As the year draws to a close, many companies—such as Merck, Xerox, and JCPenney—are publishing their corporate social responsibility reports for 2017, highlighting the CSR activities they have undertaken this year and how they relate to the organization’s overall goals. In judging the impact of a CSR initiative, companies should consider not only how these efforts impact their community, improve organizational sustainability, and advance diversity and inclusion, but also what they mean to employees and customers.
When it comes to employees, candidates today are particularly interested in working for companies that demonstrate a strong commitment to social responsibility, so CSR investments can have a direct benefit in terms of attracting talent. The most innovative companies, however, are designing CSR initiatives that fulfill employees’ demand for volunteer opportunities while also drawing on their professional skills and interests to make that volunteer work more engaging and potentially valuable.
Companies commonly offer opportunities for employees to engage in simple volunteer tasks such as packing boxes of aid for needy households, serving food at a soup kitchen, or cleaning up a public park. These are all valuable acts of community service, but the companies that are having the most success getting employees involved in CSR initiatives are offering them more dynamic and engaging ways to give back.
Here are some of those companies and their methods:
Deloitte partners with nonprofits on projects to provide pro bono consulting or advice, allowing employees to use their professional skills and knowledge to help these organizations have a stronger impact.
Dell uses their Youth Learning program to give underserved youth around the world better access to technology opportunities, including through employees volunteering with nonprofit partners.
Time Warner sponsors employees who participate in public fundraising events such as the Bronx Zoo’s Run for the Wild, and gives out an annual award honoring employees who have made exceptional contributions to public service.
Researchers at Stanford University and the University of California–Berkeley found in a recent study that companies can increase their profitability and innovation outcomes by creating a workplace that balances cultural agreement and diversity in the company culture. The researchers used text analytics to analyze cultural differences based on Glassdoor employee reviews, then measured these differences against business outcomes. In their analysis, they identified two distinct forces at work:
- Compositional Diversity: When employees disagree with each other what makes up a company’s culture.
- Content-Based Diversity: When company culture is made up of a diverse set of topics, which may sometimes conflict with one another.
After considering how compositional and content-based diversity impact organizations’ business outcomes, the researchers found that organizations with higher levels of compositional diversity are associated with negative business outcomes, while organizations with higher levels of content-based diversity are associated with positive business outcomes. From what we uncovered at CEB, now Gartner, in our latest research on organizational culture, both of these findings make perfect sense.
Aligning the workforce to a common vision of culture drives business performance…
Our research finds that organizations have better business and talent outcomes when they have a high level of what we call Workforce-Culture Alignment or WCA for short. Organizations with high WCA have a common set of core cultural expectations that are consistent across the enterprise, ensuring a lower level of what the Stanford-UCB scholars refer to as compositional diversity. Congruent with the findings from their study, we find that without a shared understanding of the desired culture, it is impossible for the workforce to engage in a concerted effort to put that culture into practice. When WCA is low, progress toward the desired culture is slowed and both business and talent outcomes suffer as a result.
…as does empowering employees to translate the culture independently.
Over the next few weeks, countless organizations in the US, Europe, and around the world will hold end-of-year holiday parties for their employees. While some employees are looking forward to the event, SHRM’s Dana Wilkie highlights a new survey from the staffing firm OfficeTeam that finds that only 36 percent of office workers describe their workplace holiday parties as entertaining, while 35 percent say they are no fun. Most describe their company’s events as fairly tame and not particularly extravagant, and only about a quarter of employees feel like attendance at them is obligatory.
Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam, tells Wilkie that with careful planning, employers can endure that their holiday events feel like rewards rather than obligations to their employees:
Scheduling, for instance, can be a sticking point. For instance, many companies plan parties during weekend evenings in November and December, which can be a busy time for workers who may be shopping, decorating or attending personal holiday events. …
Earlier this month, and just in time for the winter holiday season, Spotify rolled out a new paid leave feature that allows employees to swap their paid public holidays for other important days of their own choosing. The Sweden-headquartered online music, podcast, and video streaming company’s flexible public holidays policy is presented as a way for employees to “take the holidays that matter to them”:
They can choose to work on a day that is a public holiday in the country they work in, and swap it for another work day instead. This means they can be off of work on a day that fits their observations or beliefs better. For example, someone who works in a country where Christmas is a public holiday, can now choose to work on Christmas Day and switch it for a day off on another date that is important for them to celebrate. Yom Kippur? Diwali? International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia? It’s their day, their choice.
