4 ways to use CSR as an employee engagement tool

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Today’s workforce is changing and it’s not always the juicy pay packets or novel perks attracting the freshest talent.

Emma Davidson, Area Retail Manager – City of London, Express explains that 50 percent of employees want work which connects to a larger purpose. So, businesses need to think seriously about activities that benefit others outside, as well as inside company walls.

In fact, research has found those who frequently participate in their company’s volunteer activities are more likely to feel loyal to their employer and be nearly twice as likely to be satisfied with the progression of their career.

So, how can businesses ensure they effectively implement CSR programmes into workplace culture?

Integrate into daily activities

To remain at the front of employees’ minds, CSR needs to be kept fresh and be more than a half-hearted page buried on your website. Companies should aim to incorporate it into everyday activities, to keep it constantly at front-of-mind for employees.

For example; at Express we strive to be ethically responsible for the thousands of cups and bags of coffee beans we provide our customers each week. As such, we widely encourage the use of recycling facilities and ensure our recycling policies are communicated across the business through e-newsletters, posters and updates on the company website.

Smaller charitable initiatives such as coffee mornings or group participation in events like Race for Life and Tough Mudder, create a fun approach to CSR and work well in complementing more serious, long-term corporate objectives.

Make sure you get the get the message out

It’s vital employees are informed of the collective impact their CSR contribution has. 80 percent of employees who take part in workplace volunteering say they are fully aware of the community investment policies, but this falls to 44 percent with employees who do not volunteer.

Earlier this year, Express participated in a refurbishment of a Salvation Army drop-in centre and donated a selection of long-life items visitors could take away to eat later.

As a result of internal feedback from those involved and information shared through social media channels, a larger group of employees volunteered for the next project undertaken with our partners.

 You also need to make sure you communicate the long-term social impact of your hard work too. For example, instead of saying “We raised X amount for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association this quarter”, you could say “The amount of money we raised will pay for the equivalent of three guide dogs’ training.” This provides more tangible evidence of success achieved by your employees.

Camaraderie promotes loyalty

Not only can CSR build strong internal teams, it can be a great opportunity to partner with clients and local businesses to cultivate better work relationships.

During the recent Salvation Army project, Express worked with its partner Metro Bank’s COO, which helped strengthen ongoing client relations leading to more potential charity partnerships.

CSR activities can build stronger in-house relationships, companywide too and having company leaders involved in charity endeavours can make senior staff more accessible to junior team members.

We’ve found our employees are usually more confident about engaging with their bosses in a more relaxed setting. Often, they are happier to ask questions or seek their advice, which they sometimes feel less comfortable doing in more formal work settings.

Attracting top talent

We’re increasingly finding top talent is attracted to companies that are socially conscious. This is just one of the reasons volunteering and charity work is highly encouraged at Express. We believe it contributes to our high staff retention rates and is one of the reasons why we have been voted one of the top 100 companies for graduates to work for by The Job Crowd.

For potential employees to see the CSR work your company participates in, ensure you promote the relevant awards and policies widely on your careers page. Posting images and videos that feature employees participating in charitable events also helps strengthen the impact of a positive workplace environment.

Through open conversations and proactively spreading the word about CSR activity, you are more likely to encourage ongoing internal conversations about your policies.

The more people talk about your good results and great social impact – the more likely they are to get involved – so keep putting the message out there and in time you will see the growth in enthusiastic volunteers, keen to give back.