Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are becoming increasingly important to both employers and employees.
On one hand, employers invest time, money, and effort into CSR because they want to give back to their community and build a strong, positive brand with their customers and employees. On the other hand, employees value CSR initiatives because they also want to give back to their communities, and they want to work in environments where making positive and measurable social impact is a top priority.
According to a Harvard Business School blog post, 90% of employees who work for organizations with a strong and meaningful purpose (which is often reflected in CSR efforts) say they’re more motivated, inspired, and loyal.
However, despite the value that both employers and employees place on CSR initiatives, you may struggle to get your employees participating in your initiatives. Or, you may be getting your first CSR program up and running but want to ensure you’re starting off with high levels of employee engagement.
No matter your starting point, we’re here to help. In this post, we’ll give you three tips to help increase employee engagement in CSR initiatives.
These tips can help your company bridge the gap between wanting to make a difference and actually taking action to make a difference. Be ready to take a critical look at how you’re currently encouraging your employees to participate in CSR and to make some meaningful changes. Let’s jump right in!
1. Align your organizational values with your employees’ values
If your organization’s leaders and your employees value different things, you will struggle to boost enthusiasm for and engagement in your CSR efforts.
For example, say one of your company’s top executives is interested in bird conservation in your local area and designs your CSR program with only that cause in mind. While bird conservation is important, the majority of your employees might not be as enthusiastic and passionate about it as your executive.
Instead, you’ll need to get everyone on the same page with a program designed around larger, more global organizational values. When you align your organizational values with your employees’ values, it’s easier to find opportunities to do good that resonate with everyone.
Where do you begin when it comes to aligning everyone’s values? Here are a few ways to start:
- State organizational values on job descriptions. You can start this process of aligning values right from the beginning when you make it part of the hiring and interviewing process. Look for prospective employees who value giving back to the community. As you incorporate discussions about your company values into the hiring process, you’ll begin to fill your organization with people who can help you move your CSR initiatives forward, whether it’s part of their day job or something they’re passionate about helping with outside of the workday.
- Encourage employees to contribute to community causes they care about and to share those causes. Try following your employees’ lead. If an individual employee or a group of employees is especially interested in a specific cause in your local area, try to work that cause into your CSR efforts. For example, if you know your HR team regularly discusses homelessness in your city during lunch, you might look for ways your company can empower them to take action. This way, you’ll start with enthusiasm, which can lead to greater engagement.
- Celebrate employees whose actions align with your organization’s values. To be invested in your CSR efforts, employees need to know that you’re supporting them in making a difference, not just using them to further your own interests. When you shout-out employees who are regularly volunteering or donating to local causes, you’re giving them recognition that can keep their enthusiasm strong and giving your other employees examples of ways they can make a social impact.
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Increasing employee engagement in CSR initiatives is much easier when you make a concerted effort to find causes and nonprofits to help that a majority of your team is interested in. Work to find employees who identify with your organization’s values and encourage them to put those values into action. Don’t stop there, though. Keep getting to know your employees so you can target your CSR work more effectively to boost participation.
2. Provide clear information about CSR initiatives
Imagine that you set up an event on behalf of a local nonprofit. You go all in—you hire a caterer and entertainment for the night, decorate your venue to the nines, and plan fun activities that will encourage people to give to the cause in question. But then, you forget to invite people to your fundraiser.
Not informing your employees about your CSR initiatives and how they can participate in them is like not inviting anyone to your big fundraising event. It’s difficult (near impossible!) to get employees interested in participating in CSR initiatives if they don’t even know about the initiatives you’re working on. In fact, many employees would probably be ready to jump into action if they only knew what your organization was trying to do and how they could help.
Don’t leave your employees in the dark. Keep them informed about all of the CSR work your company is doing and how they can get involved. What opportunities should you be promoting to your employees? Take a look at this list:
- Matching gifts: Offering matching gifts is a great way to engage your employees in CSR and support the causes they care about. Matching gifts involves matching employees’ donations to nonprofits or other charitable organizations they care about. All you’ll need to do is create a matching gift form and promote your program. This will encourage your employees to donate to causes they care about so that they can double their impact!
- Corporate volunteer programs/volunteer days: Many employees would donate their time and talents to the community if they could do so in a way that wouldn’t negatively impact their schedules. Enter: corporate volunteering! Set up a program in which you arrange volunteering opportunities during the work day or reward employees for volunteering outside of work hours.
- In-kind donation drives: CSR initiatives don’t always have to involve an extensive, multilayered program with multiple policies and rules. A simple in-kind donation drive can get your employees in the spirit and habit of giving. For example, try collecting kids’ toys around the holidays or non-perishable food items during September, which is Hunger Action Month.
- Mentoring or tutoring programs: Chances are there are students and working adults in your community that would love to learn from the professionals in your company. You might offer a mentoring or tutoring program through which your employees can use their job skills to help others in your local area. For example, maybe your accountants help high school students with their math homework or your executives mentor first-generation college students.
- Environmental sustainability efforts: Many companies are pushing to go green, and you can, too, even if you do so in small ways. Look at ways your organization can reduce or even eliminate the use of paper; encourage employees to walk, bike, or ride the bus to work; and recycle plastic bottles or cans.
Whatever CSR initiatives you offer that are listed above, remember that it’s not enough to just mention them once in a company-wide meeting and hope that your employees will start signing up to contribute. You need to continuously promote your CSR initiatives. Give regular updates on the impact you’re making, ask for employee suggestions on how to improve your programs, and demonstrate your own enthusiasm and commitment to your initiatives. This will help you achieve increased engagement.
3. Incentivize participation in CSR initiatives
Some CSR initiatives come with built-in “incentives” to participate (such as matching gifts, where a nonprofit of your employee’s choice gets an increased contribution). However, there are other ways that employers can make CSR initiatives more fun and encourage employees to engage. After all, employees need to feel like CSR initiatives are personally meaningful, don’t take time away from family and work, and are fun to participate in.
Here are three ways you can incentivize participation in your initiatives:
- Recognize employees who participate in CSR activities. Whether you host a special catered lunch for employees who participate in your tutoring program or shout-out employees who donate to nonprofits in your company-wide meeting, a little recognition can go a long way. Employees who are recognized for their efforts to contribute and make a difference will be more inclined to keep doing so.
- Offer volunteering time off (VTO) or volunteer grants to encourage volunteer work. Volunteering involves a sacrifice of time for your employees, whether that’s time they could be at work or time they could be spending with family and friends. Consider offering a set number of VTO hours per performance period, or offer volunteer grants to your employees. With volunteer grants, you agree to donate to an organization an employee volunteers with after they’ve given a certain number of hours.
- Design company events around your CSR initiatives. Make your CSR work part of an engaging and fun internal culture. For example, you might require an “admission fee” of five non-perishable food items for this year’s holiday party. Or you might provide brunch to all the employees who show up on a Saturday morning to plant trees in a city park. Whatever you do, always strive to tie workplace fun to CSR.
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Creating fun incentives for engaging in CSR initiatives will help you pull in more interest and action from your employees. Remember, you know your unique employees best, so use what you know about them to design incentives that will truly speak to them and get them excited about lending a helping hand.
Increasing employee engagement in your CSR initiatives comes with some long-term benefits, such as attracting top talent, helping employees to find more meaning in their employment at your organization, and establishing your company as an active participant in the community.
CSR truly benefits everyone within your organization’s reach. Be proactive in engaging your employees in your efforts by aligning your values with theirs, promoting your initiatives, and offering fun incentives. This way, you’ll set your organization up to do more good. Good luck!