Why CSR is now a crucial part of HR
For CEOs and other business leaders, the Great Resignation – the widespread phenomenon of employees quitting jobs for new opportunities or to leave the workforce entirely – is one of the most daunting business challenges of recent years. In fact, in a survey conducted in January 2022 by Fortune, and the consulting firm Deloitte, top executives identified the Great Resignation as their single biggest concern.
The good news? There are demonstrated ways companies can not only retain their most valued employees, but also attract new talent. And one of the most impactful is a robust and transparent commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). A study conducted last year found that CSR practices clearly lead to higher employee engagement and workplace satisfaction. Meanwhile, in another survey, 61 percent of workers said they’d leave their current jobs if they were presented with the opportunity to be part of an organization with a higher level of social responsibility (and other factors remained the same).
Real-life examples – including the experiences of many Satell Institute members – back up those research findings. “Team members have told us that one of the reasons they come to and stay with GIANT company is because we do more than just sell groceries,” says Nick Bertram, CEO of the food-store chain, which puts a high emphasis on serving the community. Mary Meder, president of Harmelin Media, has seen a similar phenomenon at her company. “Our top-rated scores in our annual employee satisfaction survey are always aligned with our philanthropic endeavors, our chemistry, and how we treat each other and our partners,” she says. “We have always had, and still have, great employee retention and loyalty, even during these times of the Great Resignation.”
How can CEOs and other leaders maximize the impact of their CSR efforts when it comes to retaining and luring talent? Here are proven strategies three Satell Institute members stand by.
1. Educate employees about CSR from the very beginning.
At tax technology company Vertex, David DeStefano — president, CEO and board chair – says the organization’s plentiful CSR activities are highlighted from Day One of a worker’s tenure. They’re a key part of new employee orientation and continue to be emphasized throughout the worker’s career.
At GIANT, which defines its purpose as “connecting families for a better future,” Nick Bertram says they take a similar approach. “Ensuring our team members are aware of our purpose is a key priority of ours,” he says. “It starts at the onboarding process – ‘Make a difference’ is one of our team promises – and continues long after.” The messaging makes a difference. In GIANT’s most recent employee engagement survey, 90 percent of team members indicated they have a clear understanding of GIANT’s purpose, and 85 percent saw a clear link between their own efforts and GIANT’s mission.
2. Provide clear and ample opportunities for employees to participate.
There’s no better way for employees to feel pride and satisfaction in a company’s CSR strategy – and to feel loyalty to the company itself — than by giving team members a chance to be part of CSR. Harmelin Media has an internal committee called Harmelin Cares whose sole focus is giving back to the community. Employee reaction? “It’s our largest and most popular committee,” says Meder.
DeStefano says worker participation is also crucial at Vertex, whose philanthropic partners include Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Patriot Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit that supports the families of service members. “We have a global week of service where we arrange a multitude of activities in the communities where our team lives and works,” he says. “And we organize various events around the corporate philanthropies we support.”
GIANT, meanwhile, has launched a paid volunteer program, which gives employees paid time off for volunteering. “We have a robust program in place to help our team members find volunteer opportunities that align with our focus of eliminating hunger, healing the planet, and changing children’s lives,” says Bertram. The result: after launching the new initiative, GIANT has seen volunteer efforts from employees more than double, from 13,000 hours in 2020 to more than 28,000 hours in 2021.
3. Track – and talk about — your impact.
A corporation’s social strategy can’t just be set it and forget it. Companies that make an intentional and sustained effort at keeping employees up to date on both opportunities and impact have a greater chance of making employees feel engaged and inspired.
DeStefano notes that Vertex’s regular town halls include not only updates on the company’s financial performance, but also its CSR efforts. In addition, Vertex maintains an internal SharePoint site that lets employees access information about the company’s CSR and philanthropic events and accomplishments.
Other effective communication tools include regular company-wide emails highlighting philanthropic activities, as well as social media stories that bring to life CSR efforts. Says Bertram: “We frequently communicate to our team members through a variety of channels about our purpose in action. We believe doing so will inspire action and help us create a better tomorrow for the families we serve today and in the future.”
4. Lead by example.
Ultimately, the success of CSR at any company – whether it’s in helping the community or retaining employees – starts with a visible commitment from the CEO and clear signaling that CSR matters to the organization. The best approach: not just talk, but action.
At GIANT, Bertram says that 90 percent of the leadership team now serves on a nonprofit board, offering their experience and expertise to organizations that serve the community. At Vertex, the leadership team has set up a company fund that matches donations made by employees either to the charity of their choice or to unique disaster-relief efforts, such as Ukraine.
At Harmelin, Meder says that all of the company’s CSR efforts hark back to the vision and commitment of the organization’s founder, Joanne Harmelin. “Joanne spent a year in the convent after graduation from West Catholic Girls School,” Meder notes. “She always believed in giving back and creating a caring work environment.”
That tone, set from the very top, carries on to this day and helps Harmelin excel even in difficult times. The best evidence: Ad Age has included the organization on its list of Best Places to Work each of the last two years – smack in the middle of the Great Resignation.