How organizations can align corporate responsibility efforts with employer brand in order to attract the right talent.
By Debbie Bolla
With 63 percent of full-time employees looking for new employment according to recent research from talent solutions provider iCIMS, a company’s reputation is now more important than ever. The pressure to be seen as an employer of choice has increased organizational focus on employer brand—how a company is viewed by its workers and potential employees.
“Individuals want to work for organizations with a positive reputation and ethical c-suite leadership,” says Jill Schwieters, president of Cielo Healthcare.
CR Magazine’s (our sister publication) 2015 Corporate Reputation Survey found that if unemployed, 86 percent of American females said they would not join a company with a bad reputation. These results indicate how important employer brand and ethics are for organizations. The survey, which was sponsored by Cielo, encompassed a poll of more than 1,000 employed and unemployed Americans in the effort to gain insights into how corporate responsibility, reputation, and transparency can impact job decisions.
“Today’s job seekers are sophisticated,” says Gerry Sullivan, senior vice president of sales, solutions and marketing, for talent solutions provider PeopleScout. “They follow and interact with companies they admire through social media platforms while searching and applying to jobs. Because of this, it is necessary for companies to establish their own brand to stand out from the competition. Companies with a strong employer brand often see up to two-and-a-half times more applicants per job opening. An employer brand is also key in retaining employees who personally identify with the brand of the company that they work for.”
One strategy that organizations are leveraging in order to get ahead is making their corporate responsibility initiatives a key part of their employer brand. CR initiatives have the power to make employees feel part of something more important than themselves. Nielsen reports 67 percent of employees prefer to work for a socially responsible company. And today’s talent often has a choice. “Top candidates have the ability to chose who they work with based on a variety of factors,” says Anthony Andre, regional leader of North America for talent communications and employer brand for talent acquisition provider Korn Ferry Futurestep. “Corporate reputation regarding commitment to the communities they serve is an important factor in that decision and a significant contributor to individual motivation.”
With Millennials set to comprise more than 50 percent of the workforce in just four years, organizations need to respond to their needs as well. A recent study by PeopleScout found that 80 percent of Millennials want to be employed by a company that is known for being ethical and socially aware.
“Millennials, who are our future leaders, want to work for an organization that cares about what they care about,” says Kim Pope, executive vice president of recruitment solutions for human capital solutions provider WilsonHCG. “They want to know they are making an impact. If their personal beliefs and goals align with their organization, it encourages engagement and long-term growth at the company.”
Where should companies begin? Both Sullivan and Pope recommend aligning CR programs to the mission and culture of the organization. By doing this, employees and candidates will have an authentic view of company values. Once established, Pope says there are several ways for organizations to incorporate CR in their employer brand.
Some best practices include:
• Diversity resource groups;
• Paid volunteer days;
• Veteran recruitment programs; and
• Donation matching
“By aligning corporate responsibility initiatives to DNA and culture, these organizations are integrating CR into their employer brand and attracting like-minded candidates,” she explains.
How should organizations communicate their efforts? Sullivan recommends using social media channels, blogs, and company websites. “The careers page is a great place to showcase photos and articles that describe your CR program and reflect your company values, which in turn support your employer brand,” he says.
Leading organizations should consider doing this—and more. “Communicating CR efforts through your employment brand is half the battle,” says Pope. “Candidates need to see these initiatives in action and trust that the company is following through.”
Pope recommends getting current employees involved as brand ambassadors. “Encourage employees to use a company-specific hashtag on photos for social media while participating in a CR activity,” she advises. “This allows candidates to get a transparent and honest look at these programs through the eyes of current employees.”
And applying for and touting award wins doesn’t hurt either. “Many Fortune 500 organizations with strong CR programs communicate their efforts via awards like the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World or DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity,” says Pope.
CR efforts also aid in alignment with candidates and cultural fit. “When these CR initiatives are communicated through the employer brand, we see that like-minded talent is attracted to that company,” says Sullivan. “Not only are applicant rates higher, the right people are applying.”
It’s truly a win-win for all. “Employees want to feel connected to their organization and know that they are making an impact. One of the ways they can find that connection is through corporate responsibility efforts,” says Pope. “If they see that a potential employer truly cares about a social issue, charity, or sustainability initiative, they can build a deeper connection with their employer and want to help the company achieve their goals.”
SIDEBAR: Redesigning Your Philanthropic Strategy to Boost Employee Engagement
By Andrew Troup
HR professionals understand all too well the relentless pursuit to offer the next trendy, compelling employee benefit that will attract and retain top talent; free lunches, yoga Tuesdays, unlimited vacation time—the list goes on. While certainly fun and novel, and often equated with the idea of an innovative, startup organizational culture, these types of benefits are not as effective in increasing long-term employee retention and engagement as another—often overlooked—tactic.
First, taking a step back, what are the components that make for lasting employee engagement? Research consistently shows that employees are the happiest and most likely to stay at companies that align with personal values, offer opportunities for growth and development, encourage collaboration and teamwork, and foster an environment where employees can play an integral role in making a positive impact in the world. And one of the most cost-effective ways to engage your workforce in all of these aspects is through developing transformative employee volunteer and giving programs.
In fact, according to the 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study, 71 percent of employees want their company to provide opportunities that help make a positive impact through the company’s social and environmental commitments.
It may seem obvious to point out that an organization’s philanthropy, giving, and engagement strategies should align with its core business objectives and mission. However, the caveat is philanthropic efforts need to include authentic intent, require executive leadership support and participation, and align with the values of the organization and its employees.
For example, do employees possess key skills and competencies that could have a positive impact on non-profits through skills-based and pro bono volunteering opportunities?
Traditional corporate volunteerism activities, including events where employees participate in a scheduled volunteer event for few hours, tend to be more “transactional” in nature. For example, while serving at a soup kitchen or painting a community center are certainly positive activities, employees may leave feeling little to no lasting connection once the activity is complete.
On the other hand, if employees are able to utilize and share their specialized skills—like a developer working with children in low-income areas to teach the basics of coding and show them the potential of careers in technology, the experience tends to be more meaningful and transformative. Ultimately, it inspires an increased participation in an organization’s corporate giving and engagement programs going forward.
Organizations need to consider environmental differences and how to best engage a diverse workforce on a macro level. For example, are there on-site volunteer events for support staff that sit in call centers or virtual events for remote employees? Can family and friends also participate? An inclusive approach will yield greater participation and engagement.
In the end, obtaining a baseline understanding of what causes employees care about, what skills they possess, and what truly inspires them is a good way to establish a foundation for an organization’s giving program. This engagement approach can have a significant effect on overall employee productivity, lead to better talent recruitment and retention, and aide in communicating an organization’s broader impact story.
Andrew Troup is director of corporate giving and engagement strategy for MicroEdge + Blackbaud.