Last week I discussed how new graduating classes are prioritizing corporate responsibility in their job search. Citing an inter-generational study I am conducting with recent graduates focusing on sustainability in their job search, here's what I wrote:
"These graduates, who represent a diversity of professional experience and industries—and ages--unanimously admit that a company's commitment to CSR is a top priority for them. If you're thinking they're being too idealistic, think again. As they go through their job search, these graduates are aware of reality: There remains a wide disconnect between companies and colleges regarding the importance of CSR as a skill set. Despite this, they are continuing to plug ahead."
People clearly felt strongly about the post and several cared enough to write in with their comments and perspectives; a testament to the buzz corporate responsibility is creating in the marketplace for job seekers as well as working professionals. They all presented insightful perspectives, all worth exploring. One such commentator was Ruhi Shamim, who wrote at length about the obvious disengagement between new graduating classes and employers' priorities in CSR. I encouraged her to put her thoughts into a blog post because in many ways, her argument hits at the heart of the debate surrounding the job market. She said, "Companies must realize how key messages in business education are shifting, in order to bridge the gap between senior level employees and the “new” more socially-inspired bunch, and create a comfortable, efficient, and productive work culture."
As you read Ruhi's post, here's some food for thought: That our work culture is slowly changing to address corporate sustainability is now a reality. That the recession has ensured that career and personal strategies need to increasingly align themselves for any measure of success, which has further meant a closer look introspectively for business models as well as individual success.
Transparency and accountability are becoming increasingly relevant values to large companies, who need to answer the heaping stack of questions about how their organizations, policies, and management are impacting their surroundings—both physical and social. As things seem to be changing, how will this trickle down to a transformation of day-to-day corporate culture for the average employee?
If consumers and activists have made progress in pressuring companies to be more conscientious and proactive about social impact at a grassroots level, what role do talented job seekers play in developing corporate social responsibility and what can companies do to attract the brightest, and most aware, employees?
Perhaps companies need to take a cue from the nonprofit sector. While the nonprofit world certainly isn’t ideal (it often lacks the promise of job security and benefits that companies can afford to offer), it does accommodate passionate, idealistic and socially responsible workers. Nancy Lublin, CEO of New York nonprofit Do Something, recommends a few pointers in a recent article in Fast Company, including:
"Ground people; don't grind them. Offices kill dreams. Cause-y people need the rush of the front lines to remind them why the work matters. Do Something focuses on teens; once a year, I send my employees back to their high schools. That grounds them quickly.
Give them a break. After two-and-a-half years at Do Something, employees can take a month-long paid sabbatical to do volunteer work if they commit to another year. The three who have accepted so far went to Mozambique, Costa Rica, and Nepal. All returned energized, with renewed perspective on doing good.
Now here are three suggestions for unhappy worker bees."
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, a Vermont-based coffee company with an inherent appreciation for social responsibility, seems to be on to something with a long list of CSR initiatives, including offering their employees up to 52 hours a year of paid time-off to volunteer. Another emerging trend is "Volunteer traveling." It is part of a fast expanding effort to revive local culture while traveling to have unique and insightful adventures. This type of travel is thriving among young job seekers (often misunderstood as job avoiders) in the recession, so wouldn’t it be nice to see companies incorporate volunteer travel opportunities into their employee engagement programs—especially if it involves learning about the effects of corporate driven globalization on human rights in other countries.
Business schools are also changing their curricula to emphasize ethics and social responsibility. Companies must realize how key messages in business education are shifting, in order to bridge the gap between senior level employees and the "new" more socially-inspired bunch, and create a comfortable, efficient, and productive work culture. Do offices really kill dreams, as Lublin suggests? Is the American Dream of working your way up from a tiny cubicle to a luxurious corner office, being replaced by the idea of being able to work from home in your pajamas, thanks to advances in communications and project management technology?
If companies adopted work-from-home cultures, would they reduce their carbon footprints by cutting down on employee commuting, de-congesting highways to create space for effective rapid bus transport systems, and reducing need for space and energy-devouring office buildings? Managers need to consider that the approach that earned them an "A" in business school, isn’t the same measure of success held by their employees, especially recent graduates, who either want an underlying meaning to their day-to-day work or want their jobs to offer them the time and means necessary to pursue social involvement independently.
If a more open-minded understanding of the value of compensation in time and flexibility, versus money, were adopted, perhaps large companies would find it easier to find their balance within this new way of "going green."
Ruhi Shamim is a social media marketer and blogger, specializing in corporate social responsibility, urban planning and sustainable transportation, and cultural diplomacy. She has worked with Sosauce, Justmeans, Sparkseed, and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, and is currently developing a Green Network for JobThread, a New York based technology startup.
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