What is the Impact of CSR on Employees?

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With people leaving their jobs in record numbers in the aftermath of the global pandemic, it’s been highlighted that people don’t want to just work for any company – they want to work for an organisation that has a mission, a purpose, one that shares their own values.

Amid all the talk of the Great Resignation in the past eighteen months, research from Gartner pointed out that what we’ve been living through is something more akin to ‘The Great Reflection’. People – especially younger people – are taking stock of what matters to them. And they’re less concerned about corporate profits and more concerned about the desperate state of the world.

They care about sustainability, ethical responsibility, and are increasingly socially conscious.

People want to work for organisations that care about their social responsibility; that take care to limit their environmental impact; that take a stand on ethical, environmental, and economic issues. As stakeholders in an organisation, they want to see a genuine commitment to corporate social responsibility.

As Gen Z join the workforce, and their forbearers, the millennials are increasingly burnt out and disillusioned, employers looking to build recruitment and retention strategies are needing to think more about CSR initiatives and sustainability to remain competitive and appear attractive as places to work.

The Shift in Corporate Social Responsibility

CSR is nothing new – businesses have long engaged with corporate social responsibility, or supported issues – often cynically – to promote themselves to potential customers. This practice – of trying to look good to impact the bottom line has been memorably parodied, and was pioneered by oil, chemical, and tobacco companies attempting to deflect attention away from the social and environmental damages caused by their business practices.

The difference now is the shift in the balance of power from employers to employees over the past few years. This can be seen clearly in the UK government’s plans to enshrine remote working as the default as employers lose staff over office returns. It can be seen in the rising levels of industrial action as workers across Britain have been going on strike for better pay and working conditions. There have been more job vacancies than unemployed people in the UK for the first time on record.

If employees want to work for organisations that share their values, then the onus is on employers to take the initiative to build the kind of socially conscious workplaces that can attract and retain staff.

Employers are now playing catch up – the conversation around CSR has changed. It is now less about how it will benefit the company and its profits and more about how it will benefit the workforce. As employee retention strategies become more essential, CSR practices have become more about employee engagement and less about the bottom line.

So, what does corporate social responsibility look like in 2023, and how can it impact employees? Let’s find out.

CSR in 2023

The shape of CSR is likely to become less top-down and more bottom-up in 2023. This means listening to and engaging with your workforce to understand what matters most to them. This is likely to democratise CSR initiatives as employees are empowered to bring their lived experiences into the workplace to shape CSR practices.

Diversity and inclusivity initiatives are likely to be central to a lot of corporate social responsibility activities this year, as organisations continue to prioritise building more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces.

Aligning D&I and CSR initiatives will be essential this year: providing educational and training sessions to address diversity and inclusivity while also creating opportunities for your employees to engage with local marginalised communities.

Community outreach in general is important for CSR in 2023. We can expect more extreme weather, floods, and other disasters – natural, environmental, and man-made to have a terrible impact on local and global communities this year. Disaster relief strategies are likely to remain important – organising donations, incentivising volunteer time, and working with charitable organisations to provide support and relief to those hit hardest should be a central part of your CSR commitments.

Another major area for organisations to focus on should be their supply chains – ensuring that they are ethical, sustainable, and free of exploitation. With major companies facing child slavery allegations and lawsuits, supply chains should be under increased scrutiny. Businesses have an ethical and moral imperative to ensure that they are not preaching equity and fairness whilst turning a blind eye to exploitative practices in their own supply chains.

The Benefit of CSR to Employees

Better Employee Relationships

Studies have shown that employees are more likely to engage in cooperative behaviours with their colleagues when they work for organisations engaging in CSR practices. If their employers are doing the right thing, then those behaviours are more likely to be modelled in the workplace with their peers.

Equally, corporate social responsibility initiatives promote closer relationships between employees, helping them to collaborate more effectively, work more creatively together, and enjoy their time at work more.

Increased Employee Engagement

Engagement has become a key focus – especially for HR teams, with a study published by Gallup highlighting the many benefits of employee engagement, from 23% increase in profitability to 14% increase in productivity. Yet equally according to Gallup, only 20% of employees feel actively engaged. Essentially, only 1 in 5 employees feels engaged at work.

Research has consistently found a link between CSR initiatives and employee engagement, with CSR helping employees to feel more engaged by helping them to find a purpose through their work.

Through making your employees more aware of the work your organisation is doing with regards to corporate social responsibility, and by championing and celebrating these CSR efforts, employees become more actively engaged and perform better overall.

Improved Organisational Commitment

Simply put, improvements to employee engagement also impact employee retention. When employees feel positive about their company and their CSR efforts, they are less likely to look for other jobs.

But commitment goes beyond retention – positive employees with strong interpersonal relationships at work, with shared values with their employers are more willing to go above and beyond.

With polls finding that 72% of students soon to be joining the workforce want to prioritise finding a job where they feel they can ‘make an impact’, CSR activities have the potential to greatly affect recruitment as well as retention.

Organisations looking to build a more sustainable, committed workforce need to prioritise CSR this year.

If you want to learn more about employee experience and what your organisation can do to improve engagement, check out our Employee Experience Survey.