Here's What Rockstar Cultures of Giving Back Look Like

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I write a lot about the direct line between corporate cultures of giving back and increased employee engagement. Time and again we see new data emerge that proves how much employees value working for companies that demonstrate a concern for more than pure profit.

Company leaders learn the hard way that single-minded focus on the near-term bottom line doesn’t pay off in the long run. Rather, businesses rooted in a value system of compassion towards their employees and community “recoup” their generosity by orders of magnitude through boosted employee productivity, retention and recruitment, not to mention increased customer awareness and loyalty.

It’s always interesting to see how compassionate companies are recognized and rise to the top. The most recent list of “Best Companies” that caught my eye is PEOPLE’s 50 Companies That Care 2017, which was created through a partnership between PEOPLE and Great Place to Work to identify the top U.S.companies caring for their communities, their employees and the world. (More on that below.)

I was particularly fascinated to see how many “Companies That Care” on this list were also named on Fortune’s recent “Best Companies to Work For” list. Offhand, I noticed nearly half of the same companies mentioned on both lists, underscoring the message that companies that care are in the best position to attract and keep the best employee talent. Quite simply, one of the smartest strategies your company can undertake to drive up enthusiasm is to bolster the support you offer to your employees and community.

But giving back can’t be framed as a cynical ploy for attention. Rather, CSR must be seen as core to your company’s identity. This is a critical lesson to bear in mind during a time when employee engagement is on the decline worldwide. Employees are feeling anxious amidst political winds that are whipping up a great deal of uncertainty. Now is the time to offer stability and empowerment through social impact and other forms of caring.

That’s why I hope you’ll join us at +IMPACT East in Washington, D.C. on May 15th and 16th, 2017, as we explore how to drive increased employee engagement through innovations in social impact. This is the second in an ongoing series of +IMPACT conferences designed to engage CSR managers and nonprofit professionals in hands-on learning to help them create strategic impact together. We’ll learn the secrets of some of the most cutting edge thinkers and practitioners around CSR, who will share their perspectives on cultivating community through giving back. 

How can your organization push itself to prioritize impact and be appreciated as a company that cares, like the 50 on PEOPLE’s list? Take a look at the companies that PEOPLE has recognized and consider the ways in which little acts add up to create rockstar cultures:

Salesforce is an information technology company that primarily sells customer relationship management tools. Employees receive seven paid days off to volunteer. In March 2016, the company surpassed its goal of 17,000 volunteer hours, with employees working at 1,250 nonprofits worldwide, all as part of its Global Volunteer Week.

Ultimate Software’s CEO Scott Scherr tells new hires, “You are part of my family now," and then actually treats them that way. Ultimate Software also offers each family $300 per child up to 12th grade, to put towards extracurricular activities.

Veterans United helps veterans secure home loans. There’s a sense of altruism throughout the company toward colleagues, community and the veterans they serve. Lighthouse Division was started after an employee talked to the CEO about wanting to do something more to help veterans who did not qualify for a loan due to their credit score. Now, any borrower who now does not prequalify for a loan due to credit issues is referred by the loan officer to a home loan consultant in Lighthouse. If the customer is interested in help they are able to have a consultant review their credit report, talk with them about credit repair, budgeting and building good credit.

Genentech discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious or life-threatening medical conditions. The company consistently not only shows up for its people during medical crises and other emergencies, but supports them with day-to-day well-being and work-life balance.

SAS is an analytics software company that finds unique ways to support their employees — including support for parents of kids with special needs, classes for parents of kids with autism and even a Caring Closet stocked with equipment like wheelchairs, crutches and shower chairs.

Wegmans Food Markets trains 15 “Project Search” job candidates per year, coaching them in developing skills and work habits. In 2015, 14.5 million pounds of food were “reclaimed” from stores and distributed to the community to feed the hungry, and the company raised $3 million at checkout registers for hunger relief.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has a widespread commitment to supporting employees’ every need outside work. On-campus amenities include massages-to-go, auto detailing and dry cleaning pickup. Military Support Resource Group (MSRG) helps those with loved ones who are deployed.

Adobe Systems Incorporated creates multimedia and creativity products, including Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Reader. They are committed to employee wellness, support for parents and focus on promoting women in the tech field. Employees enjoy an unlimited time off policy, and the company shuts down for a week in the summer and at the end of the year. They take paid 4-6 week sabbaticals every five years.

Publix Super Markets takes care of its communities through philanthropic efforts and the everyday heroics of its giving employees. Publix has a “Publix Serves Day” and in 2015, 4,000 employees volunteered with more than 125 non-profits related to youth, education and the plight of the hungry/homeless. The company donated $1,085 per district to local causes (for a total of $121,000 donated that day). Publix also donates food nearing its sell-by date (lunch meats, cheeses, produce) to food banks, who distribute the food to church groups and food pantries.

