Recognizing the millennial passion for giving back

“Are we convinced that what we are doing as a company is for the good of the environment and people we work with?”

With National Volunteer’s Week in full swing as of today, and having come across the question above from Banyan Tree’s Corporate HR Director in HRMAsia this week, it’s a good time to reflect on the importance of businesses giving back.

According to National Volunteers Week, over 21 million people volunteer in the UK at least once a year and this contributes an estimated £23.9bn to the UK economy. In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports this to be more like 62.m people annually volunteering. These are incredible and heartwarming numbers, and a shining example of how we can all make a big difference to individuals and communities every day.

Given peoples’ desire to involve themselves with social responsibility efforts, HRMAsia is right, it has become imperative for businesses and business leaders to spearhead the corporate social responsibility (CSR) charge not only as a means of giving back, but as a route to building a stronger brand, and providing a better place to work.

Forbes has also recently touched on the topic of CSR after reporting on research from Reputation Institute, which revealed that well over two-thirds of people (42%) form their perception of a company based on its CSR programs (or lack thereof). Employees want to work for socially responsible brands; it’s widely reported that it’s quickly becoming THE way to retain Millennials, so as per Banyan’s HR Director view, embracing volunteering and charitable programs should be high on the HR Director’s agenda.

While this is certainly a welcome and growing trend, there are two key considerations that the HR department must address when it comes to volunteering and CSR. Firstly, ensure your program represents your brand and is being used to help attract and retain employees – this is becoming a critical must-have in today’s working environment. Your culture will be defined by what your company contributes, and this has to be reinforced and led from the top. Creating an infrastructure and framework for your employees to support the environment, local community and projects further afield will not just have a benefit to those concerned, it will give back to the organization immediately. According to Tiffany See, Executive Director of HR at technology giant Dell, it is not just millennials, but in fact the majority of talented professionals who want to work for organizations that exhibit good corporate citizenship.

Secondly, if you are at the heart of the matter and actually employ a workforce of volunteers, you still need to have them feel connected and part of a bigger brand and ecosystem – both to engage them, and have them represent your business. One Sage People customer, a global and renowned volunteer organization, reports that 24/7 transparent and top down communication is even more essential when running an operation made up of volunteers. You need to set up technology to support and engage with this new type of disparate and contingent workforce.

In the US, at the end of June, the annual Volunteers of America conference takes place. So, take some time out this month to consider your philanthropic efforts. Not just how they will turn into competitive advantage from a brand point of view, but how they can attract a better workforce, and of course, support the global community.

The time for giving back is now.

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