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The nonprofit goBeyondProfit is a civic and social organization of over 900 Georgia business leaders dedicated to corporate social responsibility. goBeyondProfit was founded by Richard L. Jackson and Shane Jackson of Jackson Healthcare. Its ambassadors include Juanita Powell Baranco, Co-Owner of Mercedes Benz of Buckhead; Frank Blake, retired Chairman and CEO of The Home Depot; and Paul Bowers, Chairman, President, and CEO of Georgia Power. 

In partnership with Georgia CEO, goBeyondProfit conducted two annual surveys of Georgia-employed adults and senior executives during March 2021. The survey included those in senior leadership positions at companies with a Georgia presence; there were a total of 298 responses at a 95% confidence level and an error range of +/- 5.68%. The second survey included employed individuals over 18 at companies with a Georgia presence or a Georgia office. This survey included 605 responses also at a 95% confidence level and an error range of +/- 3.98%. 

The study reinforced observed heightened expectations of social involvement for companies by both employees and consumers. Consumers and employees are putting pressure on corporations to develop and constantly reaffirm their claimed values. This new expectation puts “emotional generosity” as a top priority for executives. goBeyondProfit claims that emotional generosity “entails demonstrating empathy for employees, consistently embodying clear values as well as engaging in community issues with care and time, not just financial contributions and words.” 

Being active in the community and vocal about social issues can seem like a double-edged sword to many business leaders, but recent trends show that silence and inaction to be the real customer killer. Companies that are open about their values and actively reinforce them in the community experience lower employee turnover and increased loyal customers. goBeyondProfit asked employees and consumers their habits towards companies they perceive as generous. 60% of employees surveyed agreed they considered generosity when deciding to work or stay with a company. 73% of consumers reported changing their purchasing habits based on the company’s actions, with 54% actively trying to influence their peers by protesting and boycotting. As scary as this sounds, the rewards for favorably judged companies are grand. 68% of consumers reported advertising the companies they had a favorable view of, 45% reported switching to those companies’ products, and 26% agreed they would pay more for the products. 

From the employee retention standpoint, 42% actively pursued opportunities to leave a company, and 33% quit a job based on the company’s behavior. The leading causes of employees changing their employment preferences were employers’ actions on racial inequity, gender equality, and healthcare. These changes in morale can be very damaging to productivity, and high turnover rates are costly. Thankfully, businesses are rewarded by fulfilled employees who feel their values align with the company. 31% of individuals reported actively pursuing employment with companies they believe share their values. Empathetic business culture and aligned values contribute to high morale, productivity, retention, and quality employee recruitment. 

It is clear that action is essential, but the next challenge is figuring out how to act and what deserves a company’s attention. goBeyondProfit’s report shows much potential for business growth when they invest in employee care, empathetic leadership, and emotional generosity to create loyal employees and customers. 83% of Georgians believe in the importance of companies to practice generosity and be active in community outreach, with 67% expecting more action by businesses due to the events of 2020. This may sound daunting, but 90% of senior leaders perceive this increase as a positive opportunity. 

When navigating society’s expectations on business, it is crucial to be familiar with ‘corporate citizenship.’ According to Investopedia, corporate citizenship deals with the extent of social responsibility companies hold for meeting legal, ethical, and economic standards. The goBeyondProfit 2021 report explores what Georgian’svalue and expect out of companies. For Georgians, employee wellness was the most important topic, including generous benefits, an inclusive and equitable business culture, and a purpose-driven culture. 68% of Georgia employees reported wanting to see their superiors address pertinent social issues within the business, and 91% of Georgians want business leaders to share their stance on social issues in general. The data shows that soft skills are becoming more critical than ever before; leading with empathy is the new norm. The following two highest-ranked values were environmental practices and charitable giving. 

Executives need to remember that there is grace to be given. Corporations should not stay silent on significant issues in fear of making a mistake. When executives are willing to learn, admit their mistakes, and consciously try to develop a deeper understanding of the issues they are speaking on, there is plenty of room for forgiveness. Data shows 89% of senior leaders expect executives to speak on social issues; this group is too large to ignore, reinforcing the claim that silence is no longer an option. To take it even further, goBeyondProfit explains that silence on certain current events is a stance, so companies need to be intentional about when to share a public opinion and when to stay silent. 

It is possible to run a risk-reward analysis on whether or not to speak up. Some things to consider include relevance to workplace culture, the core business, and potential backlash. Does the issue directly impact employees? Business operations? Is it important to the customers? Research on Georgians explored the likelihood of backlash when individuals disagree with a company or its leader’s opinion on sensitive topics. Georgians reported they would have an adverse reaction to an executive’s stance if it offended them or their loved ones (49%), if the issue is core to their values (37%), and if they feel the public statement is performative (32%). So, to keep it simple, a public statement is only necessary if the topic is relevant to the company’s core operations and if the company’s stance is reinforced internally and externally through its practices and policies. 

goBeyondProfit indicates a list of objectives to prioritize to grow a company’s emotional generosity. The list includes:

  • focus on core company values during decision making, investing in employee mental and physical health
  • have empathy in communication and decision making
  • nurture an equitable and inclusive office culture
  • commit to environmentally sustainable practices
  • maintain a robust philanthropic presence

Leaders who follow values-based empathy will see significant results both in profits and business culture by finding individuals that best align with the company and shedding those who do not fit with the corporation’s goals. 

Trying to navigate sensitive issues both internally and externally can be daunting. The Miner Agency can provide association management consulting to help lift the burden of managing internal issues and public relations services to monitor public perception.