2014-05-28

Win-Win: Employer Branding and Corporate Social Responsibility

Does your company care about employer branding? Probably yes.

Does your company care about corporate social responsibility? Probably yes.

Does your company combine these two to create a win-win situation? Most likely not!

Take my employer ImmobilienScout24 as a typical example: The about us page mentiones that ImmobilienScout24 is a great place to work (4th in our region) and the CSR team talks about the social engagement, e.g. blood donations or the social day where all employees donate their work time to non-profit organizations.

However, there is no obvious connection between these two things.

I would like to suggest a simple way how to combine both employer branding and corporate social responsibility:

A company should make it a priority to support charitable organizations and social projects related to their own employees.

Examples:
  • Sponsor non-profit organizations or neighborhood/community projects that employees are involved with.
  • On social day, go to schools and kindergartens where employees are parents.
  • Involve employees who are in the red cross or similar organizations to organize the annual blood drive.
  • Support local or neighborhood charity organizations instead of global ones.
Basically the idea is that CSR related activities should be geared around the employees private life and activities.

This will create a win-win situation and especially help to retain employees because they get additional fulfillment and satisfaction from their employer supporting their social engagement.

There is no added costs involved, it is enough to change the way how CSR budgets are spent.

I mostly hear these arguments against this idea:
  1. CSR spending must be charitable beyond doubt, employee projects could be too narrowly orientated to count as generally charitable.
  2. Employee-oriented sponsoring would lead to envy between colleagues.
  3. The danger of personal enrichment or employees taking personal advantage is too high.
  4. Niche projects and small target groups would get too much funding compared.
  5. Employees who are less outspoken or less engaged would be disadvantaged.
All these arguments are most certainly valid and represent the fear that "something could go wrong". Of course sponsoring a large and well-established institution is much easier and safer, but also much less gratifying. And much less worthy of press attention and less outstanding.

I believe that all these concerns can be adressed by establishing simple rules related to funding:
  • Communicate the concept of employee-oriented CSR funding to all employees so that everybody understands the value of making CSR spending more personal and more related to the people.
  • Make CSR funding very transparent - from the internal application through the reasons given till the detailed spending report.
  • Publish follow-ups on past fundings to ensure sustainable spending and to give positive examples.
  • Make a very visible call for participation to invite all employees to suggest organizations and projects they care about.
  • Not every single project must be charitable for the general population - all projects taken together should have a sufficiently wide spread.
With these rules a company can easily resolve the concerns preventing the benefical combination of CSR spending and employer branding.

The following links discuss this idea in part without drawing the obvious conclusion that smarter CSR funding could improve employer branding for free:
Image: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / ribah2012 and / mindscanner