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In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic is continuously shifting the mindset of companies, nonprofit organizations, charities, and of course – the mindset of people. Prior to 2019, employee engagement was becoming more prevalent through in-person volunteering, employee-nominated grants, and workplace giving. The causes which employees held near and dear to their hearts had finally picked up momentum and support, and people came together to help create long-term volunteer programs and recognize the commitment in which companies put behind their sponsorships and donations.
Now, things have changed.
As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities and personal lives, we inevitably have been presented with an opportunity to turn inward, both at a micro and macro scale. This period of reflection brings forward the most important questions for us – what does it truly mean to support ourselves and the well-being of our families, and in turn, our communities?
While the wellbeing of employees has always been a priority for companies, it has surfaced as the most important cause within an organization. Therefore, the focus for companies and their leadership teams is taking care of their employees first; ensuring they are heard, valued, and supported with services around mental & physical health and safety in the workplace. This simultaneously shifts priorities for employee engagement, community investment and giving back, which requires a change in perspective for employers. However, this also allows room for new insights and ideas which employees can bring forward. When we take care of our people first, we organically motivate them to extend the same generosity to their communities.
Shifting perspective requires asking different questions and evolving initiatives around employee giving, volunteering, and engagement. Recognizing employee efforts – no matter how big or small - on how they support and learn about causes and charities should be identified, understood, and rewarded. Donating might be difficult for some employees during this time, but if we collaborate on different ideas for giving back, we can help keep the lights on for many organizations. For example, micro-volunteering could be as simple as promoting a charity through social media or providing a hot meal to a person in need. Skills-based volunteering can be nurtured during this time by offering additional courses, webinars, and increasing budgets around developing the skillset of employees. Workplace giving can continue to be encouraged through donation matching for organizations who have a local and direct impact on their communities, around COVID-19, social justice advocacy, youth & education, and the multitude of causes which need support right now to stay afloat.
Above all, let’s get to know our people. Let’s use this time to enhance employee engagement surveys and brainstorm sessions to actively listen to our employees and understand their personal passions, projects, and ideas around community support. In Canada, we are fortunate to have such a diverse group of communities who build on the uniqueness of the people and cultures within them; it’s okay for companies to ask employees for their input, and it’s a win-win for story-telling when we hit the ground running to revamp our communities.
Many issues and injustices were brought to the forefront in 2020. While these social inequalities are certainly nothing new, the pressure is on now to do better. We can expect corporations to step up to the plate as leaders and partners in the space of recovery in our communities. The pressure is on, indeed, but the possibilities are hopeful, and now is the time to truly transform the world of giving and volunteering.
Guest contributions represent the personal opinions and insights of the authors and may not reflect the views or opinions of Imagine Canada.
As a Corporate Social Responsibility Practitioner in Canada, Michelle Turchanikova is passionate about helping corporations explore the possibilities of giving back in purposeful and meaningful ways, through employee engagement and impactful storytelling. With her recent completion in Inner Engineering, Michelle believes there is value in understanding and cultivating our inner purpose, vision and values, and aligning our authenticity to our careers to power our passion.