Up your HR Game: Promoting CSR Programs is an Effective Recruitment Tool

engagementEmployee recruitment is a two-way street; when HR reps are screening applicants for key positions, the company is also being vetted.  As company talent recruiters are seeing a more robust employment outlook from candidates, the following trends must be considered:

  • 51% of employees won’t work for a company that doesn’t have strong social and environmental commitments. (Source: Cone Communications, 2016)
  • Participation in community relations activities can increase employee engagement by 8%, productivity by 13% & lower turnover by 50% (Source: Babson College, 2015)

With a candidate pool which may feel emboldened to be a bit more selective as their sense of urgency to take any offer diminishes, companies must look for ways to be viewed as an exceptional place to work.

When the subject of corporate culture arises, how much does an organization’s commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR)/community involvement matter?  When CSR can be interpreted as anything from sustainability programs to employee gift matching to team-oriented community engagement on company time, it’s difficult to convey the company’s focus and impact in a meaningful way.

Even the outstanding research documenting the impact of CSR/employee engagement programs on recruitment and retention efforts is divided based on how it’s defined:

  • Are we talking about an enlightened management culture that promotes 2-way communication and a sense of employees being valued?
  • Do we mean work-life balance?
  • Training and advancement opportunities?
  • Is corporate community engagement defined by corporate philanthropy? Employee volunteering & giving?
  • By CSR, do we mean sustainability, responsible supply-chain and environmental methodologies?
  • Is our company’s top priority for its CSR program supporting a collective goal or value, or enabling individuals to support their own causes?

One thing is clear: the better a company can define and communicate its community engagement program in a meaningful way, the higher the returns.

Research proves that “Inspired employees get meaning and inspiration from their company’s mission” (Source: Bain and Company, 2015). As such, the success of a company’s CSR program depends not just on what the CSR program priorities are, but how well they tie into the company’s core mission as well as how clearly they are communicated. Whether on your company’s website, in recruiting handouts, in your annual report, or in your company’s social media outlets, the following guidelines may help shape a more meaningful representation of your company’s community involvement program (and better support recruitment and retention efforts):

  1. Your CSR program should be company-specific

How many times can someone read the words “we want to make a difference in people’s lives” or “we are committed to giving back to our community” before they stop having any impact at all? Think of describing your CSR program as you would your branding efforts; communicate how your mission or focus is tied to your business model or sector, or perhaps a personal connection or compelling story that inspired it. 88% of Americans are interested in hearing about businesses’ corporate social responsibility efforts.(Source: Gallup) That’s motivation to create a compelling story!

  1. Make it Relatable

Don’t underestimate the power of visualization, especially in the recruitment space.  Most people thinking about making a change or joining an organization are imagining themselves there.  They are wondering how they will build relationships with their colleagues, whether the values are a match they can live with, what the day-to-day climate and ambiance are like.  So when you present your CSR initiatives, include stories, images and personal accounts that allow prospective employees to envision how they will be personally impacted by your company’s community engagement opportunities.

  1. Be Authentic in your approach and messaging

Senior Leadership buy-in, involvement and broadcasting is crucial. Just as with any other aspect of the company’s practices or philosophies, it’s important to be forthright and not over-promise.  Don’t let your eagerness to convey your organization in the best light get ahead of pursuing the overarching goals of your CSR program if you are still in the formative stages of your CSR efforts.  A humble, methodical approach is best and little by little, a little becomes a lot.  OneOC’s Community Involvement Tool can help you identify relevant opportunities for engagement; weaving these activities into your company’s outward facing communications organically is a great place to start.

  1. Remember to Update Your Website and Your Recruitment Materials to Include CSR/Community Involvement Updates (with photos!)

A company’s CSR profile should become enmeshed with its entire culture and not a separate task or entity.  Weaving your company’s message of social good into the fabric of your company’s brand ensures authenticity and maximized impact. In keeping with that, your messaging about your company’s community involvement program on your website and in your other media outlets should tell an authentic, believable story that easily ties together in the minds of all stakeholders (recruits, employees, clients/customers).

  1. Employee Engagement is a Year-Round Endeavor

Increasingly, people expect more than a token corporate philanthropy program or allocation for independent employee volunteerism.  According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, the #1 contributor to an employee’s sense of happiness on the job is purpose. Employees who see the purpose in their work will be more productive and more engaged. Community involvement is the perfect way to weave purpose into the workplace. There is a benefit of offering team-building employee engagement opportunities throughout the year, rather than the traditional approach of just at holiday time.  OneOC (formerly the Volunteer Center of Orange County) coordinates Days of Service in connection with national volunteer days that unite individuals, families, service clubs, businesses, schools, and faith-based organizations in volunteerism throughout the year; those who subscribe as business members can engage as part of a suite of services at no additional cost. This approach gives your recruiters powerful stories to share with prospective employees.

As millennials make up an ever-larger portion of the workforce, it’s worth noting that 62 percent of them would take a pay cut to work for a company that’s socially responsible.  And they share about it on social media.  A lot.  It follows that candidates want to hear about how ingrained CSR is in corporate culture, and how the organization prioritizes these values in its messaging.

Some organizations demure from promoting their generosity or their community engagement efforts thinking that they don’t do them for the accolades but for the underlying cause.  Remember that promoting these endeavors encourages other like-minded, committed individuals to join you and expand your impact.

As a closing thought, take measures to make sure you’re approaching your company’s community involvement plans and social cause alignment with the same kind of careful deliberation as any other important business decision. Guidance from a trusted expert in the nonprofit world can help steer your company to the cause areas and nonprofits that are the best possible match.

Jody O’Donnell, Business Partnerships Specialist at OneOC, collaborated on this article; contact Jody at jodonnell@OneOC.org to find out more about smart, easy and impactful ways for your company to “do good” and maximize your community investments. With over a half-century record of accelerating nonprofit success, OneOC uses proven strategies to connect your company and your resources with the local community, while seamlessly aligning with your business strategies, values and culture.