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Yesterday, Next Stage officially launched our Social Impact for Business service line. Personally, this is an addition that I’m incredibly excited about. A few years ago I worked for a private sector tech consulting company, where I had the opportunity to build and pilot their social impact strategy. This experience was game-changing for me because I saw the power of what happens when companies and nonprofits come together to build something innovative and new.

As we interviewed companies for The Social Good Report: Profit & Purpose, it was clear that corporate social impact isn’t only important to the community. It is equally important to the employees that go to work each day, interested in engaging their purpose and values at work. While previous generations most often engaged their community outside of work hours, contributing money and volunteer time, younger generations take a more holistic, integrated view of their community contribution. They don’t just want their employer to engage social good – they expect it.

A lot has been written over the last few weeks about The Great Resignation – the recent phenomenon that has seen Millennial and Gen Z employees leave their workplaces in droves. Many believe this is a response to some corporate culture expectations – that younger employees want more flexibility and connection in the workplace, as well as a greater emphasis on health and well-being.

While the challenge is complex, we believe that social impact offers the opportunity for companies to retain and engage employees in an authentic way. But what do employees want out of these programs?

  1. They want to be engaged.Many employees care deeply about their community and want the ability to engage that community during everyday life – including work! When I was leading corporate social impact efforts at a local technology company, we regularly included the company’s employees in the process. We surveyed the team about the types of causes they cared about most deeply and asked what types of volunteer work they would like to do. We formed an internal advisory committee made up of employees of all experience levels to make sure that the program we built could be engaged by every single team member.My experience is that team members often feel strongly about these efforts. They want to show up and be engaged in the efforts, want feedback into the process and desire for their interests and skills to be taken into account. When team members felt heard and seen, it built significant consensus for the project and created something that the entire team felt passionately about.This type of engagement also works for companies with established programs. Regularly giving workers a chance to voice their opinions (and listening to what they have to say!) creates an environment where they are aware, engaged and proud of the work their employer is doing in the community.
  2. They want to understand the tangible impact.   Employees are your first and best brand ambassadors – and they want to be able to tell a great story! One of the biggest challenges corporate social responsibility leaders face is the ability to measure and communicate impact, both inside company walls and without. Telling the story of your company’s impact helps both employees and leadership feel confident, proud and connected to the ways your company is at work in the community.During our Profit & Purpose research, several local executives noted that more and more interviewees are asking about company impact during the hiring process. Younger employees in particular want this level of detail. The ability to tell your impact story doesn’t just help the community – it just may help you recruit the best talent.Give your employees ways to talk about your impact. We’ve seen this take shape in many ways. Some companies bring their nonprofit partners into the office for experiences or education. Others do monthly updates or quarterly volunteer days. The most important element here is to lead with a story. Numbers are an important element, but leading with the stories of people impacted brings this home and helps employees communicate your impact. (If you need some help with this, check out our Impact Assessment service!).
  3. They want avenues to participate.When it comes to corporate social impact, many employees desire to directly engage in that impact. Particularly younger generation employees don’t just want quarterly updates about where the checks are deposited – they want tangible, active ways to participate, regardless of their role.When we talked to April Whitlock, Head of Corporate Impact at LendingTree, she reported a similar desire among their employees. When the team learned that call center staff don’t often get a chance to participate because it is challenging for them to leave the call center, they created a plan and opportunities that gave the staff meaningful opportunities to participate, even from their desks.Intentional planning ensures that every single person, at every level of the company has the ability to participate. Consider the opportunities your employees have for engagement, then explore how that fits with everyday roles and responsibilities. This will look differently for every company based on its partners, strategy and workforce, but finding a plan that works will pay off in spades when it comes to employee satisfaction.

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ABOUT NEXT STAGE

The current set of challenges for many business and nonprofit leaders are unprecedented and overwhelming – workforce changes, the impacts of the pandemic and social change.

For companies, Next Stage believes that the social impact efforts that already exist within their walls offer low-cost, high impact solutions to many of these challenges. We help purpose-focused business leaders build, leverage and expand social good efforts to build positive company culture, improve the bottom line and create a next generation workforce – all while making significant community impact.

For nonprofits, changes are coming fast including increased need, changing service models and shifting social priorities that require increased nimbleness and innovation. Next Stage partners with nonprofit leaders to design strategies and processes that help navigate change to create real community impact. We believe in creative problem solving for maximum, system-wide impact and we’ll be there every step of the way.

Interested in how we can help? Reach out to us to learn more: info@nextstage-consulting.com