After a brutal year of highly public censure of meetings and events, corporate planners will devise their holiday parties very carefully. According to Alan Ranzer, executive director of Impact 4 Good, the socially conscious teambuilding company based in East Hanover, NJ, the current environment makes 2009’s year-end functions golden opportunities for corporate social responsibility (CSR) teambuilding.
There are many reasons for CSR exercises this holiday season. To start, it is naturally a time for helping the less fortunate. Second, there are corporate brand image benefits. With huge public scrutiny, CSR awareness among companies is skyrocketing, as they participate in community service to show that they are responsible. "Consumers are looking at their brands' social habits and commitment," Ranzer notes.
Further, with businesses having undergone massive workforce hemorrhages, ending the year with morale-lifting activities is critical. "People need camaraderie and to feel good about themselves by helping others," Ranzer says. "I think more companies will turn to CSR to give meaningful holiday experiences."
Plus, he says, when employees get opportunities to do good deeds and feel good about their employers, there are demonstrable bottom-line advantages. He points out shoe and outdoor apparel manufacturer Timberland and its Path of Service program that has been solidifying company culture and employee loyalty since 1992. (Timberland details the program at timberland.com.)
Citing findings in the Bob Willar book The Sustainability Advantage, Ranzer says an average company unintentionally loses 1 percent of its workforce every year. For Timberland, which he says has roughly 7,400 employees, that means 74 people. But with 70 percent of employees saying the Path of Service program keyed their decisions to stay with the company, that means 52 retained employees. The U.S. Department of Labor puts the average cost of losing and replacing an employee at $30,000; multiply that by 52, and Timberland saves $1.56 million a year.
Impact 4 Good’s teambuilding projects typically last two hours, and it brings them to the group’s location, often a hotel ballroom. Its most popular activities are building bicycles and constructing toy cars from recycled materials, which are immediately donated to needy children brought on site by the company. But its holiday activities are less intensive.
Ranzer explains, “During the holidays, we try to make things easy. We’re not looking to replace the holiday party, but enhancing it. Let’s have fun but do good. Participants can do our holiday activities with drinks in hand.”
As an example, Impact 4 Good took a half-hour out of a client's cocktail party to get participants to paint 10-square-inch foam canvas pieces that they eventually put together to form a mural, which was given to a children’s hospital. Last year, it helped a pharmaceutical client engage its employees with a half-hour session of stuffing and decorating children’s pinatas.
The nonprofit partners of Impact 4 Good vary by destination, but have been local hospitals, charter schools, and food banks. It has worked with Junior Achievement, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and Habitat for Humanity.
Ranzer's philosophy for CSR-driven motivation is quite simple: "Incentives give participants experiences they can’t get on their own. Why should CSR be different?"
— Nielsen Business Media