Investing in employee well-being: innovative policies and benefits

Investing in employee well-being: innovative policies and benefits

CURATED COLLECTION

The COVID-19 pandemic served as catalyst for employers to invest more deeply and creatively in employee wellbeing, driven by fundamental changes to workplaces (e.g. remote work), implications for healthcare, family and childcare support, financial outlook, and more. Simultaneously, increased focus on racial justice and equity has heightened private sector commitments to inclusive workplace policies for marginalized communities. More recently, policy changes in the U.S. –  including the overturn of Roe v. Wade and the childcare cliff – have escalated the need for employers to increase benefits that supplement lack of government supports. 

Employees and companies alike are placing workplace wellbeing higher on their priority lists. 91% of employees find that their job plays a role in determining their wellbeing, and 57% report seriously considering quitting for a more supportive workplace. 76% of U.S. executives feel that expectations about workforce wellbeing are higher than in previous years, and 87% say that workforce wellbeing gives their company a competitive advantage. In addition to productivity and retention advantages, companies with higher employee wellbeing scores fare better financially, showing a superior return on assets, higher profits, and higher valuations.

When balanced with other core aspects of employee experience (including leadership behaviors and job design), inclusive employee policies and benefits can play a significant role in supporting holistic wellbeing. This Curated Collection provides the business rationale for and innovative examples of private sector wellbeing policies and benefits across five key areas: reproductive health, family care, paid leave, financial wellbeing, and mental health.


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Looking Ahead: 2024

Looking Ahead: 2024

TREND REPORT
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When NationSwell surveyed corporate social impact and sustainability executives in July 2023, nearly 7 out of 10 said they’re anticipating a challenging year in 2024. Since then, we’ve witnessed an intensifying wave of anti-DEIB activism, read the dire warnings conveyed in the UNFCCC’s first Global Stocktake, and felt the surge of collective anxiety around the coming elections in the U.S. and around the world. At the same time, powerful examples of collective action, new and transformational technologies, and the continued resolve of purpose-driven leaders demand our attention and urge optimism into the picture.

At NationSwell, we too are resolved. We are resolved to support our membership community, partners, and concerned public in advancing progress on the issues that we believe matter most in the year ahead.

To ground our collective efforts, we have prepared this 2024 look ahead with four goals in mind:

  • To orient organizations, leaders, and their teams to the issues and trends that we see mattering most in 2024, supported by detailed evidence
  • To provide line of sight into the predictions and forecasts of experts steeped in those issues
  • To support scenario planning around a range of inevitabilities and possibilities
  • To voice our calls to action for the field and for ourselves

Our look ahead focuses on 6 major topics that NationSwell anticipates being central to the work of purpose-driven leaders and organizations in 2024:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Climate progress
  • Democracy and civic engagement
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging (DEIB) and economic opportunity
  • The employee-employer compact
  • The social impact and sustainability profession

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Guide to engaging employees in corporate volunteerism

Guide to engaging employees in corporate volunteerism

EXECUTIVE BRIEFING

A majority of employees (69%) report that “having societal impact is a high expectation or deal breaker when considering a job” (Edelman Trust Barometer, 2023). By facilitating volunteerism, companies can help to meet growing employee interest in purpose-driven work environments while harnessing the power of individual and collective contributions to drive impact.

Generally, employees are eager to have access to volunteer opportunities through work. Seventy-one percent of employees say it’s imperative or very important to work at a company that is supportive of giving and volunteering (America’s Charities, 2022), and they attribute volunteerism to well-being (77%), boosted morale (70%), and strengthened camaraderie (64%) (Bright Funds, 2021). Additionally, 92% of corporate human resources executives feel that leadership and professional skills are strengthened by contributing expertise to nonprofits (Deloitte, 2017). 

However, volunteer participation is decreasing. In 2022, 86% of companies offered domestic virtual volunteerism programs but only 19.8% of employees volunteered one hour or more of their time – lower than the pre-pandemic average of 29% (CECP, 2023). Nonprofit organizations are noticing this downward trend. In a recent survey, 47% of nonprofit CEOs said that recruiting sufficient volunteers is a notable problem for their organization (Do Good Institute, 2023). 

Given the increased value that employees place on working within purpose-driven environments, what explains the decline in volunteerism? Workers cite the following major detractors from volunteering: pressure from employers and colleagues, no availability during work hours, undefined projects, limited information about NGOs, and lack of a platform to register, participate, and track hours (America’s Charities, 2022). Moreover, few feel that volunteering can enhance their career opportunities (18%) or help to develop new skills (36%) (Deloitte).

