Why employees thrive in a purpose-oriented environment

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From the employees’ point of view, CSR activities are enriching and provide a platform for developing other non-technical skills like people skills, leadership skills and organizational skills.

In the recent past, corporate organisations across the world have increasingly given more priority to CSR activities venturing beyond their own talent pool to look for solutions around issues such as education, environment, poverty, human rights, etc. In fact, companies are now viewing CSR activities as essential tools for employee engagement and retention, especially in workplaces teeming with millennials.

And why not, considering millennials – who will be making up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025 – prefer to give significant importance to aspects like social purpose and accountability; and are looking to work for companies that uphold these values.

“In fact, according to a 2018 Global Talent Trends study by Mercer, among the three factors that employees are looking for in a company, one is ‘Working With a Purpose’. While baby boomers as a generation sought workplaces that offered stability and high pay, millennials come to workforces with different priorities.”

Keeping up with the requirements of the current workforce then, HR divisions across the world are shouldering the responsibility of providing newer ways for employees to volunteer on behalf of their workplaces.”

Globally, companies like Walt Disney have devised novel ways to give their employees a chance to give back to the society in some way. Disney’s CSR mission included giving more than $400 million to non-profit organizations in 2016, but did not stop at that. Their “VoluntEARS” program, which encourages employees to donate time, has helped put in nearly three million hours of community service since 2012, with a goal of five million hours by 2020.

Closer to home too, many companies, as part of their CSR engagement activity, are partnering with NGOs and allowing their employees to work closely with them. A recent example of such an initiative is a unique cricket tournament organised by the NGO Salaam Bombay Foundation titled Corporate Change Maker Tournament that saw employees from 10 of the biggest corporate companies in Mumbai playing each other for a cause. Funds garnered through the event were directly donated to the Salaam Bombay Sports Academy. This Academy trains boys and girls in BMC schools in cricket, hockey and football. Through sports, they engage in lifeskill as well as vocational skill building. Thus, companies encouraged their employees to engage at the grassroot level and bring out and redefine the true spirit of volunteerism through their personal involvement.

Such projects are proving to yield impressive resultsespecially in today’s day and age of automationwhere meaningful working experiencesmean a great deal to employees. People increasingly like the idea of finding satisfaction in the work they do and applauding the values of the people they work for.

A 2017 survey conducted by Dale Carnegie India in association with the National Human Resource Development Network (NHRDN) shows evidence of this. The survey studied over 1,200 executives, individual contributors, managers and chief officers across India to recognize the factors that influence employee engagement positively. Corporate Ethics and Contributions to the Community and CSR initiatives were found to be the strongest motivating factors, leading to the most positive scores. As many as 48% agreed that the firm they worked for had strong ethics, and another 48% were proud of the contributions made by their company to the community at large.

Strong and consistent employee engagement in CSR activities have a positive outcome on recruitments, employee moraleand productivity. When employees get a chance to volunteer, it is known to improve their psychological well-being. From the employees’ point of view, CSR activities are enriching and provide a platform for developing other non-technical skills like people skills, leadership skills and organizational skills. They are also a great way to encourage bonding within the teamwhile enhancing the emotional and spiritual quotient of employees. The end result: a highly positive work culture.

It’s no surprise then that more and more employees demand to be involved in CSR activities. In fact, a survey conducted by Forbesin the US had found that while 92 percent of employees put financial security as a number one priority, 35 percent said they would take a pay cut to work for a company committed to CSR. As many as 45 percent said they would take a pay cut for a job that makes social or environmental impact, and 58 percent said they would take a pay cut to work for an organization with values like their own.

Companies, in turn, too are putting their best foot forward to use their core competency and expertise to engage employees to work towards looking for a solution for a social issue. Most of them are leveraging their CSR activities in a way so that they are aligned with their own business goals. For instance, Lifebuoy came up with its SwasthyaChetna Campaign as a part of a Social Marketing initiative that aimed at educating people on the importance of health and hygiene, encouraging them to adopt a simple hand-washing regime. SwasthyaChetna is one of India’s largest ever rural health and hygiene education programmes. Likewise, Tata Consultancy Services designed the Adult Literacy Program by developing a Computer Based Functional Literacy solution to augment and accelerate the Government of India’s efforts to achieve functional literacy.

Another significant perspective is the fact that companies from different sectors — including FMCG, white good companies, banks or insurance companies — are increasingly understanding the importance of engaging with the lower economic strata of the society. Some are even leveraging their own employees as volunteers to interact with people from thisstrata to understand aspects like their unfulfilled needs or the price points at which they are willing to afford products. An example of this initiative is the Tata Swach water purifier developed by Tata Chemicals as a low-cost purifier for lower income groupswho lacked access to safe drinking water. The company encouraged volunteers to engage with the community through CSR, so they could get useful insights to develop low-cost products and services.

Through all this, the onus of creating such opportunitiesfor the workforce, to a great extent, falls on the HR departments of companies. By offering a perfect blend of personal and professional development, they can help employees achieve a work-life balance. This can enable employees to enjoy the ‘full package’ by feeling fulfilled, stable,loyal and happy.

All in all, there is a strong relationship between engaging employees in CSR activities and improving their overall performance, motivation, productivity, and commitment towards the organisation. It helps to create more symbiotic CSR relationships by harnessing employee potential, channelling it, and making a treasured contribution to society, in turn.

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