NuStar is one of the largest independent liquids terminal and pipeline operators in the nation. When foreign-born employees achieve their U.S. citizenship, the CEO personally congratulates them and presents them with a letter and a patriotic memento. CEO Brad Barron recently presented a patriotic tie to a Venezuelan employee who earned his citizenship, and he and Chairman Bill Greehey gave a Gucci scarf and hosted a party for a Ukranian employee who earned her citizenship after a long and difficult journey.

TDIndustries is a mechanical construction and facilities service management. Employees are called “Partners.” TD offers continuing education to all full-time Partners interested in pursuing an academic degree, from an Associates to Masters degree, paying 100 percent of the cost up-front.

IKEA US Inc. provides a spirited culture that is against hierarchy. The company promotes equity, creating careers for their employees and providing part-timers with great pay and benefits. Healthcare coverage starts at 20 hours and covers fertility and gender reassignment surgery. All co-workers may purchase a $3 Meal Deal to eat every day.

The Container Store creates high paying, satisfying, supportive, life-long careers for retail workers. Each Valentine’s Day, The Container Store celebrates National We Love Our Employees Day! Employees are given gifts, love notes and hugs from the company to thank them for their hard work. The Employee First Fund provides grants to employees experiencing unforeseen emergencies.

Hilcorp is one of the largest privately-held oil and natural gas E&P companies in the U.S. It gave $100,000 bonuses to all 1,200 plus employees in 2015. During hurricanes Gustav and Ike, Hilcorp provided approximately 25 employees with free temporary housing trailers for up to six months. They also purchased 50 portable generators to loan out, now kept in a warehouse for possible loan if another event occurs. $50,000 was given to the 13 employees whose homes were devastated. Hilcorp then donated $100,000 to the Gulf Coast communities.

David Weekley Homes is the largest privately-held home builder in America, operating in 22 markets. The CEO fosters a true sense of caring for employees from spiritual support to helping them to purchase their first David Weekley home.

Workday is a leading provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources. Generous pay and benefits complement community-minded programs. Workday helps employees — including those new to the workforce — get ahead through ample training and development opportunities. They also offer unlimited paid time off and volunteer time off.

O.C. Tanner provides employee recognition and engagement tools, using technology, awards and training to help companies appreciate great work. Over 95 percent of O.C. Tanner employees are touched by some form of recognition. Every year, employees receive $100 for Thanksgiving and birthdays, and $300 for Christmas.

Camden Property Trust is a publicly-traded, multi-family real estate investment trust. It offerns a “hugging” culture from the top down, where fun is encouraged, profits are shared, and family is valued inside and out.

Edward Jones provides financial services to individual investors. The company hires people new to the financial services industry and recent graduates or military veterans with limited professional experience. One-third of their financial advisors are age 50 or older; 1,600 are over age 60.

Pinnacle Financial Partners gave $1.2 Million in philanthropic donations last year. And employees feel that generosity. Associates can share and track stories of co-workers in need through their Intranet. An associate with a son with autism promoted the “Go Blue for Autism” on the site, which prompted a graphic on the CEO’s blog encouraging associates to wear blue, which led to many photos of teams all wearing blue along with scrapbooking materials for the mother to create a scrapbook of the photos for her son.

Deloitte aims to care for every person, providing support and growth opportunities regardless of status or perceived differences that extend well beyond their employment. Over the last three years, they have more than doubled the number of veterans they hire annually.

Navy Federal Credit Union is the world’s largest credit union, serving the military and their families. The community-minded company supports employees in their aspirations, giving them the opportunity to build a meaningful career. This year, they provided 100 grants to nonprofit organizations on behalf of employee volunteers.

Nationwide provides a broad range of insurance, financial products and services. Investing in their associates, they have adopted the living wage of $15 and help employees get ahead professionally. Over 40 million was given in philanthropic donations last year.

Kimley-Horn provides planning and engineering consultative services. Participating in Durham’s YouthWork internship program, Kimley-Horn provided minority youth ages16-18 internships to gain on-the-job experience. In partnership with a local high school, Kimley-Horn employees mentored economically disadvantaged students and organized fundraisers with contributions going to the high school.

PwC focuses on audit and assurance, tax and consulting services, serving 84 percent of the Fortune 500. They offer a commitment to work-life balance, which allows employees to feel supported in living and working according their values and to make a difference in the world. They also offer unpaid, voluntary arrangement for high-performing employees who want to take as much as five years off to focus on being a full-time mother, father or caregiver for a loved one.

Alston & Bird law firm offers a warm and caring atmosphere with tons of support and flexibility for families and the community.

Autodesk offers information technology. Leaders support their employees’ personal interests by helping them give back to the community, make use of flexible work schedules to care for personal/family life, and take sabbaticals to explore interests outside of work.

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants operates 62 boutique hotels and 54 chef-driven restaurants, lounges and bars in 30 cities across the U.S. Named after Kimpton’s founder, Bill Kimpton, the Bill’s Honor Roll program provides any child (grades 6 through 12) of an hourly Kimpton employee who makes their school’s honor roll with a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card.

