Five ways to successfully mix business growth and social responsibility
Social responsibility and profits don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, championing inclusion and being more ethically minded can actually help to grow your business faster, when done in the right way.
Social responsibility and inclusion are climbing higher on the agenda as companies realise that both employees and customers are in search of meaning and personalisation. It can be difficult, however, to work out how to integrate them into your business strategy. There are many ways to contribute to solving social issues whilst shaping a solid foundation for further growth. It’s all about having the right team and skills onboard.
Hiring the right people is not just about finding the exact matching skills and talents – it’s also about spotting those who have potential to grow with the team and organisation. That’s where inclusion can help bridge the talent gap, by nurturing potential and developing skills.
Empowering your employees to develop this authenticity will increase their potential to individually influence the company.
This is true at every level, and means we can hire from many different pools, not just those with a higher education, but also those excluded from employment, or newer talents eager to enter the job market who have little experience.
This means a lot, not just to the person who finds a place to develop, but also to their colleagues, who contribute to their progression by sharing their expertise and who can be proud of working in an inclusive organisation.
Finding this meaning in your work leads to better performance. You probably know this intuitively. Doing something that matters connects deeply with most people. Being socially responsible creates a drive and intrinsic motivation that’s worth a lot more than hard-line managers, bonuses, pep talks and weird perks. We know from countless studies that when people work for an organisation they find meaningful, they are motivated, loyal and engaged.
Here are five methods we use at Trendhim that enable us to achieve this delicate balance.
1. Be authentic
When we first started talking about social responsibility, we hit a wall, both in our own understanding of ‘being responsible’ and also in thinking about how we could proceed with this. We wanted to be responsible, but we didn’t want to jeopardise our business results or culture.
Being authentic is the first step to ensuring that everybody within the company and potential candidates coming into the business know where you stand. It is also a way to make both employees and consumers feel included: they can be their authentic selves, too. Empowering your employees to develop this authenticity will increase their potential to individually influence the company.
Getting to know the people who work for you on a deeper level – even if they’re only there a short time – always pays off.
Authenticity can mean many things, but to us it means, for example, that there’s no dress code – you come as you are. We also try to avoid corporate-speak, because everyone needs to be able to understand and join the conversation. We have also designed our workspace so that people have a choice with regards to the type of environment they feel comfortable in to a degree – there are treadmill desks, beanbags, and smaller rooms available to everyone (some more and some less social) because that’s sometimes part of being effective. This is also a way to adapt to people's different needs for focus and stimulation.
Our business is based in Denmark, where organisations can undertake an agreement with the local job centre to take on an unemployed person for a few weeks or months. Historically, we used to take on people who would end up doing mundane, routine tasks with us. At the end of the experience, most of them learned nothing. It was like we did not have the guts to say ‘no’, rather than really saying ‘yes’ to these people.
We decided to change this by being more involved with the candidates – we started only accepting people whom we actually believed could contribute and benefit from being part of the team. By learning about them and their skills, we developed a deeper mutual respect with these people, and it meant we could place more expectations on them.
The lesson here is that no matter whom you’re taking on, whether they work in the post room or the boardroom, everyone deserves respect and the chance to develop their skills. Getting to know the people who work for you on a deeper level – even if they’re only there a short time – always pays off.
3. Reach out
One of the key challenges of recruitment is future-proofing your strategy to ensure a steady stream of talent continues to come through the door. One way of doing this is to invest in developing young talent. We’ve done this through our E-commerce Academy, an internship programme where we take on students to work with us for 12-16 weeks. They get a taste for the business and e-commerce in general, as well as space to develop their talent in their chosen area of expertise. In return, we get a fresh perspective and a chance to increase our future talent pool. It’s a win/win situation.
4. Follow the energy
Increasing the focus on social responsibility has to follow the company’s energy – it has to become a part of the natural flow. When doing something that draws energy and focus away from our main goals, we jeopardise the business and culture.
By integrating social responsibility in the different processes, and ensuring it does not remain in an organisational silo, it can become a natural part of the business flow.
Being socially responsible and inclusive is a way to create purpose in our work, where people feel motivated and engaged not only to develop themselves, but also to contribute to the progression of others.
CSR shouldn’t exist as a separate team away from the rest of the business. It should be a core part of what every department is doing. One of our objectives is to launch three ‘do good’ initiatives a quarter. Anyone is welcome to come up with ideas for this, which means social responsibility can be integrated in different departments. For example, marketing is testing planting ten trees for each order placed through Facebook ads, the warehouse is gradually removing plastic from packaging (or compensating it through donations to plasticchange.org), and all departments are training interns through our Trendhim Academy. We’re continually finding ways to integrate socially responsible action into our day-to-day activities.
5. Be realistic
Be realistic about what you can do, and how you can make that a part of your growth strategy. It might only be baby steps to start with, but by making a small change you are still moving in the right direction.
Some months, the Trendhim team comprised up to 20% of employees who’d come in on a special agreement (e.g. job centre candidates, youth interns or trainees). In the last year or so, we increased business growth by more than 50%. While we can’t directly link the two together, being socially responsible did not work the tiniest bit against growth for us. We were able to achieve this while still working hard towards greater diversity and inclusion.
One important figure I am sure it did help to enhance is our employee net promoter score (eNPS). This measurement allows us to see how likely people are to recommend Trendhim as a workplace, and it can range from -100 to 100. Ours rose to 50, which is an excellent score.
Being socially responsible and inclusive is a way to create purpose in our work, where people feel motivated and engaged not only to develop themselves, but also to contribute to the progression of others. As each employee grows, so does the business.
Interested in this topic? Read People over profits: the way we do business has to change.