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Why corporate social responsibility should be a key component of every company’s talent acquisition strategy

By Caroline Stephens



As the race for talent tightens in Canada, it has become imperative that employers go above and beyond the norm to refine their recruitment strategies and attract talent, and to retain their current workforce. One area that has taken on major significance for all talent, but primarily millennials, is corporate social responsibility (CSR). By 2025, three-quarters of the world’s working population will be millennials.

Generally speaking, CSR is a self-regulated business model that ensures corporations remain accountable to the communities in which they operate, and that enterprises are consistently taking stock of their business practices and adjusting to meet the needs of employees, stakeholders and the public.

From a human resources and recruitment perspective, a fleshed-out CSR strategy puts organizational values into action. The workforce of today is more engaged in philanthropic endeavours than ever before, and as such, corporate leaders need to be thinking beyond simply voicing their company values. Companies should instead be creating a work environment where employees have the ability to act and engage with their values, and a successful corporate social responsibility mandate can be one of the most effective ways of instilling an enterprise’s values in its team members.

By extension, corporate social responsibility allows organizations to give back to their communities, and charitable giving is an important feature that many Canadians look for in a potential employer. A recent survey from Interac, completed in partnership with The Upside Foundation, found that 72 per cent of Canadians believe it’s important that a potential employer has a strong CSR practice. When asked how exactly corporations should give back, 75 per cent of respondents said, “Donating money to causes/charities.”

Corporate giving, or a strong corporate social responsibility practice, lays the foundation for employers to empower employees by giving them the opportunity to contribute to an organization that resonates with them on a personal level. Current employees and new talent alike want to be part of corporations that place value of charitable acts – 48 per cent of Canadians think employers should be offering volunteer days, according to the Interac survey – and a corporate social responsibility practice that funnels from the top down. Employees want CSR to be part of the fabric of their organizations.

With a strong CSR practice in place, the question becomes: How can HR professionals seamlessly slot these efforts into their hiring strategies?

One advantage that successful CSR practices can give a hiring manager is access to the wider community. Typically, talent flows through the same channels – LinkedIn, Glassdoor – but an enterprise that is active in its community inherently increases its selection pool and opens its doors to people from underrepresented backgrounds who may not typically make it into the company’s hiring stream. This is part of the reason enterprises should be including their HR team in all CSR activities, either as facilitators or participants. CSR allows a corporation to have its ear to the ground and transforms the hiring process into a dialogue – corporations stop speaking at potential hires and begin to listen to what the community needs, allowing them to better access talent and make strategic hires.

The reverse also happens – corporate social responsibility can be an opportunity for the community to engage with an enterprise on a deeper level. Potential talent can take pride in a brand that reflects their personal values and develop a relationship with a corporation long before they consider applying for a position, refining the employer-employee fit. Corporate social responsibility thus allows the hiring process to focus on talent and values, rather than recruitment.

Sharing an enterprise’s corporate social responsibility initiatives can be tricky – companies don’t want to discredit the authenticity that they’ve worked diligently to achieve in the campaign itself, but it’s also important that they share beyond their immediate community in order to reach potential talent, wherever they may be. For example, Interac has found video testimonials to be the best tool for sharing their CSR efforts. Video is an aspect of their campaigns that they consider from the very beginning and is built into all campaign roadmaps.

At its core, corporate social responsibility needs to be heartfelt or it won’t work, not as a charitable initiative or as a talent acquisition strategy. However, throughout the process, corporations should still be considering how they can best capture those moments and how they can be shared post-campaign. Beyond in-person community initiatives, tools like social media allow enterprises to share their CSR campaigns to a wider audience online and create a meaningful dialogue, foster relationships with the community, consumers and, most of all, potential talent.


Caroline Stephens is the chief human resources officer at Interac Corp.




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