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27th August 2019 | 4 min read
As more and more commercial activity moves online, it’s easy to see how our understanding of businesses role in the community has begun to change. Increasingly, companies strive to connect with customers in a global marketplace and there tends to be more focus on the creation of geographically disparate online communities, often fostered on social media.
Inevitably this can disconnect businesses from the communities that physically surround them. Which is only natural – it’s hardly surprising if a fledgeling e-commerce business based in a big city like London has less of a relationship with the people who happen to live nearby than a local butcher would have enjoyed in the past. For one thing, it serves customers who are as likely to be hundreds, if not thousands of miles away as they are to be just around the corner.
Nonetheless, however understandable such a shift may be, it will be a shame if business becomes completely disengaged from local society.
Business can continue to be a positive force in the community, even if it’s less overtly present in it. The idea of ‘giving back’ emerges from a widely-felt sense that businesses can choose to embrace a sense of social responsibility and strive to be something more than just an exercise in profit-making.
Which isn’t to say that giving back to the community is purely altruistic. In fact, the opposite may be true. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that giving back is more likely to have a positive impact on your bottom line than a negative one, so there could well be a compelling business argument for investigating the following ideas, as well as an ethical one.
It might seem like a counterproductive business strategy but allowing your employees to take paid time off to volunteer for charities is a great way to build morale and cultivate an atmosphere of enthusiasm and positivity.
It’s easy for employees to become cynical and disengaged from their day-to-day work and volunteering can provide a positive counterbalance to the daily grind, boosting the feel-good factor and making it easier for staff to really buy into your business objectives.
You could even encourage staff to choose a charity themselves, allowing them to pursue a cause they really care about. The potential benefits are many – staff morale, personal development, positive PR and, despite sacrificing the odd day or two, long term productivity gains. Paid volunteering schemes can also have recruitment benefits, helping to attract top talents who like the idea of a company that values social responsibility.
Mentoring can be a great way to give back and develop emerging talent. It’s widely acknowledged that business expertise is very often picked up through experience and that education can’t necessarily prepare young people for the reality of the workplace. Mentoring can be an invaluable way to bridge the gap between the classroom and the rough and tumble of business.
The benefits to the mentee are obvious – an opportunity to tap into the expertise and wisdom of an experienced mentor is extra special if it’s allowed to develop into a close one-on-one relationship that builds confidence and familiarity with the realities of the business environment. It can be an unparalleled way to fast-track professional development.
Mentorship can also benefit the mentor and the company. For the mentor, it can be a fulfilling reason to sharpen up their own thinking and practice and gain exposure to fresh perspectives, as well as the chance to develop their coaching and leadership skills. For the company, it’s a great way to develop young talent, in a manner that reflects your values and methodology, and build a healthy culture of personal and professional development.
Putting your weight behind a local fundraising event is a great way to show you care about the community. It doesn’t have to be especially grand or expensive but finding a way to support a valuable local service, organisation or institution and playing an active part in bringing the community together is a wonderful way to show solidarity with local people and prove you aren’t just an anonymous interloper.
Get your staff involved in deciding what to support and how to support it and try to encourage engagement with the issues faced by the community. You could even ask other local businesses for support and cultivate useful business relationships as well as positive press coverage.
It doesn’t matter if you’re working out of a serviced office or from a fixed desk, giving back to the community is still an integral part of building your brand and cementing your business’s overall reputation. With our helpful advice, you’ll be well on your way towards becoming not only a beacon in your local area but also the envy of other companies looking to grow their reach around where they’re based.
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