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“Corporations seeking to maintain the interest of their highly gifted talent pools have noted the rising tides and have responded…They wisely understand that the ‘Me Generation’ whose irresponsible Yuppie chaff touted luxury, self-interest and greed ‘because it could,’ has been blown away by the storms of the second Great Depression from which there has been a spotty recovery.”

– Carole Di Tosti, Ph. D., Technorati
With the rise of CSR and sustainability awareness among top companies, more and more employees are looking to work for a company that actively engages in such efforts. There is such a high demand for talented employees that keeping them satisfied takes more than just bonuses and stock options; employees want to be a part of a greater cause.

As a result, in addition to providing employees with perks for performing well consistently, more and more companies are using the term “employee integration” to describe programs in which employees gain perks for being socially responsible or contributing to sustainability efforts. The latest employee engagement practice is to link sustainability measures to job descriptions, bonuses and compensation packages.  For example, at Patagonia, if an employee decides to take a leave of absence to participate in a volunteer program that promotes an environmental cause, they will receive a month’s salary and benefits. These kinds of initiatives, while highly unorthodox, are what allows companies to keep their most creative, innovative, and talented employees on staff. Employees are more concerned with “deeper emotional resonances” than they are monetary rewards as the economy and environment continues to pose real concerns for the future. A Net Impact survey polled students; 45% said that they would take a 15% pay cut in order to work for an organization that made a social or environmental impact. Overall, employees who are engaged in a larger social cause as it relates to their career are generally more satisfied than those employees who are not engaged.

What does this mean for companies? The Technorati article addresses some important questions for CSR executives:

  • How can companies properly balance the level of engagement employees have?
  • Should employees be able to determine their own level of engagement with CSR campaigns in order to not only satisfy company goals, but also their own goals?
  • Will allowing employees to engage in programs individually detract from a larger collaborative effort on the part of the company, or diminish a sense of cohesiveness?

Ultimately, engaged employees equals satisfied employees which can have a direct impact on the corporate bottom-line. Companies are taking note of the trend towards employee integration — the CECP’s 2011 Giving in Numbers survey indicated that 89% of leading companies had a formal domestic employee volunteer program — and realizing that employee engagement fosters a corporate culture that allows employees to feel connected to their company, while also contributing to the greater good in the process. However the program is implemented, an effective CSR program can make employees feel connected to a company-wide effort, transforming all volunteer initiatives into a culture-building activity.