Today’s workforce is becoming increasingly aware of how both they and their organisation impact the world around them; according to a survey of 540 full-time employees by market insight organisation Clutch in December 2018, 93% see high ethical standards as either very or somewhat important in an employer.

Therefore, whether due to a wider sense of morality or the bottom-line need to attract future talent, employers should consider their approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR).

In turn, CSR can have a role to play when it comes to other elements of the employee experience. The Time well spent report, published in January 2019 by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), found that 53% said volunteering had improved their physical health.

Offering employees routes to volunteering and other CSR initiatives not only helps boost an organisation’s brand identity but will bring a return in terms of improved employee wellbeing & engagement.

Align CSR with wellbeing

Many employers now focus on a holistic view of employee health, supporting physical, financial & mental wellbeing. By positioning CSR initiatives within this holistic wellbeing strategy, an organisation will show that not only is it concerned with the wider community, but that it also offers a valuable and engaging working experience.

Yves Duhaldeborde, senior director at Willis Towers Watson, says: “The idea of organisations focusing more on programmes that affect wellbeing and look after the whole individual, rather than thinking of an employee as someone who has to deliver something for the organisation and perform at a high level, that idea really has an impact on people’s motivation & engagement.”

Make CSR relevant 

Just as businesses are keen to show their customers that they operate responsibly and sustainably, so too should they publicise it to their staff.

“Some employers are really clear about how central their CSR agenda is in the way they are doing business,” explains Duhaldeborde. “That’s so motivating for employees, because they get a clear sense of purpose, and that’s so important in driving engagement and motivation today.”

A straightforward means of involving employees in a CSR initiative is to offer a payroll giving scheme; this is the opportunity to donate to charity directly from their gross salary. Deductions are taken every payday and administration is quick and easy.

Employers can engage staff in schemes such as this by giving them the option to donate to a charity of their choice, including local causes or those which hold a personal connection.

In 2017 and 2018, charity funds raised through increased significantly, according to figures released in November 2018 by the Association of Payroll Giving Organisations (APGO).

Payroll giving, as well as a cornerstone CSR initiative, can help support employee wellbeing and engagement, says Jo Wright, managing director of STC Payroll Giving. “If staff feel that employer is thoughtful, kind and thinking of others, not just the output from the working day, it makes[them feel better”.

Look for variety

Direct contributions to charity are an easy method of giving back, but to have the strongest impact on employee wellbeing, something more active and involved might be necessary; to engage a wider range of individuals, variety is key.

To this end, offering routes to schemes such as volunteering can have a significant effect. Joyce Nash, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s health and wellbeing board, says: “Giving to others, such as through volunteering, is one of the ‘five ways to wellbeing’, an approach widely promoted by government and mental health campaigners.

“Not only can this benefit individuals, those giving their time and also the people this helps, but it’s good for businesses too. Happy and healthy staff are good for employee retention & productivity and businesses feel the reputational benefits from supporting their local communities.”

Give employees ownership

Trustees Unlimited runs a programme called Step on Board, through which employers can enable their staff to become trustees of charity boards. Through this, the charity benefits from an injection of professional skills, employees gain development and different sector experience and the employer can provide board-level training that is perhaps not accessible internally.

Sophie Livingstone, managing director of Trustees Unlimited, says: “A lot of [organisations] have volunteering policies that give staff a few days off a year to volunteer. This is a good way to use those days in a really constructive way, rather than a one-off opportunity. This is a really clear way of getting employees to do something active, put experience into practice that they’ve developed in-house, but apply it in a different setting.”

CSR initiatives need to be more than just a tick-box or marketing exercise, but by putting in the time and effort to get it right, organisations will see a return on investment in improved employee engagement, motivation and wellbeing.

For further advice contact