By Susan Ladika
Sep. 11, 2013
Although BuildASign.com has fewer than 250 employees, the company grants each worker 24 hours of paid time off annually to volunteer and makes major in-kind donations to nonprofits and to honor military members returning from deployment.
It’s permeated through the whole culture of BuildASign.com,” said Olivia Mayberry, human resources manager at the Austin, Texas, company, which also implemented a series of programs to reduce the company’s environmental impact.
That community spirit puts BuildASign.com among a minority of small- and medium-size companies that traditionally haven’t put an emphasis on corporate social responsibility.
In fact, a survey in May by Business4Better of almost 175 professionals from companies with 100 to 5,000 employees found only one-third have a mature social responsibility program integrated into its business model. The rest either don’t have a program or need to improve the one they have, the survey notes.
It’s in contrast to a majority of Fortune 500 companies that have enacted major corporate social responsibility measures, or very small businesses in which the founder has embraced such efforts, and “it comes from the heart place,” said Nina Brown, program director for Business4Better, which is an arm of event-planning company UBM.
The Business4Better report, “Mid-sized Companies and Social Responsibility,” found that although many companies grant employees time off to volunteer, less than 20 percent of employees actually take part.
Less than 10 percent of companies surveyed use corporate social responsibility efforts to foster employee engagement, and about 20 percent measure a program’s success by its effect on the bottom line.
With midsize companies, “they’re a little too big to see the need for local community involvement and too small to have the resources to implement corporate social responsibility programs,” Brown said.
The report suggests goals and measurements be implemented at the start of a program so organizations can gauge the financial impact, as well as employee satisfaction, staff loyalty, retention rates and the ability to attract new talent.
For such programs to be successful, the report suggests members of the C-suite work together with HR and marketing departments.
This spring, Business4Better held a social responsibility conference for midsize corporations and compiling case studies of organizations with successful programs.
One of those companies is Prometheus Real Estate Group, which manages multifamily properties in California, Washington and Oregon and has almost 700 employees.
Jessica Johnson, reputation and social impact manager at Prometheus, was given the job of organizing a volunteer program two years ago, and employees at each site volunteer annually with apartment residents in projects that benefit their communities. Since then, they’ve decorated and donated teddy bears to a children’s hospital and helped clean up a local reservoir.
The emphasis on aiding local communities comes from Jackie Safier, the company’s president. “She wants employees to select their passions and pursue them,” Johnson said.
Each property also was asked to hold a fundraiser to help people with disabilities. Each group could pick its own nonprofit to support. Nearly $70,000 was raised through projects like a bingo night and car washes.
BuildASign.com, whose CEO Dan Graham serves on the board of seven nonprofits, also has dived into such initiatives, Mayberry said.
In-kind donations worth more than $600,000 have been made to more than 500 nonprofits, and the company has given more than 275,000 “welcome home” banners to friends and family of military members returning from deployment.
The company also organizes volunteer opportunities each quarter, and many employees have ongoing relationships with various nonprofits, Mayberry said. They’re also given time off to volunteer. “We want employees who don’t just work for us for 40 hours a week but who really fulfill themselves in the community.”
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