Author: Heather Sheldon

“When faced with this unremitting uncertainty, how can a company maintain clarity on its societal purpose? What is the role and responsibility of your business in a time of chaos and crisis?” – FSG Consulting

Our world has been upturned the last few weeks, and with each hour, we find new information being hurled at us. Updates continually cross all mediums and channels of communication. It is a unique time in history for us as we are united in a global, shared experience. As we all settle into a new normal of social distancing and working from home, our understanding and perspective of what engaging employees and feeling connected and belonging within our company are taking on a new meaning. It isn’t just a small fraction of employees working remote anymore; your entire workforce is physically distanced from one another.

At the most basic level, people come to work to put food on the table for their family. But work is about more than a cubicle. However motivated or passionate, engaged workers, aka “happier” workers, resulting in a better bottom line. “If you treat employees well, this then creates a social contract whereby those employees work harder, tend to be more efficient, and generally strive to do more for the company that’s treating them so well.” – Forbes

CSR in the times of COVID-19 may have you and your teams spinning in reaction, so here are five reminders why having engagement programs are valuable during this rapidly evolving global situation:

1. Public Perception and Brand

“How you respond will matter to your brand… not only is it smart to take care of your employees, but it’s also good business and that’s the way I’m looking at it.” – Mark Cuban

CSR and brand continue to play an important role, especially during these uncontrollable times. The importance of honesty, dedication, and community outreach helps companies keep their brand and reputation authentic during this time. By supporting causes during COVID-19, and helping NPOs or charities tell their story, companies show engagement and involvement. We see examples every day of companies making decisions that put their people first, while also doing good for their business. From United Airlines CEO and President (and others) foregoing their salary to ensure business operations aren’t interrupted and their people get paid to LVHM holdings converting their facilities to quickly produce hand sanitizer for free distribution at French hospitals. Companies are adapting to the pandemic in creative ways that will further their brand in the long run while caring for people in the current climate.

2. Community Relations

Companies who support the COVID-19 pandemic during this time go above and beyond to work with charities and NPOs to foster relationships built from genuine care. A little help goes a long way, and when employees and corporations continue to show their support, the efforts will not go unnoticed. This is an opportunity for new relationships, better community engagement, and an educational opportunity for employees on the importance of giving back during this time.

3. Robust Disaster Relief Plan

Since this is such an unprecedented time, it is expected that many corporations have had to quickly shift priorities, re-evaluate current programs and projects, and of course, review their disaster relief processes. This provides the CSR and business continuity teams the opportunity to re-think and re-structure their plans to ensure community and employee engagement remain top of mind during these conversations.

4. Keeping Employees Motivated

A company that provides health, safety, and security to its employees should include opportunities for its employees to engage in meaningful responses to crisis that threatens those pillars. Our customers are expressing how important it has been to their employees that they feel they have something to contribute, a chance to have some control over some aspect of their lives, which they are getting from participating in CSR initiatives, such as virtual volunteering, matching gift, and disaster relief campaigns.

5. Talent, Retention, and Recruitment

“According to Deloitte, the millennial generation seeks culture, diversity and flexibility in its workplace when looking for roles, as well as clear alignment of its business leaders’ priorities. One way to tick these boxes is through CSR efforts that align with candidates’ values. It also positions the organization well against competitors that may not be committed to the same principles.” – Cornerstone

During these uncertain times, those programs will help keep your employees engaged and could attract new talent as our society and economy works to restore normality.  How a company reacts and responds will make an impact on its workforce and the communities it serves. People are looking to their local, state, and immediate everyday company leaders for how they are responding and treating their employees. Here is an opportunity to reignite passion in alumni employees and create lasting impact on future candidates.

study led by the University of Tennessee asked how important worker happiness was to a more productive company and ultimately, the effect on the bottom line. “It emerged that companies with a high EF [employee friendliness] rating performed much better during and after the recession, suggesting that the power of a happy workforce provides a buffer even in the most severe of wider economic circumstances. So next time anyone tries to argue that policies designed to improve the well-being and happiness levels of employees are a waste of time, you now have a . . . robust study to disabuse them of that notion. It turns out that investing in your employees really does pay off.”

The business case for CSR has been made for years, finding its footing as an important piece of company strategy and connecting distinctly to the service profit chain. It is in times of disaster and in our current state of global pandemic that the value and steadfastness of having CSR programs truly shine.

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