Is your business rooted in your community? It should be. According to Forbes, being involved in your community enables any business to:
- Build new relationships
- Boost visibility
- Increase brand awareness
- Strengthen your business reputation
- Create positive goodwill
- Attract and retain employees
It also helps build a more contented workforce who can benefit by:
- Developing their personal skills
- Strengthening relationships across teams and departments
- Creating a sense of pride in their role in the business
- Gaining knowledge and insights that can translate into innovation
Community Service, CSR and Volunteer Programs
Many major companies have community service, CSR (corporate social responsibility) and/or volunteer schemes in place. Their PR and marketing teams are probably involved, and the whole community activity portfolio may be able to draw on significant resources.
So why do they do it, and why should your business do it as well?
The right thing to do
If being involved in the community feels right, it probably is right. You don’t need an agenda, or need to target a specific customer base or demographic. What is more important is a genuine interest in supporting a community that in turn supports your business. As Ben Martinez of US company HireVue says, it’s a “Community in the front, business in the rear" approach.
A collaborative approach
Rather than sending employees off for a team-building exercise, let them work together outside the workplace on a community initiative. This enables employees to see their everyday colleagues in a different light, and to get to know each other better without the pressure of work. Community activities outside work can bring your staff closer together in work, which in turn is good for your business.
Attract new talent
Many employees welcome the opportunity to volunteer. A strong ethos of community involvement, volunteering and the allocation of paid volunteer hours or days all help attract a new generation of workers who value this approach. The Globe and Mail reported that:
“According to a 2016 millennial employment engagement online survey of 1,020 U.S. employees conducted by Cone Communications, 76 per cent of millennials consider a company's social and environmental commitments when choosing where to work, while 64 per cent will refuse a position from a company lacking in a strong corporate social responsibility practice.”
The human face of your business
Being active in your community gives your customers the chance to meet you and your employees on their own ground. This is something that local businesses may appear to do better, given that they might meet more customers, but it doesn’t mean they are building ties beyond sales. As an article for American Express says:
“Many national firms appear to be more clued into the importance of developing local ties than neighborhood businesses. In a study that asked consumers to report on a retailer they felt was well-connected to their communities, many chose national companies based out of town.”
How to involve your employees in your community initiatives
Almost every employee engagement survey out there points to the need for employees to know that what they do every day matters, and is valued by their employer. Community involvement is a very visible way of showing that you value them, and that the community values them too. Just as importantly, their peers and colleagues will value their involvement too. By enabling employees to share their ‘outside’ experiences and encouraging their peers to get involved, you’re much more likely to get buy-in than just a message from the CEO or manager saying, “You can volunteer if you wish”.
Ways to get involved with your community
Every community, whatever its size, always needs voluntary help. So, it doesn’t matter if you give time to help the junior ice hockey team or help seniors get out and about, it’s all going to count.
Even just donating an hour or two of your expertise and experience will help foster better relationships. Here’s one example that’s simple and effective:
As an article by Bob House for Inc. says:
“Time is a precious commodity, and donating large portions of it to a good cause signals to the community that the business owner is interested in more than just the bottom line. It's also something that the entire staff can participate in. Owners can encourage employees to join in on the cause by providing a certain number of paid volunteer hours per quarter or incorporate company outings during the work week.”
Reaching the business community
At Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, we see examples of business working in the local community every day. If you would like some ideas of how your business might help, call us and we’ll point you in the right direction.
Equally, you might decide to become involved by sponsoring one of our local Chamber of Commerce events. Sponsorship exhibits your company as a local business leader and community partner, and ensures you company name is seen at any number of live events in the Woodstock area.
For more details, see our sponsorship page.