Business Philanthropy During Hard Times

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With the recession — and layoffs – a company’s morale and reputation can suffer. Adverse public relations also can dampen morale.

If a company’s reputation is being attacked, it makes it more difficult for employees to do their jobs and it makes it harder for companies to attract the best workers. During the recession, employee morale in general has fallen along with the economy.

In addition, a business shouldn’t take workers’ allegiance for granted in a tough economy, just assuming that they will work hard out of fear of losing their job, according to well-known business consultant Sylvia Ann Hewlett. Actually, in this environment, workers feel more estranged from work and more besieged than ever, asked to do more with less, and getting less feedback, according to Hewlett.

Surveys show that since the recession began, company loyalty has dropped more than 40 percent among workers, and trust in their companies has dropped about the same, Hewlett says.

If you are a human resources professional, how can you help a company enhance its reputation and improve employee morale? One way is to organize philanthropic programs in which employees may get involved in, Hewlett says.

The ratings service Moody’s is one example of this. It has weathered a lot of criticism for its supposed responsibility in letting the current economic crisis develop. But the company is trying to improve its reputation and keep its best workers by partnering with a nonprofit called Kiva. In this program, Moody’s evaluates the creditworthiness of businesses from around the world for microfinance business loans from Kiva. Companies such as Kiva help attack poverty around the world by providing these micro loans.

It’s an area where Moody’s has expertise to share, even a new way to rate these companies that is specially designed for microfinance. Moody’s employees have responded enthusiastically to the program.

Another company that is getting involved in philanthropic work is the drug company Pfizer. It has linked up with Grameen Health to help the working poor in developing countries have easier access to healthcare. Interest from workers was high, and many said it made them feel good to be part of a company engaged in such a program.

These programs show that philanthropic efforts really do help keep employees energized and loyal to a company, Hewlett said.

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