Emma Davidson: 4 ways businesses can use CSR to boost employee engagement

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not about a one-off, one-way donation. In fact, it’s becoming an increasingly important way to cultivate an engaged and loyal workforce, as studies show more and more employees want to be part of companies that make a positive impact and give back to society.

Research has shown those who frequently participate in their company’s volunteer activities are more likely to feel loyal to their employer and be nearly twice as likely to be satisfied with the progression of their career.

However, all too often, CSR policies sit on a website, poorly communicated, rarely visited and not fully understood by employees.

So, how can businesses ensure they effectively implement these programmes into workplace culture?

Make it part of your day-to-day 

Employers should keep CSR fresh. It needs to be more than an out-of-date message, buried on your company website, to remain front of mind for employees. By regularly communicating messages and policies, such as cycle to work schemes or rigorous recycling programmes, across a variety of channels, employees will have a better understanding of the current initiatives available and their long-term benefits.

For example, at Express, it is our mission to be ethically responsible for the thousands of cups and bags of coffee beans we provide our customers each week. As such, we have recycling facilities across our offices and depots and widely encourage their use across the business.

Creating a calendar of CSR-related events for employees to participate in throughout the year, eliminates it being seen as ‘ad hoc’ activity and encourages maximum staff participation.

Smaller initiatives such as in-house fundraising, bake sales, fancy-dress days, or sponsored lunchtime sporting events, can also have a big impact on workplace morale and complements more serious, long-term CSR objectives.

Communication is key

Employees need to be informed of the collective impact their CSR contribution has. For example, 80 percent of employees who take part in workplace volunteering say they are fully aware of the community investment policies, but this falls to 44 percent with employees who do not volunteer.

The most effective way of doing this is to report not only on statistics such as how many employees volunteered and for how many hours, but also on its long-term social impact. For example; the amount of money raised from a charity event will pay for ten carers for a year at a care home etc.

Channels such as social media and intranet sites need to be utilised, to make these updates easily accessible. Visuals work well too, such as posters around the office or leaflets in the company canteen.

Earlier this year, Express participated in a refurbishment of a Salvation Army drop-in centre and donated a selection of long-life items visitors could take away to eat later.

Internal feedback and information shared through social media channels relayed the impact of the charity work, resulting in a larger group of volunteers for the next project undertaken with our partners.

Building a stronger team

CSR activities give employees a chance to meet and partner with people outside their usual teams. This promotes a greater sense of camaraderie and unity among employees as they work on a shared mission towards a common goal.

Not only can CSR build strong internal teams, it can be a great opportunity to partner with clients and local businesses to cultivate relationships. During the recent Salvation Army project, Express worked with its partner Metro Bank’s COO, who was able to work alongside volunteers and this helped strengthen ongoing client relations and led to more potential charity partnerships.

Having company leaders involved in charity endeavours also makes the senior team more accessible to junior staff. This can lead to a greater understanding of roles and responsibilities and demonstrates the potential path of progression through the company.

Enhancing recruitment

Top talent is attracted to companies that are environmentally or socially conscious. At Express, we encourage our staff to volunteer and allow paid time off for those wishing to undertake charity work. We believe this contributes to our high retention rates and is one of the reasons why we have been voted one of top 100 companies for graduates to work for by The Job Crowd.

As a company’s career page tends to be the first point of call for potential candidates, it’s important for CSR information to be visible. Make sure you promote the relevant articles, awards, and policies, as well as posting images and videos that feature employees participating in charitable events.

About Emma Davidson

Emma has rapidly progressing from the Graduate academy into her current role as Area Retail Manager for London. She is responsible for supporting and engaging her team to maximise sales targets and uphold high customer service standards in the London area.

Working with clients from office, industrial and commercial sectors, Express provides premium refreshment solutions for offices, canteens and staff breakout facilities.

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