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A World of Difference – Print – Issue 201 | Article of the Week

Gerry Brown, Chairman - Novaquest Capital Management

Each month we will be sharing four, carefully-chosen articles from the Latest Issue of our flagship publication ‘theHRDIRECTOR’ which exemplify the high standards we strive to archive. We hope you find this in-depth article of interest and decide to become one of our valued Subscribers.

There is little doubt that the pandemic has caused a groundswell of interest in stepping up to tackle social and environmental problems. There has been a huge drive, led by younger people, to become aware, to volunteer and to make a difference. This so-called Generation Z has zero faith in the political system or in the abilities or will of politicians to effect change and that, combined with the tragedies and inequalities they see, is driving a strong purpose element, to contribute in some way to solving problems in their communities and the wider world.

However hard it is out there right now, as we adapt to the new normal, there are also numerous opportunities to find greater purpose, but also to help our society to change for the better. Volunteering and bringing the community back to the core of what we are about is what sustains us. In the pre-pandemic days, 17 percent of the population went out of their way to ‘put something back’ every year. If you were to put a monetary value on the total number of hours volunteered, it would be £22 billion, according to the ONS. But in the past year, it seems safe to say that this number will have increased many times over. Volunteering, corporate or otherwise, provides the perfect impetus to reach out and connect with our local communities, for being part of an active social network gives us a feeling of belonging. Face-to-face activities, where you work closely with fellow colleagues are a great way to reduce loneliness and isolation and you will make life-long friends too. The benefits gained from feeling that what you are doing is worthwhile, cannot be underestimated either, because purpose is a powerful motivator. Helping others naturally instils a sense of accomplishment and it connects you to your community too, because it gives you an identity.

It’s a chance to try out a new career, without making the long-term commitment. Indeed, joining an organisation that does the type of work you’re interested in and road testing it as a suitable new direction, provides the perfect mutual win-win. As renowned business management psychologist Frederick Herzberg spelled out in his theory of motivation in the workplace and I paraphase here; “pay and working conditions can only ever minimise an employee’s dissatisfaction with work. If you want to truly motivate a workforce, the team needs to be given a sense of responsibility, achievement and recognition”. High on the list of priorities for the majority of the working population, is to work for a company that cares about its environmental, social and cultural impact on society. To feel fully committed to an organisation, individuals need to feel a sense of purpose and satisfaction. This is why environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives have become an important part of corporate culture for modern businesses. Companies all over the globe are looking closely at the impact they have on society and are putting ethical policies in place to support individuals, the local community and the environment. Among these initiatives, which range from fundraising to sustainability programmes, are corporate volunteering schemes for employees. Corporations recognise that volunteering makes people feel good about themselves and that it is hugely satisfying to help others, putting their skills to good use outside the workplace and contributing to the common good. It lifts spirits in ways that a ping-pong table or company away days never will achieve.

Perhaps not surprisingly, ESG initiatives have become a growing factor in the war for the best talent. This goes for both recruitment and retention. According to one study, 64 percent of millennials won’t accept a job at a company that doesn’t have strong purpose and social responsibility practices. More than one[1]in-ten would even take a pay cut to work for a company that has the right attitude toward charities. Since this group will make up three-quarters of the workforce by 2025, it is a metric that cannot be ignored. Today’s talent only wants to work with organisations that are willing to make a positive impact on the world and that respond to the current pressures upon it, following the pandemic. When it comes to keeping people engaged – and therefore ensuring they stick around for the long haul – there needs to be evidence that the employer is ready to give back. Even before the coronavirus crisis, over half (57 percent) of UK employees said they wanted their employers to do more for ESG and 63 percent said paid time off during working hours for charitable initiatives would significantly improve their engagement. It’s not a ‘like to have’, either – 51 percent believe their company has a duty to commit to charitable acts and ESG. The pressure to reach out into communities does not just come from within. Social responsibility is a priority in the wider world. Consumers have a growing expectation that the companies they buy from will seek to make a positive impact on their local communities, over and above purely commercial considerations.

No one should be afraid to step up and request the support of their employers in their goal to service their communities, particularly at a time of very clear need. Sadly though, at this moment, there is clear evidence that these ESG opportunities are not being talked about enough. For example, while employer supported volunteering (ESV) participation is growing and around ten percent of volunteers do so via these programmes, not enough people are taking advantage of the opportunity. Some reports show that even where businesses are giving employees the green light to volunteer, many people are ignoring the offer. Some reports show that where employees have a scheme available, just a quarter to a third participate at least once a year. We need to start that conversation and make sure that more people are not just allowed to volunteer, but are actively encouraged to do so. Plus, on the flip side to this, individuals should not be reluctant to press employers for their support. There are no doubts that it is to everyone’s advantage.

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