Before we start answering the question from the title, it is probably a good idea to introduce the concepts that will take the centre stage in the rest of the article – employer branding and corporate social responsibility.
Employer branding has been, in one way or another, a part of the business world since the inception of skilled workers, but it became a defined and (to an extent) formalized concept only towards the end of the 20th century.
It describes the strategies and the tactics that different organisations use to position themselves as good employers. Nowadays, when certain industries are absolutely plagued by talent shortages and when employee loyalties are diminishing, employer branding has become more important than ever before.
Corporate social responsibility denotes a concept of commercial organisations trying to do their bit to make the world a better place. This can be done in any number of ways – from donating to charities and becoming environmentally conscious to promoting social involvement and making sure that every employee is treated equally no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation or any other trait that can be used to discriminate.
The question we need to answer is why business owners and HR professionals need to be aware of the intersection of these two concepts and how it can help them attract top talent in their industries.
Perhaps the best way to explain why CSR should definitely have a role in your employer branding strategy is by sharing the numbers that show over and over again that job seekers and employees are very much interested in how socially conscious their (potential) employer is.
For example, Fast Company’s 2016 Talent Trends study showed that company values and company culture are the most important factor for two-thirds of the 26,000 LinkedIn professionals they surveyed. It should be pointed out that this same study discovered that job seekers know very well if the companies are honest about their CSR efforts (we will get to this later).
Back in 2012, Net Impact’s survey was analyzed by Jeanne Feister for Forbes who discovered that more than thirty percent of job seekers would gladly take a pay cut in order to get a job with a company that is committed to corporate social responsibility. Moreover, a whopping 45% said they would do the same to land a job which will actually have an environmental or social impact of some kind.
In case you are targeting younger employees, a Millennials Study done by Cone Communications in 2015 showed that more than 60% of millennials would agree to a lower salary in order to work for a CSR-engaged company.
Trying to unravel why CSR and employer branding have become so interwoven would probably require a diverse team of business people, psychologists, sociologists, media theorists and at least half a dozen more very smart and educated people.
One of the reasons could be that people are simply becoming more and more aware of the down-spiral that humanity is apparently perfectly happy to be on. They just want to make sure that their future employer will not be a silent contributor.
From the employers’ standpoint, it might also have to do with the fact that good ideas spread like wildfire in the internet age and that original and honest CSR efforts (such as Ben and Jerry’s) are quickly recognised. In other words, smaller companies want to emulate the big players who are seeing success with their CSR efforts.
We must also not ignore the possibility that it might just be fashionable and that everyone is simply jumping on the bandwagon.
The important thing is that CSR can be a very effective part of your employer branding efforts.
How to do it?
Of course, simply deciding that you will use CSR in employer branding is just the beginning. In fact, it can be quite tricky to do it the right way.
First and foremost, your CSR efforts should always be 100% honest. Corporate social responsibility is not something that you do in order to achieve selfish business plans. Doing it primarily for profit or advancing your business automatically makes it not-CSR. We are talking basic logic here.
If you still want to be absolutely cynical and do it just because you think it will make you more money, or, in our case, make you a more attractive employer, remember the study we mentioned earlier which states that people are more than able to work out that you are dishonest, which can only hurt your business.
Where your company is really honest and serious about its CSR efforts, it all comes down to making it obvious to job seekers. Your website should prominently feature your socially and environmentally conscious efforts and let people know exactly what it is that you do to make the world a better place.
Your blog is also a great place to share the news of your involvement in local causes, like for example when your employees volunteer in local community centres or take part in other similar activities.
One area that often gets left out is the partnerships you make with other organisations and the tools that you use for day-to-day operation. For instance, you can choose to get your project management software from Active Collab which provides their solutions at huge discounts to non-profit organizations. If you need a social media management tool, you can choose Buffer which offers the same kind of discounted prices for non-profits.
The companies you do business with reflect on you and it is always a good idea to work with those that are as conscious as you are.
One of the best things about starting to use your CSR efforts in employer branding is that it will also inspire you to amp up your efforts and become an even more conscious organisation.
You can rest assured this will reflect on your employer brand too.
As the battle for top talent intensifies, you will want to have as many allies by your side as possible.
If your company is doing CSR right, there is no reason why your potential future employees shouldn’t hear about it.
AUTHOR: James D. Burbank is the editor-in-chief of BizzMarkBlog. He has been doing brand promotion (including employer branding) for the better part of two decades now.