Improving the Employee Experience through Corporate Social Responsibility

I recently shared new research on how companies can improve the employee experience with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR is the policies and practices that organizations put in place to impact the world positively. It can include volunteering, activism, philanthropy, and donations. After the events of 2020, people want to give back, and they are looking at their employers to help.

Some companies have responded in a big way:

  • Salesforce: Salesforce helped to ship PPE around the country to health care workers. It also donated $200 million and 1 million hours of volunteer time to support racial equality.
  • DoorDash: In partnership with the United Way, DoorDash donated 1 million pounds of groceries to people in need.
  • New Balance: The retailer shifted its model from shoes to masks to support healthcare workers during the pandemic.
  • Deluxe: Deluxe shifted to virtual volunteer events and raised $235,000 in two weeks.

CSR is a critical part of the employee experience and can help companies recruit, engage, and retain talent. Although 1 in 3 companies are increasing their investment in CSR this year, most programs fall short. Companies are not always sure how to operationalize CSR and engage employees in a meaningful way. They often include CSR messaging on their career sites or employee portals but do not take a strategic approach to communicate opportunities. Only 13% of companies share volunteering opportunities regularly.

For companies prioritizing activism, CSR, and volunteering, below are a few recommendations:

  • Establish Shared Responsibility: For 42% of companies, HR is the primary owner of CSR. The approach is a top-down approach, and most HR professionals do not receive the support, tools, or resources to execute these strategies. Companies serious about CSR should operationalize their model and include champions, employees, and executives to create their programs.
  • Improve Communication: Most companies rely on email to communicate volunteering opportunities. Yet, 61% of companies have not asked employees about volunteering in the past year. Companies need to be transparent about their CSR efforts. They should track engagement and communicate with employees consistently. They should explore video, text, surveys, and dedicated sites as options.
  • Invest in Technology: Only 1 in 5 companies are investing in solutions for CSR or philanthropy today. Technology can help share information on volunteering and giving, track employee engagement, enable Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), identify opportunities, and automate payroll deductions.

A strategic approach to CSR can help create more meaningful experiences for employees and ensure they feel connected and engaged during a year of uncertainty. Companies that want to make a real impact will do more than make statements about philanthropy and start to make commitments.


  • Madeline Laurano

    Madeline Laurano is the founder and chief analyst of Aptitude Research. For over 18 years, Madeline’s primary focus has been on the HCM market, specializing in talent acquisition and employee experience. Her work helps companies both validate and re-evaluate their strategies and understand the role technology can play in driving business outcomes. She has watched HCM transform from a back-office function to a strategic company initiative with a focus on partnerships, experience and efficiency. Before founding Aptitude Research, Madeline held research roles at Aberdeen, Bersin by Deloitte, ERE Media and Brandon Hall Group. She is the co-author of Best Practices in Leading a Global Workforce and is often quoted in leading business publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Yahoo News, The New York Times and The Financial Times. She is a frequent presenter at industry conferences including the HR Technology Conference and Exposition, SHRM, IHRIM, HCI’s Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference, Unleash, GDS International’s HCM Summit, and HRO Today. In her spare time, she is a runner, an avid sports fan and juggles a house full of boys (where a spontaneous indoor hockey game is not unheard of!).