The Home Depot, the US’s largest home improvement retailer, announced last Thursday that it would donate $50 million to a decade-long project to train 20,000 Americans, including veterans, returning military service members, high school students, and disadvantaged youth, as construction workers, USA Today reported. The donation is part of the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts, but there’s also something in it for Home Depot:
Sales at the nation’s largest home-improvement retailer are dampened if contractors and partners can’t find enough workers to undertake projects. Sales to plumbers and other tradespeople comprise 40% of the company’s revenue, [Home Depot CEO Craig] Menear says. The initiative, he says, also builds on the company’s donation of $250 million through 2020 to provide housing to veterans. Soldiers and veterans will make up about 15,000 of the 20,000 construction workers turned out by the training program.
They could make a noticeable dent in a big problem. There were 158,000 job openings in construction in December, up from 140,000 a year earlier. Eighty-four percent of contractors surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Wells Fargo in December cited availability of workers and cost as their most significant problems last year, along with rising materials prices.
The announcement comes at a time when many large US employers are taking high-profile steps toward developing the workforce of the future. Lowe’s, the main competitor to Home Depot, recently announced a partnership with Guild Education to help its employees complete training and apprenticeship programs for skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing, and appliance repair—fields in which the labor market is expected to face a gap of 500,000 workers by 2026.
At the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, Institutional Shareholder Services Executive Director Subodh Mishra recently published a summary of an ISS analysis of 450 proposals filed at Russell 3000 companies, which shows how investors’ priorities are shifting toward social, political, and environmental concerns. More than two thirds of these proposals are related to social or environmental issues, chief among them political activity and spending, board and workplace diversity, and climate change and sustainability, Mishra writes. Furthermore, nine of the ten most common types of proposals related to one of these issues, whereas only one (demanding the right to call a special shareholder meeting) is focused on governance. Mishra sees two main factors driving this trend:
First, social and environmental issues themselves are gaining significant traction with investors and the public. Important issues, such as concerns about the transparency of the political process, harassment and equity in the workplace, and climate change risks make headlines and dominate the public discussion daily. At the same time, investors and asset owners are bolstering their efforts towards greater ESG integration, which helps proponents gain further momentum. Second, governance topics may be lower on the agenda for the target universe. Shareholder proposals are typically filed at large-capitalization companies, where many formerly-contested governance issues have now become the standard. Annual director elections, majority vote standard, simple majority vote requirements and even proxy access—to a large extent—are now the norm for the vast majority of large companies.
ISS’s analysis counts proposals related to diversity and inclusion toward its total of “social issue” resolutions; while that’s fair, investors are paying more attention to diversity not only out of a sense of social responsibility but also as part of the investor community’s growing concern with talent as a key driver of business value.
The Intel Foundation has made a $1 million grant to the International Rescue Committee to retrain 1,000 refugees in Germany for jobs in the tech sector through a program called Project CORE (Creating Opportunities for Refugee Employment), Ben Paynter reports at Fast Company:
In general, the training program will have several tracks that allow trainees to first gain the sort of basic skills they may need to gain entry-level jobs, (and immediate income) in data entry, programming, and IT work. Then, many will hopefully move on to advance their education through other services that will be offered. …
Trainees won’t necessarily be limited to just Germany-based jobs either. Having strong computer skills means that refugees who have other commitments at home or need flexible hours can join international companies or the gig economy. Even if no one worked remote, though, there are enough jobs for everyone in Germany. IRC and Intel have studied the country’s economy and, unlike resettlement areas in Jordan, there’s a booming tech sector that’s hungry for new employees.
Germany has taken in more than 1.5 million refugees from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan since 2015. The lack of stable work for these refugees, many of whom are young men, has contributed to high levels of unemployment within the refugee community as well as a relatively high incidence of violent crime. If it proves successful, Project CORE could go a long way toward improving the quality of life for Germany’s refugees and their families, in addition to helping address the talent shortage in the European tech sector.