Ernst & Young is a professional services firm providing tax and financial advisory services. EY cares for their employees as people with personal lives, offering flexible working arrangements and generous parental leave. Whether it’s reduced hours or the ability to work from home, as long as employees can fulfill their duties and support their teams, EY will support them in finding work-life balance.

Recreational Equipment, INC. is an outdoor equipment specialty retailer. REI is entering into a multi-million dollar partnership with the National Park Foundation to celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. The company has also shut down on Black Friday, paying its employees for the day off, encouraging them to #OptOutside and spend time in nature.

Outstanding benefits and onsite perks of Roche Diagnostics — a diagnostic testing company — include employees’ families, even allowing parents time with their kids during summer workdays. Through a partnership with the YMCA, children of employees (affectionately known as “Rochelings”) ages 5 through 12 can go to Camp Roche during the summer where every Friday, parents get the opportunity to have a picnic in the park with their children, and join in a quick game of kickball or basketball before heading back to the office.

Nugget Markets’ employees enjoy a strong sense of excitement, teamwork, fun and rewards. A Nugget tradition is to take the entire company whitewater rafting, holding multiple events so that as many associates as possible can attend. At only 22 hours per week associates get 100 percent paid medical insurance, a 4 percent 401K match and profit sharing, a long-term disability insurance policy and company-paid life insurance.

Quicken Loans is the second-largest mortgage lender in the U.S. and the largest FHA mortgage provider. As part of its commitment to the community, Quicken Loans offers unlimited, paid volunteering time to all team members.

The USAA family of companies provides insurance, banking, investments, retirement products and advice to 11.4 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families. It has a military-style boot camp to ensure employees and interns get an inkling of what it's like to be in the military, like their customers.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is a corporate law firm that values diversity, comes through in times of crisis and gives employees a lot in terms of flexibility and the ability to work remotely to support their family. Critical Illness insurance provides a lump sum payment upon the diagnosis of a critical illness.

NVIDIA is an IT company focused on artificial intelligence that offers benefits few employers can match in a company that keeps bureaucracy to a minimum.

Allianz Life offers financial services and insurance. Allianz cares for its employees’ growth, both personally and professionally, and their ability to balance their work and personal lives and be well-rounded humans.

QuikTrip is a convenience store and gas station chain. QuikTrip stands out for its commitment to training and growing their employees and supporting them with great benefits – even for part-timers. Employees interested in learning and growing receive career counseling. Some employees can also take free, on-site college courses in areas such as business, marketing or accounting. These classes can be transferred to other universities.

Acuity showers employees with benefits, gifts, education and opportunities to earn, demonstrating a generosity that runs deep. The Acuity Scholarship Program has awarded nearly $370,000 in scholarships to children of employees.

The CEO and Senior leaders of the IT company Intuit show they care about their employees success by rolling-up their sleeves during their busy tax season and manning the phones alongside their teammates. Leaders care about their employees’ children’s education by funding attendance to private schools. Set up by the Intuit Muslim Awareness Network (IMAN), the company has worked to help employees gain a better understanding of Ramadan.

Slalom Consulting offers professional services. Leaders listen to and takes action on employee feedback, care whether employees’ work is meaningful to them and provide work-life balance.

VMware wants employees to be themselves. They provide opportunities to express people’s passions and grow professionally and personally through service-based learning. They are also there for employees in times of need.

Baird offers financial services and consistently shows up for employees by giving them opportunities to get ahead as people, professionals and stakeholders. They also have a unique maternity and paternity police. Family-related moves or hiring well-established professionals who live in cities where Baird doesn’t have an office have resulted in a number of associates working from home offices, which are increasingly common, thanks to Baird’s technology capabilities and philosophy regarding balance.

It’s all about flexibility and opportunity at SAP, where employees can have multiple careers across their tenure and are supported in balancing their lives. Turnover is only 3 percent.

Stryker develops and produces an array of orthopedic, medical, surgical and neurotechnology products to help improve patient and hospital outcomes. Employees are also given opportunities to give back to the global community by using their professional expertise through mission trips and work with Operation Smile.

CHG Healthcare Services lives and leads by its “Putting People First” mantra, providing free health treatments, an environment where employees feel they make a difference and celebrations of philanthropy.

World Wide Technology is there for its employees when times get tough. They are also passionate about making a difference in their communities. There are infinite opportunities to give back when working at WWT.

Dedicated to equality, Capital One is committed to hiring and developing veterans, women and minority employees. They’ve hired 2,500 former military members in total, and have provided $5 million in support to the Hiring 500,000 Heroes initiative since 2012.

Miami Children’s Health System show up for the community and their employees by living their values, sharing their pride in meaningful work and supporting employees to reach career goals through inclusive development programs.

Activision Blizzard is an interactive entertainment company.“Embrace Your Inner Geek” is the mantra at this game developer that supports and recognizes employees through thick and thin, treating them like the closest of family.

Ryan Scott