Gathered from NationSwell members and independent research, this resource provides strategic guidance, case examples, and implementation checklists for companies to strengthen and advance their volunteerism efforts, with a specific focus on mitigating barriers and increasing incentives for employees. 

In this report you will find: 

  • Four critical areas of strategic guidance surfaced by NationSwell members
  • Case examples of strategies in action, featuring Mastercard, PwC, LinkedIn, Nike, Dow, Salesforce, Coupa, Starbucks, MetLife Foundation, KPMG, Liberty Mutual, Medtronic, Bank of America, and Verizon.
  • Implementation checklists to support action

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2023 Private Sector Social Impact and Sustainability Leadership Survey

2023 Private Sector Social Impact and Sustainability Leadership Survey

2023 brought social impact and sustainability work further into the social, political, and organizational spotlight, and presented leaders with distinct, long-term considerations for their work. Leaders encountered large-scale, composite challenges: the escalation of the anti-ESG movement; the Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action and its subsequent implications for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB); the effects of an increasingly restrictive macroeconomic environment on teams and priorities; and the intensification of regulatory requirements. At the same time, social impact work has matured and deepened, with leaders investing heavily in employee engagement, leaning in on sustainability strategies, cautiously adopting AI, and empowering communities through trust-based and place-based work.

Against this backdrop, NationSwell set out to investigate what forces were most significant in changing the way leaders approached their priorities and decision-making over the past year, and what leaders anticipate about the environment, their organizations, and their jobs in the year to come. Between July and August 2023 we surveyed 74 corporate social impact and sustainability leaders across NationSwell’s membership community and beyond. The resulting report explores the direct opinions and experiences of those leaders, in service to advancing collective knowledge about their essential roles.

Below is a summary of the key findings discussed in greater detail in the report:

Theme 1: Leaders’ confidence takes a hit among a difficult year for impact work

  • Leaders’ satisfaction with their organizations’ social impact is waning marginally amid an increasingly challenging environment.
  • With trepidation about the year ahead, leaders’ confidence in their own work is also dwindling.

Theme 2: Economic and regulatory activity assert their dominance above other forces 

  • Two of 2023’s trending issues – the politicization of ESG and the emergence of generative AI – have not transformed social impact and sustainability strategies. 
  • Instead, macroeconomic conditions had widespread and deep impacts highlighted by layoffs, budget cuts, and new barriers to collaboration.
  • Over the next year, leaders predict that economic conditions and regulatory/legislative activity will be key factors in their prioritization and decision-making.
  • In recognition of their growing need, and in spite of economic uncertainty, leaders will advocate for more funding for social impact and sustainability work in the year ahead.

Theme 3: Influence is leaders’ most sought-after and valued currency 

  • Leaders respond most to the influence of their executive team, and want to wield their own influence in return.
  • Leaders are intent on improving their strategies and capabilities to engage with internal stakeholders.

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The state of play: Corporate sustainability

The state of play: Corporate sustainability

As climate change creates a growing risk to companies’ financial stability, sustainability programs offer a competitive advantage for businesses across size and sector. Those who are ahead of the curve are making bold commitments, deepening expertise, collaborating effectively, and greening their workforces. The most resolute business leaders will continue to push forward their strategies against political backlash. For them, it is a moment of opportunity not hesitancy. 

In this report, we help leaders get up to speed and check their progress against the latest macro trends, policy and regulatory developments (U.S. and E.U.), and pace-setting organizations.

The trends: 

  • Corporate climate commitments and leadership accountability are on the rise. But the rate of progress remains well behind what’s needed to achieve 2050 goals. 
  • Political and legislative activity are creating cross-pressures on sustainability work. But stakeholder activism remains a strong tailwind. 
  • New innovations and collaborations reflect a growing supply chain playbook. Companies know that Scope 3 impact cannot be ignored. 
  • Jobs–both existing and new–are becoming greener. Employers and workers are both driving the transition. 
  • Water and biodiversity are making big moves toward the center of corporate interest. Pending emissions disclosure rules remain top of mind.

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Eight actions for creating catalytic cross-sector partnerships

Eight actions for creating catalytic cross-sector partnerships

EXECUTIVE BRIEFING

Many of the limitations and challenges associated with cross-sector social impact partnerships are rooted in their points of origin. More intentionality, responsibility, and creativity are necessary to unlock a greater number of truly catalytic opportunities. 

