It can be all too easy to sink into a mindset of complacency. Anybody, from an entry-level employee to a boardroom executive, can fall victim to the idea that nothing that they do can make a difference. However, the truth is that activism in the workplace has actually led to some businesses seriously changing their giving habits, leading many to adopt the mantle of “corporate responsibility” to demonstrate their dedication to these causes.
While responsibility at a corporate level is absolutely important, it is also vital to examine the roles that employees have in changing the direction of giving and making these organizations more socially conscious.
The modern corporation is almost expected to give back. Company values are among the first thing any employee hears about during orientation, and they are in part defined by the causes that they champion. Even so, many corporations will only pay lip service to these values or give employees little say in what they support. Aligning a business’s charitable goals to those of its employees is certainly a difficult challenge.
It helps with employee engagement as well. People, particularly younger generations, would much rather work for a socially responsible company. These individuals are also pushing for expanding community involvement and sticking to values that too often fall by the wayside.
While the common philosophy is that change starts at the top of an organization, a large number of employees that are passionate about a cause can enact change of their own. Some corporations are beginning to recognize the power of letting employees take the lead on these initiatives. Programs such as donation matching and volunteering opportunities can cater to a variety of sensibilities and causes and ensure that getting involved is as easy as possible.
Some companies are even adding infrastructure that allows employees to give as they wish, instead or in addition to scheduled efforts. Spontaneity can create a culture in which anyone can contribute without going through the red tape of becoming part of a company-wide initiative. When a culture is centered around giving and the values that employees are passionate about, it leads to even more prosocial behavior.
Companies looking to change the way their approach their values and giving efforts should solicit employee opinions to plan. This can be an intimidating prospect, as what they want may very well disrupt initiatives that a company has grown used to. A grassroots approach is the best way to create values that are genuine rather than created out of obligation.
It’s clear that, despite the best efforts of leadership to dictate the direction a company takes, a surprising amount of power rests with the masses of employees. A single idea or a single email can create change that defines a company’s future—sometimes permanently.