I recently worked with an organization that has made it part of their mission to support and encourage an annual project to “enhance the well-being of the world”. Through an employee-driven nomination system, they define what their focus will be. Most recently it was building houses in Haiti. Employees who wished to do so were given time off with pay and travelled as a group to participate in the construction of new homes. In addition, the company matched all employee donations. Bake sales and other fun events were held to increase awareness and raise additional funds.
What is most interesting about this organization is that when they faced some cutbacks due to falling oil prices, the employees overwhelmingly voted to continue to support this initiative. Instead of cutting this project, they chose other programs and projects to decrease or cut. My contact informed me that they believe such projects draw the employees together, and create a greater sense of belonging amongst them all.
I was then introduced to Companies That Care. Based in the U.S., this not-for-profit works to enhance the well-being of employees, and invites organizations to be a force for positive change in their communities. They have defined 10 characteristics of socially responsible employers and they sponsor Companies That Care Day – the third Thursday of every March (March 19 in 2015). That date is designated to be a day where companies are invited to jump-start or expand their socially responsible practices, foster a people-supported work environment, and strengthen the local community.
What does this mean for you and your organization? Well, the truth is, the competition for the top employees is heating up. Candidates are looking for a workplace that will meet their basic needs of salary and medical benefits – and they are looking for a place where they feel connected, cared for, respected and one that exhibits social responsibility. If your organization isn’t already, it is time to join the bandwagon of social responsibility and commitment to healthy workplaces.
Where do you begin? It doesn’t have to be a major initiative, like building homes in Third World countries. The following tips are a great starting place:
- Check out the ideas at companies-that-care.org. The 10 characteristics of socially responsible employers that they define are an excellent conversation starter.
- What are you doing March 19? Why not kick off an initiative around this idea with your team, your leaders, and your organization as a whole?
- Start where you are. Notice, highlight, and support existing community-based projects.
- Go back to the basics. Do your organization’s vision, mission and values reflect the practices you want to enhance, like respect for all, equality, and inclusion in the workplace? Are your policies updated and relevant?
- Get others on board. Is this a passion of yours? If so, excellent. Make sure you connect with the decision makers, if you’re not one of them, to get the ball rolling. You likely won’t have to look far to find others who would love to support such work. Gather them, support them, and let them rise to the challenge.
- Start small. Where do the dollars from your recyclables go? Why not donate them to a local charity? Have employees pay for the privilege of making any day a casual day, donating the funds to your local food bank or other worthy cause. I know of a top oil company where the executive team prepare and serve lunch at a local shelter one day a month. It doesn’t matter where you begin – just begin!
Having a workplace that is respectful and engaged in the community isn’t hard. It is likely happening as we speak. The trick is to continue, build on your momentum, and be sure that it becomes a deliberate and intentional practice.
Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership & Workplace Performance
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