The Workplace - February 2019
When I consider all the ‘things’ we do in relation to building a working environment that we hope our people will want to be part of, the one area where we are asked to do more – and that still generates the most interest and excitement – is our approach to charity and the community.
The journey of communication and togetherness at work I still find intriguing. Those awkward conversations at the watercooler have been replaced by friendly games at the ping pong table. In a world where we now spend more of our downtime with people from work than our ‘friends’, making our working relationships ‘friendships’ is an important one – and what we do in the community helps.
I found Horizon Media’s study Finger on the Pulse interesting: 80% of those aged between 18 and 35 now expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship. And it is a genuine factor when considering what businesses to work for. This was never on the agenda, or indeed possible, in my days as a fee earner.
I wonder if in recent times I have failed the people who work for me by not understanding correctly the findings of the study and not passing on the benefits that eventually found me. If I reflect on my first experiences of working in the community – a small charity-based initiative in the heart of Brixton – I loved it and it certainly influenced my thinking and my feeling that I was doing more than just working. It sits perfectly with how the modern workplace has changed – helping the community around us.
So what have we done? In the past 12 months we’ve developed a relationship with a London prison, where once a month we spend time with inmates on CV writing and interview prep; helped clean a cemetery in Finsbury Square; and raised money and awareness for homelessness in London by going on ‘sleep outs’ with Centrepoint. Just some examples about what we do. You will have done other things but let’s keep doing it and do more!
Taking days off to work in the community? Cisco takes five, we take three. I have gone back to Brixton and taken others with me. Timberland offers 40 hours paid community service a year; PCL Construction actively encourage and give their people time off to work at the Red Cross; and Salesforce is dedicated to giving their people ‘Volunteer Time’ off.
US tech company Nvidia opted out of Christmas parties and instead spent money and employee hours on cosmetically refurbishing nearby schools. PricewaterhouseCoopers too have pushed the community approach, with company-wide projects.
There’s a whole world of things we can do: setting up your own soup kitchen, going into schools as a volunteer teaching maths, running after-school clubs, or follow what we have already done by helping young offenders with their job search.
Whatever we choose, don’t make the mistake I believe I may have done by not encouraging others to experience what I did during my time in Brixton.
Guy Hayward – redefining the modern workplace CEO, Goodman Masson