Putting People Over Profit: Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives in a Post-Pandemic World

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People still care about sustainability, environmentalism, and other social issues, but right now they want to see companies putting people before profit.

There’s no better way to bring people together than a pandemic, or at least that’s the message many brands are driving home with marketing campaigns that echo similar “together while apart” sentiments.

These “we’re in this together” messages show solidarity with consumers, emphasize brands’ dedication to their communities, and allow companies to advertise their products without being too pushy. In a way, this acknowledges the financial hardships these uncertain times have presented to many (full research available to Gartner clients).

Consumers notice this type of external-facing corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, and value when your business treats them as people. At the same time, they’re also paying attention to how you treat employees in times of crisis.

3 ways small businesses can extend social responsibility initiatives to include employees

Consumer priorities have shifted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and more people are finding CSR initiatives regarding governance to be more important than they did in 2018 (full research available to Gartner clients).

“Before COVID, environmental and social concerns mattered to our customers,” said Xavier Morales, CEO of Secure Your Trademark (a law firm). “Now, people’s worries are closer to home.”

Here are some ways you can extend corporate responsibility inward by demonstrating continued commitment to your employees.

1. Acknowledge essential workers’ value

In a May 2020 Gartner survey, people cited employee welfare as their top expectation for companies in response to the pandemic (full research available to Gartner clients).

For some companies, this means compensating essential workers fairly. In acknowledgement of the risks presented to essential workers, some businesses even gave their essential workforce raises.

Sean Nguyen, director of Internet Advisor, said that because of COVID-19, his company pledged to increase wages for essential workers.

“It is shameful that so many companies have dropped the ball when it comes to protecting [their] most vulnerable employees, or overlooking them altogether.”

Sean Nguyen, Director of Internet Advisor

If you don’t have essential workers, you can show your appreciation for essential workers in hospitals, grocery stores, and pharmacies in other ways.

Neal Taparia, founder of brain training platform Solitaired, said that he and his team decided to make personal protection equipment (PPE) donations to hospitals located in remote employees’ communities.

Companies that show continued support of essential workers demonstrate social responsibility and a commitment to their community. While you should acknowledge essential workers’ value, you should also actively work to protect their health and safety.

How software can help: Tools such as employee recognition software makes it easier to celebrate employee successes while taking the pressure to recognize every success off of management and giving employees the chance to recognize each other.

2. Keep it clean

People expect businesses with physical locations to accept responsibility for protecting customers from COVID-19 (full research available to Gartner clients). This means keeping physical stores clean, communicating transparently if an employee becomes ill, and doing what’s necessary to protect both customers and employees.

Tino Jaimes, owner of Sunrise House Buyers TX, says he has changed how employees and clients interact to ensure everyone’s safety. Before the pandemic, he and his team would hold an initial consultation with potential clients over the phone and then meet them in person to ask clarifying questions and get to know them better. The clients usually welcomed the idea of an in-person meeting, but are now more hesitant.

As a result, Jaimes said they always offer virtual meetings as an alternative. After the consultation phase, Jaimes and his team usually need to go to the client’s house to see the property and take photos. Unlike the consultation, this can’t be translated to a virtual meeting.

Jaimes increased the company’s safety precautions to not only protect clients but also his employees, requiring both clients and employees to wear masks.

By providing employees with PPE and asking clients to wear masks, you can protect everyone involved in face-to-face interactions.

How software can help: There are more workplace health factors businesses need to consider: cleaning procedures, protective gear for employees, and social distancing measures. Safety management software can help businesses better manage safety risks and improve overall health and safety.

3. Allow employees greater flexibility

To keep employees safe, many companies have expanded their work from home policies to allow most or all employees to work remotely.

For example, Max Dirnfeld, CEO of Toner Buzz, says that allowing his team to work remotely has helped keep them safe.

“I’m not only a small-business owner—I’m a human being. One of the primary ways we’ve responded to this pandemic is by allowing a large portion of our workforce to work from home.”

Max Dirnfeld, CEO of Toner Buzz

Before the pandemic, Dirnfeld says 10% of his staff worked from home. Now, 80% of his staff works remotely.

By letting non-essential employees work from home, you can remove potential risks that may expose your teams to the virus such as commuting and being in a confined office space. This also works to protect your essential workers by reducing the number of people they encounter on their commutes.

How software can help: Software such as productivity software and web conferencing software has proven to be a critical tool in transitioning from in-office collaboration to remote collaboration.

Customers notice how businesses treat their employees

It’s not that consumers no longer care about sustainability—it’s that they want to know you are also taking care of your own during a crisis.

Businesses that extend corporate responsibility to their employees not only demonstrate continued commitment to their people but also show they trust their employees.

Software can help with this transition, and we’re here to help you find the best solution with our resource hub for companies continuing to work from home.

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About the Author

Toby Cox

Toby Cox

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Toby Cox is a senior content writer for Capterra covering the accounting and business intelligence markets and contributing to the marketing and small-business trends markets. A journalist by trade, Toby enjoys the art of digging through the noise to find compelling narratives that provide clarity to her audience. She holds a B.A. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. When she's not typing away at her computer, you can catch her on the mats with her boxing gloves or tending to her beehives.

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