Social responsibility & the HR connection
On a recent trip within the USA, I saw a dry cleaning store with a sign in the window.
They were offering a free clean & press for the suit of anyone unemployed who was needing to attend an interview.
I then observed a cafe with a sign in their window, offering free coffee and breakfast for anyone unemployed who was to attend an interview that day.
And in the local newspaper there was an ad for a taxi car company offering free transport for anyone who needed to attend an interview in a location not serviced by the public transport system within the city.
This was all within a small city in the mid west where unemployment isn't a big issue; so maybe these companies are not inundated with folks taking up the offers. Nevertheless, these were small independent businesses, not part of some corporate franchise, and these kinds of offers would eat straight into their profits. After all, they couldn't be earning gazillions of bucks to start with.
In my brief visit to the city, I attended an array of social and professional meetings; and from that small sample set, it was clear that this is a community of people who feel its important to be able to work. Each person I met shared examples of how they, their companies, their church groups, their social groups - were all pro actively offering support others to be gainfully employed.
In the region I live in within Switzerland, there is a culture that values the contribution of work as well; regardless of paid or voluntary or homemaking. It's wired into the social psyche. My Swiss villagers think I'm telling fairy tales when I describe how in the UK or Australia, its no longer socially shameful to accept government benefits instead of earning a crust.
Co-incidentally, in both districts, crime rates are low, graffiti and anti-social behaviour is practically non-existent, public amenities are kept in good order and treated with respect by the broader public users. Homes and apartments have well tended gardens (arguably a measure of civic pride?) and strangers comment on the courtesy shown to them by residents.
I'm not attempting to solve bigger economic and social issues here. I do wonder though, what if any part HR could be playing, in building company cultures that encourage people to contribute to their communities.
I know that CSR (corporate social responsibility) comes and goes as far as company agendas are concerned. I also appreciate that a company's priority must be to protect the interest of its shareholders and to maximise profits as a result.
Is there however any vested interest for a corporation to ensure the communities where its offices/plants are located are economically healthy? Should corporations take any interest in supporting the working population outside of the people on its own company payroll? Should this even fall to the HR function as a consideration? I'd love to hear your thoughts.