Employee Engagement Programs Pivot to Respond to Urgent Community Needs: Innovations and Learnings from 2020

Despite the obstacles 2020 presented, corporate social responsibility (CSR) leaders pivoted to address some of the most pressing community needs of the year. With tightened corporate budgets and gathering restrictions in place, companies quickly determined how to give back to the community without the ability to have in-person interactions. Specifically, CSR leaders created new and innovative virtual employee and community engagement programming to not only meet rising community needs but also the growing demand from employees to support their communities at this time.

Communities across the globe are experiencing heightened challenges as a result of the pandemic, and the nonprofit organizations that play a critical role in serving those most in need are taking a hit. In a recent survey distributed to mission-based organizations, PYXERA Global learned that 43 percent of organizations face significantly reduced operations or have closed entirely. Further, eight in nine organizations agree that virtual pro bono support could help them during this time. In response, companies opted to not only convert in-person Global Pro Bono, also known as skills-based volunteering, programs to virtual engagements, but also to scale their programming. This swift and prompt response by companies to leverage their assets to assist will be key to rebuilding a stronger and more resilient society.

PYXERA Global is excited to share below the innovations and learnings that we have heard from our expansive network of corporate partners, also members of Global Pro Bono LEAD, an exclusive community of companies advancing and leading in the field of Global Pro Bono.

Learnings from 2020

As companies pivoted to determine strategies for how to leverage their human capital to address community needs – which have been made more severe by the pandemic – they learned that:

  1. Employees are hungry, more than ever before, to help. Given the fears surrounding the pandemic and unrest spurred by the murders of George Floyd and other Black individuals, companies were initially uncertain of their employees’ ability to commit to community engagement this year. However, companies soon learned that recent events have intensified employee desires to support the community.
  2. Employees expect their employers to communicate and take action on social issues like racism.
  3. Through virtual volunteering, companies can increase their geographic reach by supporting communities in otherwise unexplored territories, all without the hassle of coordinating in-person logistics.
  4. Companies should assess in-house skills beyond what they have traditionally considered. For example, if a healthcare company has previously only engaged employees from the consumer healthcare department, they might consider tapping into employees from pharmaceuticals.

Innovations from 2020

Meanwhile, exciting innovations from the past year include:

  1. Some companies have begun to track employee acts of kindness in their communities to assess how their employees are making a difference outside of the formalities of the workplace.
  2. Many companies have created Global Pro Bono programming centered on racial justice, with companies partnering internally with Black employee resource groups or externally with social justice organizations. In fact, according to the 9th Global Pro Bono State of the Practice survey recently administered to companies implementing Global Pro Bono programs, about half of respondents identified racial and social justice as top priorities for their programs’ social impact over the next two years.
  3. Several new Global Pro Bono program models were created in 2020, ranging from virtual programs to pro bono challenges, in which employees compete to provide the most innovative solution to challenges facing mission-driven clients. For an example, please refer to PYXERA Global’s Reimagining Community Health Systems Challenge.
  4. Coffee chats and interactive presentation software are ways to enhance the networking element of virtual volunteering engagements, which is otherwise more straightforward during in-person volunteering engagements.

Employee and community engagement programs are evolving to be more flexible and in tune with employee interests and community needs. Programs are reaching wider audiences and tackling critical global challenges. Moreover, companies are listening to their employees and communities and responding to societal needs accordingly.

As we head into 2021, the deleterious impacts of COVID-19 will continue to resonate through underserved communities while the philanthropic sector struggles to survive. According to top executives in the social sector, the pandemic, coupled with economic recession, could force as many as one third of nonprofits to close or merge before we see the economy recover. To learn more about how your company can pivot to support the rebuilding of the social economy, reach out at [email protected].

Interested in joining a community of leaders in the space of Global Pro Bono? Join Global Pro Bono LEAD, an exclusive corporate network that will empower you with knowledge and tools to advance Global Pro Bono within your company and communicate its impact both internally and externally. Membership is free. Submit an interest form here!

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