Research shows that employees expect their companies to help bring about societal change. According to Edelman, people have “low confidence that societal institutions will help them navigate a turbulent world, so they are turning to a critical relationship: their employer.” In an online survey, they found that 75% of respondents trust “My Employer,” which is 19 points more than business in general and 27 points more than government.
Another survey by Edelman shows that 67% of the workforce expect their employer to have a greater purpose than just profit and for their work to have meaningful societal impact. Let’s break this number down a bit more:
- 42% of employees responded with “strong expectation,” which is described as “You would have to pay me a lot more to work for an organization that does not offer this.”
- 25% of employees responded with “deal breaker,” which is described as “I would never work for an organization that does not offer this.”
Recently, the Business Roundtable—comprised of 181 of the nation’s top CEOs—agreed that driving shareholder value is no longer their sole business objective. This decision was driven by emerging social trends. Here are just a few of those trends:
- It is getting harder to recruit and retain talent, especially tech talent, if profit is the only objective.
- A rising number of consumers make purchasing decisions based on a company’s social purpose.
- The media applies a lot more pressure on CEOs to take positions on political topics, such as race and immigration.
- Every CEO/company is vulnerable to split-second, social media uprisings. Undefined CEOs and companies find it impossible to push back.
The conclusion? Companies that don’t seriously consider their employees’ expectations of societal change will either fail to recruit the talent they need to be successful or pay a hell of a lot more for that talent than other companies who are involved in social impact.
If you’re an employee who wants to get your company passionate about social impact, what can you do? Here are three actions that you can do:
1. Start the conversation. Share with your leadership statistics like the one above showing the workforce expectation of their companies. Action always starts with awareness. Simply making your leadership aware of employee interest in social impact is how change happens. According to the “AIDA” model, action is a result of awareness which generates interest which creates desire which results in action.
Ask around the office and do an informal poll to measure your team’s interest in volunteering as a company or using their products or services to help improve a nonprofit’s reach, efficiency, or effectiveness.
Share your own social impact story. Tell others the impact that volunteering had on you. Letting others hear your experiences will help move the action needle from awareness to genuine interest in getting involved.
However you do it, just start the conversation. You never know what you’ll discover and generate.
2. Organize an event. Don’t underestimate the power of the “taste and see” approach. Giving people a positive experience of social impact often times makes them hungry for more. Volunteering events help leaders see the importance and benefits of adopting social impact strategies.
It could be an onsite event where you’re filling backpacks with school supplies for children in need or hosting a blood donation drive.
It could be an offsite event where you’re serving food at a local homeless shelter or organizing a community clean up day where you’re serving a local neighborhood by picking up trash and doing yard work.
When you organize an event, make sure it something employees care about. Ask them for their opinions and bounce your ideas off them to see which ones stir up the most interest. Hosting a “taste and see” event is a great way to build momentum for deeper social impact involvement in your company.
3. Form a team. Gather together like-minded employees and form a service team. Social Impact Teams are a great way to make social involvement a long-term strategy. Everyone shares the weight of planning events and execution. They function as story-tellers and ambassadors to their various teams and drive greater engagement from all levels of leadership. The team’s goal could be to organize quarterly or bi-annual events or do donation drives.
Forming a Social Impact Team is a great way to change the culture of your company and make it passionate about bringing about societal change. Author Andy Crouch makes an argument in his book Culture-Making that culturally transforming organizations like McDonalds, Facebook, and Ford Motor Company began with 3 people, who then had 12 around them, who then had 120 people as the third layer of concentric circles where the impact is spread deeply into the nooks and crannies of the surrounding cultural geography. The same concept applies to your company. A team of 3 could use its influence spread the commitment to social impact to the nooks and crannies of their company.
Start the conversation, organize an event, and form a team. These three relatively simple actions are pregnant with possibilities for your company. Do one of them, two, or all three. But the important thing is to do something. Getting your company involved in societal change creates a culture driven by profit, as well as people and purpose.
By Dr. Michael Reading, Head of Strategy & Advisor at Lucky Forks
Head of Strategy & Advisor at Lucky Forks