By: Michele Egan
Each year we see more brands using their platform to address social issues. There’s no doubt that employee activism has been on the rise. The impact of these two trends is causing a shift in how companies develop policies and programs that fall under the corporate social responsibility umbrella. According to 2018 partnership research conducted by For Momentum, employees now equal consumers (70%) when it comes to audiences that corporations consider when choosing a cause(s) to support (High Expectations – What Corporate Decision-Makers Want From Nonprofit Partners).
Millennials and Gen Z are the driving force behind these trends with the expectation that the companies they buy from and work for contribute to society in a positive way. The new standard of employee engagement is personal fulfillment as younger generations expect meaning and purpose along with a paycheck. Doing good is no longer enough in today’s competitive job market. More than 70% of employees said it was imperative or very important to work for an employer where mission and values align (2017 Cone Gen Z CSR Study: “How to Speak Z”).
How does this affect cause marketing and cause partnerships? Employee activism that drives company practices can be a positive force for good. Younger (and, really all) employees care how the company they work for is viewed by the world. They hold company leaders accountable and speak up about perceived injustice. Younger employees use social media and other platforms to advocate for change. The problems a company chooses to address should be selected based on business goals and the activism of its employees. Smart companies no longer develop CSR programs from the top down. Leaders consider which issues are most important to their employees and fully explain the business reasons for addressing specific issues. Collaboration and transparency are key to creating buy-in.
Choosing a cause that is authentic to a brand is a must. Not only does it make business sense it also meets employee expectations about the company and its purpose. The cause should reflect current corporate practices whether it’s sustainability, diversity, healthcare or philanthropy. It doesn’t bode well if the company publicly supports these ideals but is found lacking internally.
Fully incorporating a cause into a company’s culture inspires employees and builds loyalty while enriching the workplace. Employees want to work for companies that take a stand on issues they care about. A 2017 Provaddo survey, Corporate America’s Point of View, indicated 45% of U.S. employees at Fortune 1,000 companies say a company’s actions on societal issues impacts their decision to work there.
It is more important than ever to connect with employees and understand their core values, which issues they care about and what challenges impact them personally. Offer employees the opportunity to be activists. Providing paid service days, skill-based volunteering opportunities and advocacy tools all demonstrate the company’s commitment to employee fulfillment. Tap into the power of employee activism and share the benefits – or ignore it altogether and risk losing talented employees and ultimately customers.
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