By: Michele Egan
Today’s employees like to keep their options open. According to WeSpire’s latest State of Employee Engagement report for 2021, more than half would leave their current company for another opportunity. Unless…their company is making a positive impact in the world around them. In this case, only 12% of employees would consider leaving ̶ plus they are 25% more likely to recommend their company as an employer. Engaging employees with social impact and cause partnerships makes employees happier and more productive, businesses stronger and nonprofit partners highly relevant.
Bigger Returns on Investment
As of this year, 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer matching gift programs. This is something employees want, and companies know it gives them a competitive edge in recruiting talent in the market. Matching programs are good for nonprofit partners, too, because they typically generate more donations.
When companies provide employees with a variety of options for their direct involvement in corporate social responsibility initiatives, they have an even greater opportunity to positively affect engagement. 75% of companies offering giving and volunteering have two times more employee engagement than companies only offering giving or only offering volunteering.
In 2020, through the Dell Technologies match program, Dell matched every team member donation, dollar for dollar, up to $10,000 per employee, per year, to support the COVID-19 response. The program raised over $1.6 million through the donations of global team members to one of four charitable partners:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation
- COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization via the United Nations Foundation
- Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors Without Borders
Dell also worked closely with employees to rework and shift a planned in-person pro bono volunteer project to conduct virtual sessions. Dell hosted virtual IT work sessions to develop tech solutions benefitting local nonprofit partners. In the end, the virtual format expanded the reach of the program and its impact, engaging more employee team members and more nonprofit partners than Dell’s original goals.
Greater Brand Value ̶ and Aligned Brand Values
Businesses are always concerned about the value of their brand. Employees are concerned about the values of the brand, and customers are, too. Our For Momentum High Expectations Survey showed that employees (61%) almost equal consumers (62%) as a top audience companies consider in selecting cause partners.
When employees and consumers don’t like how companies are living their values, they let everyone know, which can be incredibly damaging to brand value and reputation. Pew Research found that more than a third of social media users have posted negatively about a company’s practices or about boycotting products. According to some estimates, more than a third of customers are currently boycotting one product or more.
Away, a lifestyle and luggage company geared toward young professionals, experienced this firsthand when employees began calling the company’s culture toxic. During the worst of the pandemic last year, sales dropped 90%, pushing Jen Rubio to take over as CEO and begin implementing big changes. One key action she took prioritized listening to what employees were saying they needed. Rubio began regular check-ins with employees to be transparent about her vision and values and hear their feedback directly. The company began offering wellness days off and flexible holiday time along with other employee incentives.
No matter how big companies or their nonprofit partners are, impact comes down to individuals living, working and effecting change in communities. Both companies and nonprofits are being pushed beyond saying all the right words to taking real action on the ground. To be successful, social impact initiatives and cause partnerships need to be seen, heard and authentically felt.
During a recent webinar I moderated, panelist Carley Stephens, Manager of Community Affairs with Gas South, shared how her company implemented new ways to better care for their employees in the time of COVID-19. After a volunteer event fell flat, drawing only five employees, Carley reimagined what employee engagement might look like at Gas South and how they can better serve employees’ needs.
Actions they took to enhance their programs included:
- Stipends for employees to upgrade their internet connections and purchase equipment for their home office
- Manager check-ins simply to find out how people were doing
- Redefined workdays and working hours
- Self-care packages sent to all employees with wipes, masks and thermometers
Carley shares, “My favorite thing we did during this challenging time was partner with the YMCA’s Campus Connection program to offer virtual learning assistance for children K-6th grade. This meant that a parent could drop their child off at a local YMCA and their child would one, be provided a computer and internet to log on to class, and two, have a Y employee available to assist with logging in, answering questions and keeping the student on track. Gas South funded this not only for parents in the community, but also for our own employees.”
This is an incredible example of activating programs that truly serve your community and your employees at the same time.