Not just good PR, but good for HR too.

I don’t think anyone needs to be sold on the importance of public private partnerships, which are often part of a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) scheme, or on how useful it can be when organizations use business acumen for social good. This was highlighted repeatedly at the Social Good Summit last week, as reviewed in my most recent post, and the whole conversation seems to fit well with the timing for J’s first aid blog forum call for posts around CSR.

I’m not a business expert, nor have I worked extensively behind closed doors to see what makes companies tick, but I do know that one comment stuck with me from this past week. USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health, Dr. Ariel Pablo-Mendez, said in a one-on-one interview that private sectors aren’t just giving back for the good public relations exposure (thought it can be damn good PR, particularly in the wake of media criticisms of other policies), but that these partnerships are good for HR too. Attracting new, particularly young, talent requires not just a lucrative paycheck and comprehensive health plan nowadays: it takes the promise of finding value in your job and not feeling like another cog in a wheel.

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

For all of those MBA-ers and other business professionals out there who aren’t swapping over to the NGO/philanthropic capital/etc. sectors, finding a for-profit employer that has a cause as part of its bottom line equation matters. The Pew Charitable Trusts did a study last year about young people age 18-30 (Millennials) and their take on jobs, relationships, life goals, and a myriad of other topics. Among their findings, Pew found Millennials were more likely than previous generations to value meaning and purpose in a position and/or a company over higher pay than in previous generations. Perhaps this explains the near exponential growth of people seeking masters in areas like global health, and looking for careers in aid work and other similar people-oriented arenas. Look at the chart of values above: more than thirty percent more respondents indicated that “helping others in need” was their top priority compared to “having a high paying career” (though this is obviously not universally the case). And notably, the top two priorities that beat out helping others were both related to family: parenting and marriage.

In order to attract those talented young people to the entry and mid-level jobs available in the corporate world, it’s become an imperative for many corporations to have a public means to show how they give back. I don’t think this is a bad thing, particularly if they’re applying their business expertise to a similar challenge or need in their own country or abroad. But I also don’t think it’s a selfless gesture of kindness: consumers have higher expectations for corporations, and employees have higher expectations for their employers than ever before. While this may seem ironic in a time of economic instability and recession, as profits and gains aren’t what they used to be in many sectors, it’s a shift I would love to see stick.

To more directly answer J’s query though, on what I’d like to see next from corporations and companies who believe in giving back (and want to attract young people, like myself): follow the model of some forward thinking companies founded and run by young people themselves (Ryan Allis’ iContact comes to mind) and give employees one or two days of paid leave specifically for volunteering and giving back in their local communities. Let employees connect with causes they care about, and give them a platform to share those passions with fellow staff members. Don’t just think about writing checks and forming partnerships that your employees only know through little posts on their Sharepoint or Intranet sites. I know that would get my attention when I read through a benefits package.

You can read the other fantastic reflections on CSR at the Aid Blog Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility.

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