Corporate social responsibility is nothing new. The concept of CSR first came into vogue midcentury. What is new is the true commitment to social justice that millennials have brought to the workforce. Motivated by a desire to work in jobs that allow them to make a positive impact on the world, this generation expects its employers to act as responsible stewards of society, turning CSR from a nice-to-have to a must-have.
While CSR activities often show what is important to the company’s management and audiences, it can serve another purpose, too – while doing good. Finding and keeping top talent for technology firms is fiercely competitive, and today’s hot fields like blockchain, autonomous vehicles, and IoT dominate headlines and scoop up the top-flight experts. CSR, on the other hand, can make a difference for other tech companies as they position themselves to attract skilled employees.
Millennials Make the World Go Round
As the Brookings Institution notes, millennials will account for more than one third of the American adult population by 2020, and will comprise 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Eight in 10 millennials expectbrands to make public declarations of their “corporate citizenship,” and recent attention to gender discrimination and other social inequalities has magnified their focus on how companies integrate social consciousness and action into their corporate cultures.
Moreover, broader public opinion trends show a widespread appetite for CSR. According to the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, 78 percent of Americans want companies to address important social justice issues, while 87 percent said they would do business with a company based on its advocacy on issues they cared about. Employees who work for companies prioritizing CSR may not only find a greater sense of personal fulfillment at work but may also enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that the larger public appreciates their company’s commitment to social action.
Tech companies can gain a leg up in the competition for top talent and ensure that their workers remain happy with their jobs by integrating corporate social responsibility into company culture. Not only is CSR a vital resource for revitalizing communities and attracting mission-driven talent, it is also uniquely suited to the tech industry. Leveraging the exceptional skills that tech employees offer can maximize philanthropic impact, expanding the reach of CSR initiatives in new ways.
Tech’s Vital Role
Technology fulfills a crucial function in how we give back and raise impact. One-on-one tutoring with underprivileged youth, for instance, no longer has to take place in the cities where the children live; it can cross neighborhoods and even international borders with the ease of a Skype account. Elderly recipients of food packages can now log into apps that allow them to indicate their preferences and personalize their shipments.
Another example of this is Mobfox’s hackathon to benefit the Israeli animal welfare charity SOS Pets. The event not only positioned the company as one with an active and involved CSR program to current and potential employees, but also as a target-oriented and effective organization offering solutions to real-world problems.
Mobfix the World
Prior to the hackathon, Mobfox engaged in a dialogue with SOS Pets to discuss the challenges the charity faces in its everyday work and to help them narrow these down to actual pain points. This provided the “hackers” of Mobfox with a framework to optimize the solutions they would design. Divided into cross-departmental teams, Mobfox employees applied their specialized skills to bring greater precision, efficiency, and impact to SOS’s work.
The results checked many boxes. The non-profit received personalized, tech-driven solutions and the Mobfox team members were thrilled to have an opportunity to use their skills creatively and contribute to a good cause.
This strengthens two simple, time-tested principles: first that it’s essential for companies to do their part in addressing social challenges, from global climate change to world hunger to animal welfare. Second, employees who are engaged with their work are happier and more productive employees – and creating a workplace culture that emphasizes giving back is a surefire way to boost employee engagement and job satisfaction.
As the workforce evolves, and as the challenges society faces demand our concerted attention, companies cannot afford to give short shrift to CSR. It’s time for technology companies to use the skills at their disposal to give back with impact. Not only does it invigorate the team, raising creativity and productivity at work, but it just might make them feel good too.
This article was originally published in ChiefExecutive in May 2018.