Small business owners are no strangers to finding ways to keep up with and even gain a competitive edge against bigger corporations. They come up with ways to take “big business” strategies and scale it to fit their business model and needs. The same approach should be taken for socially responsible employee programs.
Why Should Small Businesses Implement Socially Conscious Programs?
In addition to helping address pressing global issues, there are other reasons why small businesses should actively implement socially conscious programs.
Keep Up with Customer Expectations
Worldwide, there’s a growing consciousness about and emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR). This is something businesses, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), should take into account. The modern consumer is evolving. It’s not just how and where they make a purchase, but the factors that come into play when deciding which brand to support. One of the major factors that customers consider is whether or not a brand’s values align with theirs. They are more likely to engage with brands that display accountability and commitment to their social missions.
Become a Part of the Community
Owners should see beyond the old view of what businesses are and consider themselves as members and contributors to the communities that they serve. Taking this approach will allow your business to create more meaningful connections with the local community. Becoming part of the solution to problems that face the country, your city, or your neighborhood is not only fulfilling; it can also be a crucial factor consumers take into account when making purchasing decisions.
Attract and Retain Talent
Businesses that know how to give back will attract professional talent that shares the same values. Career seekers prefer employers who have CSR initiatives that they can stand behind. These modern professionals are looking for a sense of purpose, not just financial gain. Once you’ve attracted the right employees for your business, your commitment to your social mission will still play an important role in retaining talent. If there’s a sense of purpose and meaning to the work they do, employees are more driven to do their job and to do it well. At the same time, they’re more likely to stay with your company knowing that it offers them a platform to affect change in the world.
Socially Conscious Employee Programs for Small Businesses
There are plenty of social missions that your small business can support. Depending on your resources, you can create programs that help address a wide variety of issues, from environmental efforts such as reducing your carbon footprint or switching to renewable energy to philanthropic activities like donating a percentage of your profits to your chosen charity. You can also consider something that can directly impact your business operations—socially conscious employee programs. Here are some examples:
Internship Programs for Students from Low-Income Communities
Your business can help level the playing field for talented young adults who don’t normally get access to the same mentoring opportunities as their more privileged peers do. Paid internship programs that cater to students coming from low-income communities can set them up for future success once they graduate. While you may not offer the glitzy names of big corporations, you can still help these students learn practical skills and gain experience to beef up their resumes. Alternatively, your talented interns can turn into talented employees. This is a great incentive for both you and your chosen interns. You gain an employee that is already familiar with your business processes and goals, and they get a rewarding career opportunity with a socially conscious company.
To begin this type of program, you need to reach out to administrators of community colleges and universities in your area. They are the ones who know their students well enough to nominate students that they think will flourish under your internship program. If you have the resources, you can also accept applications from your chosen schools. You can screen internship applicants and interview those who have been shortlisted to find the ones who are a good fit for your program.
Second Chance Programs for Ex-Offenders
Some ex-convicts spent their time in jail learning and growing. However, the skills and qualifications they earn don’t always equate to a job after serving their sentence. This difficulty in finding employment opportunities once leaving prison only adds to the reoffending rate. Of course, this type of employee program may cause nervousness and bring up tension, but those are the exact same reasons why it’s a worthy cause. With the right support program, you can give ex-offenders a second chance at making a living while helping address bias towards individuals who’ve served time.
There are ex-offenders who earn their degrees and certifications while serving their sentence. Some people already have the qualifications before their sentence. Your business can partner with a correction facility within your community or even in other states to find ex-offenders who have the technical and soft skills that fit your business needs. Other businesses have successfully hired ex-offenders, particularly non-violent offenders, to help with various aspects of their operations, such as customer service, retail, and logistics.
Programs for Existing Employees
While planning your socially conscious programs, it’s important to also address concerns that affect your current workforce. Small businesses have the advantage of being more flexible and can enforce internal changes to improve working conditions. Business owners like you take the lead on addressing issues like the gender pay gap by having regular pay equity audits. You can create policies to help various segments of your workforce, like increasing paid parental leaves for working parents (including non-biological parents). You can also consider making adjustments to create a workplace that’s accessible to everyone, including employees with disabilities.
Keeping up with the times and competing with larger corporations are two things that small businesses are all too familiar with. There are many ways to accomplish these, but perhaps none are as fulfilling as creating a positive impact on people’s lives, no matter how big or small.