As the field of corporate social impact matures, organizations are embracing cross-sector partnerships as a means to advancing social and environmental goals. With ample institutional resources and access to wide-ranging capabilities, corporations are able to envision and invest in big ideas. Increasing attention from the private sector is altering the architecture of cross-sector collaboration, creating new opportunities for ambitious projects and deepening value alignment. 

At the same time, exciting examples of partnership activity are often flanked by examples in which opportunities go unmet. Given asymmetries in resourcing and capabilities, partnerships are too often rooted in matching dependencies between organizations. When that’s the case, partners satiate certain needs while overlooking more powerful approaches to collaboration, leaving behind big, creative, and sustainable ideas. Partners also lower their ceiling for impact when they proceed with too narrow an understanding of their own assets within an ecosystem, stunting potential unlocks that bloom from outside – and occasionally unlikely – perspectives. And, when organizations neglect to systematically embed trust and accountability, underlying relationships risk failure – in turn jeopardizing catalytic opportunities. 

These barriers to a catalytic result are best addressed at or before the point of partnership inception. Anchored in interviews with social impact leaders representing large corporations, NGOs, and philanthropies, this report presents eight actions that organizations and their leaders can take to raise their ceiling for impact. 

The eight actions:

  • Bring on cross-sector expertise and perspective 
  • Place a premium on emotional intelligence (EQ) 
  • Mine ideas from business units and individuals beyond your social impact team 
  • Embrace third-party views of your capabilities and liabilities 
  • Open dialogue with partners-to-be about your asymmetrical advantages 
  • Interlock organizational incentives 
  • Engage outside facilitators during (and after) ideation 
  • Hardwire feedback loops

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The state of play: DEIB

The state of play: DEIB

Organizations have taken a larger interest in the practice of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging since COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd, and other pivotal events brought long-entrenched societal inequities into the spotlight. While their arc of progress is uneven, the simple fact remains: injustice occurs as prominently in workplaces as anywhere else, affording companies the opportunity – perhaps the responsibility – to model solutions that could ultimately yield a wider societal benefit. This trend report describes five key trends for DEIB in 2022:

The trends: 

  • With high expectations from current and prospective employees, companies are revamping recruitment to meet diversity goals; they are struggling to employ complete strategies.
  • To advance equity and inclusion, companies are leaning into stronger benefits, policy updates, and employee resource groups; data on efficacy is scarce, but makes clear that the work is just beginning.
  • Employee perspectives on DEIB effectiveness vary in ways that are unsurprising; company leadership has a responsibility for more open and reciprocal communications to better respond to these differences.
  • Reporting and disclosures around DEIB are improving, but the data is inconsistent and incomplete.
  • DEIB executives are turning over at an increasingly high rate; lack of resourcing, insufficient company-wide engagement, and burnout are major contributors.

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The state of play: ESG

The state of play: ESG

ESG describes an array of non-financial factors that investors, regulators, and other stakeholders use to evaluate the performance of companies. The growing popularity of ESG-motivated investing is contributing to more transparent and rigorous corporate reporting practices as well as operational changes aligned with improved social and environmental impact. ESG factors are increasingly understood as interconnected with–rather than distinct from–the financial performance and value of a company.

ESG can retain the attention it has garnered over the past few years if companies and investors better match their public commitments with operational rigor. Skeptics will undoubtedly remain, but ESG can become a powerful force for change if stakeholders make it so. This trend report describes five key trends for ESG in 2022:

The trends: 

  • Social issues are at once more fragmented and more important to the general public than climate concerns; as companies concentrate their climate commitments around carbon neutrality and net zero, the public is likely to become even less forgiving of those that perform poorly on social factors.
  • Dozens of ESG reporting frameworks and regulatory standards exist in jurisdictions around the globe; efforts are underway to consolidate and simplify those frameworks for the sake of consistent and universal reporting requirements.
  • Investors and companies are seeking deeper expertise and greater accountability related to ESG on their management teams, staff, and boards; the marketplace for that talent is not yet well established. Soon, that will change.
  • More retail investors, small funds, and large institutional investors are embracing an activist posture related to ESG and expressing growing skepticism that companies will make good on their commitments; the efficacy of ESG-motivated investor activism is on the rise, too.
  • Until recently, private markets have taken a back seat to public markets in ESG investing; now, private equity investors are playing a major role in the next chapter of the ESG story.

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