In the past few years, I’ve been part of presentations at the Vermont Employee Ownership Center’s (VEOC) annual conference on employee ownership and the ESOP Association’s New England Chapter spring conference. The breakout sessions I was involved with both had to do with “Community Service in Employee Owned Companies.” These sessions generated a lot of interest among the attendees and the topic makes sense; much like community service, employee ownership is based upon the concepts of generosity, giving and sharing.
I have always found that one of the greatest benefits of being involved in these types of events is having the chance to share ideas and learn from other presenters on your panel. I was fortunate to be part of panels that included folks from Harpoon Brewery, Hypertherm, and King Arthur Flour. Each of these employee-owned companies does great things in their communities and are shining examples of how to run a business.
As part of our preparation, the panelists shared ideas through planning calls and emails. To introduce the topic of creating a community service plan, we seemed to come back to starting with how to create an effective Social Mission. If you are interested in developing a Social Mission for your company, here are 4 important aspects that go into creating an effective Social Mission:
1- Leadership Engagement & Support
A Social Mission and company culture cannot be delegated. I’ve talked to other business leaders who express a desire to have a strong culture in their organization, but it’s just not in their hearts. They want the benefits that a strong culture provides (employee loyalty & engagement, higher productivity and profits), but don’t have the time, beliefs, or interest to invest in nurturing that culture.
Hypertherm is a great example of broad leadership and management involvement. Their commitment to Social Corporate Responsibility runs through the entire organization and is prominently displayed on their website. They have a Vice President of People, Environment and Community and a full-time Community Citizenship Manager. Their 2018 community service time included nearly 26,000 hours of paid volunteering by their employees (an average of 20.9 hours with 85% of employees participating). You don’t get this type of participation with leadership being fully engaged and supportive!
At Hallam-ICS, our founder David Hallam instilled in us the importance of social responsibility. This led to the creation of the Hallam-ICS Giving Tree and has evolved into our Social Mission that includes active participation and support from our leadership and management team.
2- Clear Mission with Sufficient Flexibility
Identify why you have a Social Mission and what your focus will be. While there are many good causes, an effective Social Mission will clearly define a purpose. King Arthur Flour has a simple and clear message:
OUR GIVING MISSION:
To share the joy of baking as a way to grow stronger communities and increase access and connection to real foods.
What a great mission! It is succinct, tied to their business and provides a wide range of flexibility. Their website shares some of the ways they implement this:
- Bake for Good. You bake, we donate. Pledge to share a homemade baked good with someone in your community and we'll donate a meal to Feeding America.
- Driven to Bake. In our Bake Truck, we spread the joy of baking near and far, sharing goodies and encouraging folks to Bake for Good.
- Buy a Mix, Give a Meal. Together let's help solve hunger. For each Essential Goodness mix purchased, we'll make a donation to Feeding America.
- Bake for Good: Kids. Our free program teaches kids to bake bread from scratch. Then they bake two loaves at home—one to enjoy and one to share.
At Hallam-ICS, our giving mission is to support organizations that help children and families in need. This is concise but provides ample flexibility.
3- Communicate Mission & Goals to Employees
A Social Mission should not be hidden; it should be a visible part of a company’s message internally and externally. Communicating the mission and goals to employees is a key part of raising awareness and engagement. At Hallam-ICS, we communicate our mission in a variety of ways:
- Company website
- Quarterly company meetings
- Annual Hallam-ICS Service Days
- Internal announcements
- Social media
Hallam-ICS also became a Certified B-Corporation in 2018. We will be working our Impact Report as a means of communicating our progress. King Arthur Flour is also a Certified B-Corporation and publishes their Impact Report on their website.
4- Celebrate Accomplishments and Have Fun!
An important part of a Social Mission is recognizing accomplishments and having fun! Harpoon’s giving is through “Harpoon Helps. To Brew & To Serve.” They celebrate and have fun as part of their major events; Harpoon 5-miler, Octoberfest Road Race, Friendsgiving Dinner, and Harpoon Helps Spread Holiday Cheer. After finishing the Stowe 8-miler with my daughter a few years back, we celebrated by enjoying a cold Harpoon!
At Hallam-ICS, we love participating in all kinds of events. You’ll find us running, curling, playing wiffle ball, rock paper scissors, or competing in a tug-of-war. All of these activities raise money for worthy organizations, and bring employees together to have fun.
Creating an effective Social Mission has many benefits for employers. It engages employees, improves performance and can be a major benefit in recruiting new employees (it’s not just Millennials!). To help get started, identify what is important to you and your company and take the first step!
About the Author
Keith is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a BSEE and an MBA. He has been with Hallam-ICS since 1988 as an electrical engineer, manager of integration services, CFO, and CEO. He focuses the company on understanding and meeting the needs of each individual client while at the same time delivering the highest possible level of technical expertise.
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Hallam-ICS is an engineering and automation company that designs MEP systems for facilities and plants, engineers control and automation solutions, and ensures safety and regulatory compliance through arc flash studies, commissioning, and validation. Our offices are located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont and North Carolina and our projects take us world-wide.