What’s trending now?
Reinvestment into Society
Students and young professionals in society are looking to life’s old-school values for contentment: giving back, bringing conservation to the fore, and promoting sustainability.
Why it’s important?
Three reasons why business ought to view this as important. Students are beginning to choose to spend their time investing in others rather than simply becoming self-absorbed and modernizing their own lifestyle. CSR is no longer a policy just to attract shareholders, but it is in place to attract talent as well. Some reports still indicate that race- and gender-inequality are still highest on the list of issues to address within business hiring structures, but businesses CSR programmes certainly play a part dictating the quality of applications to the advertised post. Secondly, with films such as The Corporation being recommended material for studying Business Ethics, and with the growing adoption by businesses of discipline-structures that are vague about what is expected of employees, we see that the call for individual “responsible behaviour” is more suitable to today’s society than the dated, prescribed rules and laws that were previously enforced as moral minimums. What this effectively means is that by the young workforce adopting “responsible behaviour” we see higher moral standards in their professional conduct than what law or custom required.
Even universities such as Drexel have conduct charters that require subjective interpretation. The bottom line? You’re dealing with a more ethical and morally-conscious group of prospective employees than ever before.
Thirdly, (and good news for smaller organisations) is that giving back to society is not done through large corporations alone. Young people are prepared to give up part of their time not occupied with work to invest in social outreach projects – of their own accord. This creates an opportunity – for companies without the resources to adopt a complete CSR project – to give employees time off to pursue altruistic interests during paid time each month and thus remains attractive for prospective employees. This is similar to Google’s old policy of a free day each month to pursue anything that the employee wishes to – although perhaps the mandate in this case will be a little different.
What’s the butterfly effect?
Student signups to NGOs and Non-Profits have never been higher, Operation Smile declares. As no doubt do various other social outreach programme that have never before had to deal with such tremendous interest in their work. Students of 2011 are not content to sit still and watch the world fight its problems, but rather want to get involved and make a difference. If the business structure cannot accommodate this desire, it either needs to be changed or the student needs a new job. Recognizing this, companies ought to include their social outreach programmes not only to potential investors who want green portfolios, but also to prospective employees who want to be change agents on a broader scale. It’s not just the Humanities students now proclaiming that they won’t work for a company without strong Corporate Social Responsibility mandates! Companies overseas have just started to see this work for them.
The change in mindset may take a little longer in developing countries, but students can certainly be leveraged by businesses that identify the trend – and companies ought to see that the benefits of altruistic employee behaviour will be at the very least some positive (and free) marketing for them.
The pioneers and global hotspots
Student bodies countrywide seem to be quick on the uptake, lagging perhaps only behind some socially responsible American and European employee groupings. Crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding has been made popular through social media platforms in the wake of recent disasters, and young people worldwide now realise the potential they have to make a difference. Whether companies use this trend to keep altruistic behaviour in-house or whether they ‘tolerate’ it outside of business hours might make the long-term difference between sustainable and unsustainable business models, and whether anyone worth keeping really wants to stay.
By: Benjamin Shaw
Benjamin is a broad-thinker, fast learner and passionate trend spotter.
He particularly loves reading about the integration of technology into society, and the role that entrepreneurs have to play in new South Africa.