Embracing Employees’ Values

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become much more than a buzzword, according to a Huffington Post article written by Linda O’Keefe. As Fortune 500 companies, tech startups and other businesses look to hire the best talent, their investment in CSR initiatives is increasing. O’Keefe writes that Fortune 500 companies alone are spending more than $15 billion annually to support CSR projects. And it makes sense. Today’s workers, particularly millennials, place a high premium on social responsibility, something that I see when mentoring and speaking to young leaders across the country.
O’Keefe also points out that employees are seeking volunteer opportunities that give them the hands-on experience of being change agents in the world. As employees look for companies that are global leaders not just in their industry but also as social activists, corporate leaders are responding with more cogent CSR strategies that take center stage in the corporate strategic plan. For corporations, a $15 billion investment in CSR is small compared to the returns they see in terms of employee satisfaction, job performance, retention, and recruitment. The article cites a CECP survey (CEO Force for Good founded by Paul Newman) showing that corporations that increased their philanthropy by at least 10 percent enjoyed increases in profitability.

The Corporation as a Global Change Agent

Traditionally corporations have shied away from social issues, especially those that are controversial, so as not to offend their customer base. This is changing and now we see that not only are corporations getting involved, they are even using their brand image and corporate communications channels to raise awareness and effect change in the communities where they are invested. O’Keefe gives an example of the NBA that, while still focused on fan engagement, is actively engaged in supporting disadvantaged communities.

CSR is Increasing Employee Satisfaction

O’Keefe brings forward an Imperative Workforce Index study that shows that employees who work for companies with an orientation toward social responsibility remain on staff 20% longer, are 50% more likely to move into management and other leadership positions and are 47% more likely to become advocates for their company. The reason, according to the study, is that once employees have a purpose, their bond with the company becomes that much stronger. When their company is contributing to society, they have a purpose in their work that goes beyond a paycheck. Through office-sponsored volunteer programs, they are able to take their skills and passion and leave something meaningful behind in the communities where they live and work.

As this trend continues, many companies are linking their CSR strategies to their corporate strengths. O’Keefe brings international manufacturer 3M as an example of this. 3M and Discovery Education formed a partnership to initiate Young Science Challenge, a mentoring project that partners young people with scientists to come up with creative, innovative solutions to the complex challenges facing the world today.

Building CSR into the Future

The CECP report also lays out a vision of the future in which CSR will become a more organic component in corporate leadership development. To be considered for leadership advancement, O’Keefe says, corporations will be looking for employees who are collaborative, altruistic and honest, in addition to possessing superior business abilities.