Flexible holiday policies like these are rare, however: According to an employer survey from SHRM last year, only 18 percent of employers allow their full-time employees to swap holidays, and only 12 percent let their part-time employees do so. Evren Esen, director of workforce analytics at SHRM, explained at the time that this low adoption rate reflected the fact that this practice is difficult to manage in many business contexts: “If a manufacturing plant is closed on Christmas,” Esen said, “it is impossible to swap Christmas with Ramadan.”
As CEOs and investors become increasingly aware of the bottom-line value of organizational culture, HR leaders and professionals are being called upon now more than ever to shape their companies’ cultures in ways that maximize business performance. Under pressure to show results, many organizations have either tried to copy an already successful company culture like that of Google, IBM, or Netflix; or treated culture as a people problem, attempting to generate buy-in among current employees and hire more candidates who embody the kind of culture they want.
Our latest research at CEB, now Gartner, shows that these conventional approaches aren’t working. There is no one type of culture that always performs best, we find, and changing the culture by changing the people is far less effective than embedding the desired culture in the organization’s processes. A key challenge in making that happen, however, is that many organizations aren’t sure what their current culture is from an employee perspective and don’t know how to measure the effectiveness of their culture change interventions on the ground.
At our ongoing series of briefings with HRBPs, HR generalists, and other strategic HR professionals, our members are getting a chance to share experiences and learn from how their peers have been implementing this process-based approach. At our staff briefing in Atlanta earlier in November, the conversation focused on this challenge of investigating culture and surfacing the barriers that prevent employees from incorporating desired cultural behaviors into their work.
Learn: Airing Daily Experiences of Culture
One HR leader shared that their organization has appointed a dedicated “Chief Storyteller.” This person doesn’t just talk about values and behaviors at town halls and company events, but gathers candid information from front-line employees to better understand the day-to-day culture, and then brings these stories to senior leaders. This approach of uncovering and sharing evidence of company culture in the form of stories makes the examples more tangible and memorable and gives leaders an unfiltered view into how employees are actually living the culture—as well as the barriers that get in the way of them doing so.
Blind, the anonymous workplace community app that bills itself as a “real-time Glassdoor” and has taken the tech sector by storm, is releasing a desktop version of its native mobile app this month, Joel Cheesman reported last week, citing an app update. The application, which claims hundreds of thousands of verified users including over 30,000 Microsoft employees and 16,000 at Amazon, allows users to chat, share information, and gossip anonymously with other people at their company, about their company.
Blind started out in South Korea in 2014 and came to Silicon Valley in 2015, where it has ignited a controversy over what anonymous forums mean for both employees and employers: Like Glassdoor, Blind is a place where employees can share information (not necessarily accurate) and express opinions (not necessarily positive) without what they say getting back to their employer, but also without that employer having much opportunity to present their side of the story. It has also raised questions about data privacy and security, though Blind assures users that it takes pains to encrypt and discard user data, so that nothing they write there can ever be traced back to them through digital fingerprints, and so that no personal data will be exposed in the event of a breach.
In any case, with the desktop move, Cheesman predicts Blind “will certainly introduce the app to a lot of people who hadn’t heard of it before.” That’s obviously the idea, anyway, as a fast-growing company like Blind naturally wants to expand its user base. Cheesman is skeptical, however, that Blind’s anonymous forum will survive:
Cisco updated its parental leave policy this month to make it both more generous and inclusive. The new policy, which went into effect November 1, eliminates the terms “maternity” and “paternity” leave and instead defines parents by the gender-neutral terms “main and supporting caregiver,” Amanda Eisenberg reports at Employee Benefit News. For US employees, “main caregivers” are now allowed 13 weeks of consecutive leave after adding a child to their family, while “supporting caregivers” are allowed four weeks. Both parents are also allowed to take paid time off for appointments, and new grandparents are now also entitled to three days of paid leave:
“We’re finding new and better ways to support our employees so they can be the best at home and at work,” says Shari Slate, vice president of inclusion and collaboration at Cisco. “The goal is that everyone feels respected and supported fairly and consistently.” The expanded caregiver leave benefit has been rolled out to 37,000 U.S. employees, while more than 33,000 additional employees globally will receive the benefit in fiscal year 2019.
Cisco’s new leave policy also includes additional time off for emergencies. The company says it recognizes that unexpected situations may arise and employees need time to give it their undivided attention. The emergency time off request, which can be for incidents like a tree falling through an employee’s roof or a family member falling ill, is approved by a manager at his or her discretion.
Cisco’s adoption of a gender-neutral policy reflects a growing demand for paid leave that applies to both mothers and fathers, as well as a realization that such policies are beneficial to families and help combat stigmas against mothers in the workplace. It also gets ahead of possible legal or regulatory changes, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been challenging parental leave policies that it sees as discriminatory for distinguishing between mothers and fathers.