By Joanna Samuels, M.Ed., Employment Resource Supervisor, REENA
I work on the frontline of supported employment services at Reena with individuals with developmental disabilities including Autism. As a job coach, I have partnered with employers from multiple industries to help them with diversity recruitment and to develop Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs or projects. Based on my experiences, I have identified the following three important aspects – HOW, WIN-WIN and WHY to better understand CSR in action. Additional insights on this topic have been sourced from the Reena job coaches as well as from Josh Seides (2015) in his blog.
- HOW: Partner with local non-profit community agencies. This is the first step to get the conversation started. Reena offers employers a menu of creative and meaningful initiatives that can be customized to their CSR goals and make a difference in the community. Employers with whom we partner engage with Reena individuals and our programs. This can range from employees volunteering (also known as community inclusion) to diversity recruitment services that helps companies build an inclusive workforce by hiring qualified individuals with developmental disabilities including Autism. For example, last year a local employer participated in an interactive, and meaningful special holiday celebration party with the Reena individuals in our community participation/day program. The 15 employees volunteered in the community as part of their United Way Fall campaign activity and it was a great success. Another team from a large bank volunteer once a year in our gala fundraiser and donate food for the volunteers. Other initiatives have included speed mentoring events with our supported employment programs. The list of creative and meaningful ways in which your employees can make a difference in the community is endless.
- THE WIN-WIN – Important Workforce Skills Building: Supporting your employees’ efforts to volunteer and get involved in community work can contribute to your company in multiple ways. Research states that it helps with employee engagement, enhances team work, collaboration, and productivity. These employees typically promote a positive and inclusive working environment in addition to developing and honing many skills such as communication, coaching, mentoring and leadership. These are skills and expertise that can be transferred to many professional situations as well as academically and socially. Additional skills that these employees bring to the company are an enhancement of their understanding of people with disabilities and an increase in the understanding and acceptance of differences. Many of the employees who volunteer at Reena become mentors and are often recognized as champions of community and workplace inclusion by their employers.
- WHY: Promotes the company brand: Employees who participate in CSR and volunteering will promote your organization, enhance its image in the community and help develop its future workforce. Did you know that 78 percent of Canadians are more likely to buy a product or service from a business that hires persons with disabilities and participates in the community (ODEN, 2019)? Internally, CSR initiatives demonstrates the employers’ commitment to diversity and inclusion as well as making a difference both internally and externally. Not only does this tactic lead to a consistent source for volunteers, it also provides an indication to consumers and the world that your company and its employees are committed to making a difference. This creates a sense of credibility ethos (an underlying sense of trust).
For more information on how we can partner to help you achieve meaningful Corporate Social Responsibility, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org