Looking for more engaged employees? One way to foster engagement at your company is through sustainability, also called corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR goes farther than inviting everyone out for a day with Habitat for Humanity or offering volunteer time off. It means integrating your company’s mission and purpose with sustainable values, and supporting environmental and social goals in ways that connect to your company’s business.
Studies have found that CSR is directly linked to employee retention, productivity, and overall engagement. Companies that engage in socially and environmentally responsible practices are able to recognize these benefits of CSR. A study conducted this month by Harris Poll for Glassdoor found that 75% of employees/job seekers expect their employer to support groups and individuals in need in the communities in which they do business through donations and/or volunteer efforts. And similar data from Deloitte found that 76% of Millennials now regard business as a force for positive social impact. There’s no doubt that when companies help the world, they help themselves.
Getting started or improving upon a CSR program should involve leaders from all areas of a company. While HR-focused CSR initiatives typically involve diversity, benefits, compensation and work environment, it’s helpful to understand how a sustainability program works at a high level. Then you can amplify your CSR programs to help retain and attract talented employees who want to do good in the world as well as on the job. Here are seven steps to consider:
1. Engage Leaders to Improve Corporate Social Responsibility
The most successful sustainability efforts are company-wide and endorsed by leaders from the CEO on down. It’s important that leaders share their passion for sustainability and be visibly involved with company goals such as reducing emissions, eliminating waste or providing for underserved communities. Employees will be motivated and inspired by the example set by company leaders.
2. Identify Your Purpose
If it isn’t crystal clear how your company can become more sustainable or socially responsible in a way that supports your company’s mission and purpose, take a step back and ask a few questions. What are your products? What higher purpose do they serve? What resources does the process of conducting your business use? Consider manufacturing, shipping, warehousing, looking at energy consumption and materials. Also take look at the customer environment. What do customers need to be able to use your products? How do they dispose of them? There might be an opportunity to develop social or educational initiatives that build the customer (or employee) pipeline.
Tip: Read up on sustainability efforts by major corporations, such as those in the Corporate Knights Global 100 List. Research their websites and Glassdoor pages to see how they integrate sustainability into their business goals. Also take a look at how they involve employees.
3. Set Goals for CSR Programs
Specific goals such as “reduce electricity consumption by 30%” or “find two or more ways to reduce materials used in packaging” motivate employees to achieve. If you have multiple locations, consider how you can encourage healthy competition between locations to improve on company-wide sustainability goals.
4. Educate Employees on CSR Activities to Get Engagement
Not everyone will immediately be onboard with sustainability goals. In fact, it can be difficult to get employee engagement from CSR activites. For that reason, it’s important to educate employees on how the goals will benefit the planet or communities. By integrating sustainability into existing training--particularly onboarding-- you’ll set employees up to expect and anticipate involvement in efforts that contribute the greater good.
5. Facilitate Employee Project Ownership
Some of the best ideas for sustainability come directly from employees, as in these examples from Johnson & Johnson. Make it known that good employee ideas will supported, and encourage employees to follow through with projects. The process of piloting a new idea and involving a team to help can be great development opportunity for staff at all levels.
6. Celebrate Achievements in CSR
Many companies publish an annual sustainability report. It’s also important to celebrate the achievements internally, whether it’s through awards or recognition events. Share stories of the energy saved and the lives assisted in meetings, on the intranet, a newsletter, or internal signage. This is what sets the best CSR programs and activities apart.
7. Share the Knowledge
Showing the outside world how your company integrates sustainability into its business practices paves a path for other companies looking to do the same thing. Generating press from your sustainability efforts provides validation for employees and engages candidates, consumers and shareholders.
Tip: Share your sustainability achievements on Glassdoor to attract informed candidates. Post pictures, videos, and maybe even add a tab in your Why Work for Us section that explains your sustainability mission.
These steps to engaging employees in social responsibility just so happen to align with the traits shared by companies on Glassdoor’s 2017 Best Places to Work list. That’s because empowering employees to make a difference in their community can actually give you more satisfied and well-rounded employees, which translates to higher productivity. Whether you organize company-wide community service activities or offer time off to volunteer at the organization of their choice, it will be a worthwhile investment.