When corporate leaders such as Atlassian, Canva, Keep Cup, Amnesty International and Koala agreed to let their employees skip work for the afternoon to participate in climate activism, it sent a clear message that social activism is on the agenda in workplace for 2020.
And now global research and advisory firm Gartner has released a new paper revealing that employees have very high expectations for their organisations.
According to Gartner, 87 per cent of employees expect their companies to take a public position on social issues relevant to their business. In addition, 74 per cent of employees expect companies to adopt a decision regardless of the issue’s relevance to corporate objectives.
Gartner pointed out that while any strong stance can be polarising, today it is riskier for organisations not to act on social or political issues.
If they choose not to take a stance on important issues, especially those significant to their workforce, they risk losing their base — the public and employees alike, the firm warned.
Its research finds that organisations who take social or political stances on issues also have increased employee engagement.
“57.5 per cent of employees perceive improved peer engagement following employer involvement in societal issues, 39.5 per cent of employees feel engagement is unchanged, and only 2.6 per cent of employees feel employer involvement in societal issues hurt employee engagement — an overall net positive outcome,” Gartner said.
Unsurprisingly, younger generations are most likely to respond to company actions on social and political issues.
A whopping 82 per cent of millennials, who currently comprise 35 per cent of the labour force and are the largest representative generation at work, responded to organisations taking a stance on a social or political issue.
How to take action
According to Gartner, organisations should take a few considerations into account before making political or social statements or actions.
Firstly, the firm suggests companies determine what the hot topics at their organisation are and what issues stir up the most unrest.
“Starting here provides a good foundation for understanding how the company has acted historically, as well as identifying issues to prioritise.”
Next, Gartner warns that “actions speak as loudly as words”.
“Surprisingly enough, it does not matter to organisational stakeholders what kind of response an organisation makes to a social or political issue — what matters is that it responds at all.
“Sixty-six per cent of stakeholders responded positively to seeing a company make a statement on a social or political issue, and 67 per cent responded positively to seeing a company take action on an issue,” Gartner said.
Finally, the company advised firms to create a social issue response committee, explaining that this can help to streamline the external and internal communication process, as well as ensure leaders are up to date on new and emerging issues.