4 ways CSR enhances staff engagement

An organization’s commitment to doing and promoting philanthropy grows ever more vital as millennials make their way into the workforce. Bolster your altruistic culture with these tips.

Social responsibility is increasingly important for every business.

Four out of five (79 percent) graduates today consider a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments when deciding where to work, according to a recent Cone Communications study.

Once they arrive on the job, they want to be involved in doing good from the start. CECP’s 2016 Giving in Numbers study states, “Employee volunteer participation rate with their company’s community efforts continued to rise to 33% in 2015 from 28% in 2013.”

Businesses know that investing in good works is crucial to attract and retain top talent, and most business leaders expect this trend to increase. Organizations of all shapes and sizes are embedding CSR into their operations, aligning business with purpose.

Mark Shamley, CEO of the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals (ACCP), said: “I expect that CSR will become even more entrenched throughout companies. Rather than having CSR sit off to the side, more and more companies are weaving CSR into their operations.”

There’s a difference between paying lip service and engaging in meaningful corporate citizenship; employees catch on quickly when efforts aren’t authentic or geared to their needs.

How can you engage in CSR in ways that are empowering for and personalized to your employees? Here are examples drawn from corporate philanthropy programs of all shapes and sizes:

1. Let staffers volunteer on the clock.

If you let employees volunteer during work hours, it shows that you respect their time and will invest in promoting good works in the communities your company serves.

A leading retail mortgage lender gives every team member eight hours of paid volunteer time a year to explore local nonprofits and find ways to make a difference in the community. This commitment to CSR pays dividends for the lender, as more than half of its employees are millennials.

Fortune put the lender on its list of 100 best places to work for millennials, and 98 percent of young employees say, “I feel good about the ways we contribute to the community.”

2. Identify your causes.

People want to make a difference in the causes closest to their hearts. Having a single companywide beneficiary won’t please all employees; letting them choose makes all the difference.

JetBlue honored its crewmembers’ altruism by launching Community Connection, a volunteer program crafted to align corporate giving with individual crewmember passions. To date, JetBlue crewmembers have volunteered over 400,000 hours of service, resulting in more than $1.5 million of in-kind donations benefiting their local communities.

3. Consider your skill set.

Nielsen’s Wendy Salomon, VP for reputation and public affairs, sees an increase in companies that are moving from old-school philanthropy to “skillanthropy” or skills-based contributions.

Examples include a consumer packaged goods company affording access to healthy food, a bank educating vulnerable populations on financial literacy, and a shipping company getting supplies to storm-battled regions.

“There is a particular ‘stickiness’ when skill-based programs are part of a CSR portfolio, as they allow the company to shine a light on the good it does in the world and the expertise it brings to the marketplace day in and day out,” Salomon says.

4. Get feedback.

If you’re not sure how your program stacks up, ask. Survey employees about what they like and don’t like about the way your programs are being run.

Find out how to get them more engaged. Be prepared to adapt; your programs will evolve, just as the needs of your business and community change.

When you really meet the needs of your employees and the community at large, you’ll reap significant benefits.

A version of this post first appeared on Versaic’s blog.

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