Posted by Sandy Yu on 11.12.2019
It’s impossible for the employee experience not to be impacted by social issues and awareness. When companies are able to embrace the concerns that affect their teams and prove they care about the same causes, it breeds loyalty and positivity, even when the issues at hand are hard to swallow.
We reached out to company leaders across the country to gain some insight into how they embrace social issues to create a more well-rounded employee experience. Their candid feedback proves that the American workplace is becoming more than a desk job -- employees demand social responsibility from their employers and they have a more fulfilling experience when social issues aren’t just swept under the rug.
Here’s what you can take away from the companies that tackle social issues head on:
Many societal issues can be highly controversial and could possibly create tension in the workplace. Companies must take care in the causes and issues they choose to focus on.
In order to create successful social issue campaigns and to grow trust with your team, be sure to encourage input from employees, providing them a degree of “ownership” over the topics chosen. Then, set parameters in order to manage expectations, avoid controversy, and set a clear purpose for your efforts.
Hinge your engagement in societal issues on support for a charity or non-profit group for a fixed period of time, and then identify a fresh cause. If possible, find activities that have a joint societal and business interest.
I often don’t choose the societal issue to focus on -- sometimes we handle them because they’re current, relevant, and just happened. For example, it was very clear that my team was affected by the killing of LaQuan McDonald in Chicago, John Crawford III in Ohio, and Eric Garner in New York. I could tell that my staff were negatively impacted, especially since several of them were moms or dads of young Black sons. It was clear that the work day would be impacted, if not compromised, without some focus time.
I called an “all hands” staff meeting to check in with people about how they were feeling. Despite the difficult topic, magic happened. Through tears and hugs, laughs and breakdowns, the team talked about their fears and worries, hopes and dreams. Three hours later, we emerged from the conference room more connected and happier. By giving space to process our emotions and feelings, we boosted the employee experience and connected in ways that I couldn’t manufacture any other way.
When employees know that you care about things beyond business and beyond money, they are going to feel more confident that you care about them. Try to find something that affects your community or is important to the people who work for you.
Don't ask for anything in return. Don't make it important that the news or anyone else sees you.
Make it important to your employees, and make sure they know that they can participate.
When we started Transformify, lots of people contacted us asking if they could join us. Many had been unable to land a job due to their ethnic name, or they had received a lower pay rate due to their gender. Equal pay, equal access to jobs, solutions for people in need, diversity hiring and financial inclusion are natural choices that are in line with our mission -- and they’re global societal issues that resonate with lots of people.
When employees are engaged in providing solutions to societal issues, they are more motivated and happy. We’ve made it our mission to help improve equity and inclusion in the workplace, and our employees live that mission.
We strive to be an inclusive, responsive employer, and often hold talks, panel discussions, and workshops on societal issues ranging from issues affecting particular identities as well as those that have the potential to affect everyone. These sessions help us assure employees who are affected by these issues that we are invested in their needs.
They also serve our employees by giving them a chance to air their opinions on what resources they need in order to feel included. And they allow other employees to gain a useful perspective. When issues are tackled openly, it helps create a more cohesive, effective team.
Attendance at these events is voluntary and the resources are distributed by email afterward so that those who aren’t comfortable participating directly can still access them.
Developing a standing partnership with a charity will encourage your team to participate and invest their energy for more than just a paycheck. Focus on something related to your industry or a personal cause that will resonate with your team. When employees know that the company they work for cares, it builds their loyalty.
We believe in aligning personal goals with aspirations and encourage our team from top to bottom to discover the aspirations that will light them up. Societal issues are part of this process.
We just incorporated Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s Million Mile into our wellness challenge. Our employees chose their individual goal (how much walking, biking, swimming, or other mileage-based movement to complete) and how much money they wanted to raise.
We then hosted 4 different themed discussions -- one for each week of the month. Members of our team led the topics, focusing their presentations on easy healthy recipes, tips for better sleep habits, deskercise, and building a high health IQ.
We routinely poll our people so they are involved in selecting our societal issues that they are passionate about. By letting our people drive the experience, we keep the focus on serving others.
The employee experience is about much more than just what workers do professionally. HR professionals realize that people want to bring their whole selves to work. Consequently, the practice of corporate social responsibility has become a component of great value.
Through traditional feedback conversations and annual surveys, employees have expressed the importance they place on being proud of the company they work for. This includes how their company is perceived publicly and how their employer contributes to the communities where they operate.
Programs such as employee volunteerism, dollars for doers grants, and matching donations have come into play. By implementing these employee-focused philanthropic programs, staff members feel a greater sense of connection to their employer. They see firsthand how the business is committed to causes that are meaningful to them, and they develop a sense of pride as they witness the power of corporate citizenship in practice.
The most important component to having a thoughtful and tactful outreach program is good planning. Marketing and PR teams can team up to explore how to best share the stories of the company’s good works, and businesses should be mindful to develop authentic relationships with charity partners (not just cutting checks).
The more that companies support societal issues in meaningful ways and incorporate a multi-faceted approach, the more authentic and less self-serving their actions are or are perceived to be.