Otherwise, it’s on to wherever there’s a deeper feel-good connection. Take note: the perception of organizations engaged in social, environmental or philanthropic endeavors is a commitment to the betterment of others. By extension, a strong and caring Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) image, or lack thereof, becomes an influential factor in an organization’s ability to attract, maintain and engage employees.
Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), a Canadian consumer cooperative selling outdoor recreational gear and clothing is an excellent case in point. The author of a corporate social responsibility article for Monster.ca writes about how MEC’s efforts -better the world, engage employees and boost profits. The article points to how the organization’s CSR initiatives work to improve the human condition in factories through ethical sourcing and reduce the co-op’s ecological footprint by focusing on product sustainability. One percent of all sales are donated to support environmental causes. And a diversity policy formally spells out a continuing commitment to an open workplace for all people, based on fair and equitable treatment. “Our brand and products appeal to those who are actively involved in outdoor pursuits. As a result, applicants to jobs at MEC tend to be people who appreciate nature. Based on this, many of our external Corporate Social Responsibility efforts focus on maintaining or improving the environment,” explains CEO, David Labistour. “By catering to the needs of our applicants and employees in these ways, we become an employer of choice and they’re proud to be associated with our company.” ¹
MEC is clearly on to something. Surveys and academic studies provide additional mounds of evidence that CSR activities positively influence attitude and behavior and shape an employee’s overall sense of identity with and connection to their workplace. A global survey of 1.6 million employees found those with a favorable view of their organization’s CSR commitments were also positive about:
- senior management’s integrity
- senior management’s sense of direction
- the organization’s competitiveness in the marketplace
- the organization’s interest in employees’ well-being
- their engagement or pride in their organization. ²
Research conducted by Cone Millennial Cause Group found that 80% of a sample of 1,800 13-25 year-olds wanted to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. More than half said they would refuse to work for an irresponsible corporation. ³ That’s reason enough to take your CSR seriously.
Granted, Not-for-Profit organizations may have a leg up on others by virtue of the niche they fill, be it health or social services, human rights, literacy, hunger or the welfare of planet earth; the affinity between employees and their not-for-profit employers (like MEC’s allure to the outdoorsy type), is a given. Where the challenge comes in for all organizations, profit oriented or not, is making sure your organization walks the talk. It’s one thing to espouse environmental stewardship and then to turn a blind eye to internal recycling measures or external procurement policies. Not good.
What IS good is to weave Corporate Social Responsibility throughout the fabric of your organization with authenticity and commitment.
It’s probably fair to say the places where an individual’s heart affections lie – their “home” – is found in places and things like family and friends, hobbies, cultural heritage, spiritual beliefs and special interests. When employees can reveal a bigger piece of the person they are, and feel safe and supported doing so, the heart connection to their work follows.
- Engage and empower employees in the CSR process
- Find out what issues resonate
- Ask what you can do individually and collectively to make a meaningful difference; invite suggestions
- Form and maintain a CSR task force with representation from various levels and departments
- Establish special interest teams and community outreach groups, also from different levels and departments
- Encourage and support volunteering
- if possible (and required) make provisions for volunteering during work hours
- pay close attention to the CSR value of organization-supported volunteering
- acknowledge the skills employees pick up along the way and bring back to their jobs
- If you have the means, connect employees, especially emerging top talent, to international CSR opportunities, most especially in developing nations, where cultural differences and different ways of approaching and doing things can lead to R&D innovations and strategic shifts in thinking; or make provisions for an extended leave of absence for those pursuing a voluntouring experience on their own
- Ask for feedback
- During staff meetings
- Through employee Pulse surveys
- What does your employee population really think about your CSR?
- Where can improvements happen?
As Towers Perrin stated, based on the results of its Global Workforce Study and assessment of the need for companies to embrace CSR: “… one thing is increasingly clear. It’s not a choice any longer. Your employees expect it, and your company needs it … it is in fact linked to how well your employees perform. In other words, CSR extends to the bottom line.”