Employees demand action on corporate community commitments

December 13, 2022

The pandemic has brought about a physical and psychological disconnect between employers and the workforce. The shift to working from home or hybrid working has given employees space to contemplate their careers, company values and wider contributions to society – reflections that have left many dissatisfied and undervalued. These attitudes have, in part, contributed to a current phenomenon referred to as ‘The Great Resignation’ – a mass exodus of employees (predominantly Millennials and Gen Z), who prioritise working for an employer that emphasises the importance of positively impacting society, as well as valuing and prioritising employee wellbeing.

A glaring absence of company action on key issues can radically diminish employee confidence. Fast fashion brand Boohoo has faced ongoing criticism from shareholders and campaigners over owing as much as £125 million in underpaid wages, while awarding executives bonuses despite missing targets. The company’s reputation has continued to suffer since 2020, when an investigation revealed evidence of poor working conditions at key factories in the UK. Two years later, Boohoo still faces complaints about ongoing poor working conditions.

Similarly, petroleum company TotalEnergies has faced a criminal complaint over its alleged stakes in gas facilities used by the Russian military. While the company has denied wrongdoing, a lack of action compromises the firm’s reputational identity with its employees, putting its internal integrity in jeopardy.

The burden is on companies to demonstrate commitment through engaged actions, not statements. Building internal trust requires intentions embedded in measurable action that align with the values of the firm and its employees. One solution may be to target employee engagement.

A recent report shows that 89% of employees believed that companies that sponsor volunteer activities, offer a better overall working environment. Employee engagement and volunteering initiatives are particularly appealing to younger employees. Studies show that 78% of employees felt they had improved their behaviour and outlook due to company volunteering. Another 69% said volunteering had improved life skills, with 54% saying it had improved job-related skills.

It’s no secret that companies that have measurement processes in place to report on volunteering, employee engagement and business impacts, are in a better place to articulate their successful retention and employee trust. Business for Societal Impact (B4SI) offers a globally recognised Framework for articulating a company’s community impact, and in particular the impact on the business. B4SI member RELX has been utilising the Framework to measure motivation among its employee volunteers for the past few years. RELX’s community investment strategy includes RELX Cares, a global community programme consisting of in-person and virtual employee volunteering and fundraising. RELX employees are given up to two days of paid leave per year to undertake their community work.

In 2021, employee volunteer surveys found that 90% of RELX Cares Volunteers said that their motivation and pride in the company had increased as a result of volunteering, with 75% of employees saying that team spirit had increased as a result of volunteering, and 88% of employees experiencing a positive change in behaviour or attitude as a result of volunteering. This articulation of the impact of employee volunteering programmes on the business clearly depicts RELX’s priority to engage employees, and build trust, pride and motivation for a healthy working environment, with subsequent high retention rates.

If companies want their employees to believe in their societal commitments, they must start putting their money where their mouth is. Crucially, corporate and personal values should be aligned to improve retention. This begins with employee engagement, and can be rooted in the company’s priority to set community and social initiatives internally.

To learn more about B4SI and our Framework, email us at b4si@corporate-citizenship.com

Author: Diana Paolone