SHRM 2013: Cultivate A Culture of Giving

Not too long ago, I spoke to executives at large organizations — including Comcast and Aon Hewitt — for a piece I wrote on how corporate giving can positively influence a company’s diversity strategy. It really got me thinking about how it doesn’t take a lot to feel like you’re making a difference in the world. And that sentiment was reinforced during Monday’s keynote at SHRM 2013 in Chicago by Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms.

For those of you who don’t know, Toms is a for-profit company with a nonprofit subsidiary. The company designs and sells shoes, and for every shoe that’s purchased by a customer, one pair is sent to an underprivileged child. That’s the original model, though the company has now also branched into eyewear.

To articulate why this topic really resonated with me, you need to understand the context of how I grew up. I was raised in a developing country, and am no stranger to people in direly impoverished situations. I credit my parents for instilling in me a passion for caring for others – including orphaned children, prisoners’ children, children whose parents died of AIDS and malnourished children who live in slums, among others. Each of these experiences opened my eyes to the outside world.

I’m not alone. People everywhere go the extra mile to help others in need. And it’s not just millennials like myself either — though they might be more vocal about it — who place an emphasis on a spirit of giving in their personal lives. So why not extend that to the workplace?

Some companies are afraid to mix philanthropy or charity with business, Mycoskie explained, but what they may not realize is that it can be a powerful vehicle to drive recruitment, retention and even engagement. “Giving feels good, but it’s also good for business. It can be a business strategy,” he said.

Employees may not have cared about this as much in the past — or at least may not have aggressively vocalized it —but today more and more employees are demanding it.

Figuring out how to incorporate giving into the corporate culture is key, and part of the fruit that corporate giving back bears — whether that’s in the form of volunteering or corporate social responsibility, etc. — is that employees feel like they’re doing meaningful work and making a difference. And in turn, those who are proud of their employer are more likely to be engaged in their work and feel a sense of loyalty to their company.