Apple announced late last week that it was bringing its “Everyone Can Code” program to 70 more colleges and universities throughout Europe, Sarah Perez reported at TechCrunch:
The program, which Apple designed to help students learn how to build apps, launched in May 2017 but was initially limited to the U.S. before expanding to other markets, including Australia, and select institutions in Europe last November. The expansion brings the full-year curriculum to institutions in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal. …
The course is designed to teach students how to build apps using Swift, Apple’s programming language for writing iOS and OS X apps, launched back in 2014 as the replacement for Objective-C. Since Swift’s arrival, Apple has been heavily pushing various “learn to code” educational initiatives, including an entry-level app for teaching kids to code, called Swift Playgrounds.
Facebook, too, is growing its digital skill-building initiatives in Europe, Reuters reported on Sunday, opening three “community skills hubs” in Spain, Poland and Italy and investing 10 million euros in France through its AI research facility:
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.
The advent of artificial intelligence and other previously unimaginable technologies has a lot of people worried about what work will look like in the future and whether the current workforce is prepared to survive the ongoing disruption of the economy. With that in mind, Google has announced a commitment to donate $1 billion in grants and 1 million hours of Googlers’ volunteer time over the next five years to nonprofit organizations dedicated to training US workers and building businesses for the future of work.
TechCrunch’s Brian Heater covers the announcement, which Google CEO Sundar Pichai made at an event in Pittsburgh — a place where the topics of economic disruption and technological displacement are very salient:
The location of the event will not be lost on anyone who has followed Pittsburgh’s growth over the last few decades. The Steel City has long served as an ideal example of an economy that’s rebounded from the brink of disaster. In Pittsburgh’s case, technology was a primary driver, thanks to Carnegie Mellon, which has helped transform it from post-Rust Belt depression to one of the country’s leading tech hubs. These days, the walls of Pittsburgh’s former factories house cutting-edge innovations in fields like robotics and autonomous driving. …
The company is committing $10 million to Goodwill as part of the initiative — the largest Google.org has committed to one organization. That money will be used to help launch the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator, aimed at preparing the American workforce for high-tech jobs. Grow with Google also will take the form of a national tour hosted by libraries and community organizations aimed at bringing training and career advice directly to local towns and cities.
According to the announcement, the initiative’s overarching goal is to “give anyone in America the tools and training they need to get a job, for free”:
A whopping 75 percent of US workers between the ages of 18 and 34 expect their employer to take positions on social issues affecting the country, such as civil rights, immigration, and climate change, a new survey from Glassdoor finds:
Furthermore, nearly four in five (84 percent) U.S. workers believe companies have an important voice in proposed legislation, regulation and executive orders that could affect the employer’s business or the lives of employees. …
The Glassdoor survey reveals that employees expect employer engagement on timely political and social issues. “Today’s informed candidates want to work for companies that are actively engaged on topics that directly impact their lives and align with their beliefs,” said Dawn Lyon, Glassdoor chief reputation officer and senior vice president of global corporate affairs. “Today’s candidates, especially younger job seekers, want to work at companies that take a stand and take action.”
These findings echo another study released earlier in the year, in which a majority of millennials said they thought CEOs and other business leaders should play an activist role and take public positions on social issues. CEOs are taking notice of this generational change: At the Fortune and Time CEO Initiative conference on Monday, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini remarked on how the millennial generation was changing the role of the CEO:
According to Nooyi, one factor is a changing workforce, which is now heavily populated with millennial workers who want their employers to embrace social issues. “They no longer look at is as [just] a paycheck,” she said. “They look at it as ‘How can I go to work and make a difference in society?’” The Pepsi CEO said that part of a chief executive’s duty today is to ensure that a company’s business goals align with initiatives that make a positive difference in the world. “We had to weave purpose into the core business model of the company,” Nooyi said. …