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Philanthropy: An Employee Retention Tactic to Feel Good About

Has your company been thinking about how to give back to your community through employee giving or volunteering?

Workplace philanthropy programs can benefit a company while still doing a lot of good for the community. For one, it improves brand image. And when consumers catch wind of your reputation, they’ll be more apt to open their wallets. In fact, 66 percent of people will spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand.

Besides the monetary benefits, workplace philanthropy can do wonders for employee engagement, which can bolster recruitment and retention efforts. Research has shown that 67 percent of people would rather work for a company supporting social initiatives, while 50 percent of millennials would actually take a pay cut to find a job that matches their values.

In other words, corporate social responsibility — or CSR, for short — makes your company more attractive to not just consumers but job seekers.

The only problem is that many businesses don’t know how to design and execute CSR programs, believing that staff, when given the chance, will simply participate. But these companies forget that all giving activities aren’t equal, and trying to “standardize” the process does nothing more than make it easier to manage. Instead, their focus should be encouraging participation. 

How Doing Good Can Be Better

That leaves us with one question: How does a company create CSR initiatives that benefit both the business and the community-at-large? We suggest you start with the following:

Talk to your staff.

To be effective, workplace philanthropy programs should be designed to maximize engagement. That means organizing CSR efforts around causes that resonate with employees. Ask staff for their input on what they care about, allowing them the opportunity to make a difference based on their values. It also shows employees that you value their input.

Align the cause with your business.

Most companies choose to support charities that align with their business in some way. Otherwise, people question the motives of those outreach efforts. When designing a program, make sure it’s logical for the business, mission, values, or culture of your company.

Let’s say, for example, you make children’s toys. A logical choice would be to devote your energies to fighting childhood cancer through the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, or CURE Childhood Cancer.

Offer more than cash.

Handing over a check to a charitable organization is generous, but it doesn’t provide the same organizational benefits that come with other CSR efforts. By giving your time to causes, corporate giving suddenly seems more authentic — at least from a marketing perspective. People will see your company as an organization that genuinely cares about social or environmental issues.

That said, you shouldn’t forgo financial support, but you’ll also want to look for ways to get out into the community. Offer free services, sponsor some events, and get staff out into the community to become an actual part of that community. Besides, giving activities can be powerful employee engagement tools for your business.

Provide employees the tools to give.

It isn’t enough to just institute a workplace-giving program; you must also empower employees to give by making it as easy as possible to serve. Make opportunities readily accessible and available. Encourage employees to take advantage of those opportunities that play to their strengths or resonate with their interests.

When you empower employees to serve, and allow them the freedom to decide how and where to serve, they’re far more apt to participate. And your support in their volunteerism can translate into greater loyalty and engagement, which can do wonders for your retention and recruitment efforts.

Communicate company-wide.

Companies often establish workplace philanthropy programs without ever making employees aware of their existence — or encouraging participation. Increase awareness by organizing a number of communication strategies that involve staff from all departments and at all levels.

In fact, treat a CSR initiative like you would any new product or service, and start marketing it to your internal customers. Determine what will move them to take action. A millennial will respond differently to a message than a baby boomer, so try to really get to know your employees before creating your messaging.

Don’t make it about you.

People respond to people. Instead of focusing solely on the hours and dollars your company contributed to a cause, put the personal stories front and center. Make your employees the heroes, not your organization. Their involvement will essentially vouch for the authenticity of your involvement.

As a result, consumers will believe your commitment and choose you over other brands — what with 90 percent of shoppers saying they’d switch brands to one that supports a cause. What’s more, your efforts can improve employee loyalty by 38 percent.

Sure, workplace philanthropy programs are a major commitment. It takes a great deal of time and resources to get CSR initiatives off the ground, but the results are often worth the effort. While you can certainly see an impact on your bottom line, the positive effects that such efforts will have on retention and recruitment cannot be denied.

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