Employees are more than just a body that turns up to do a job. Each person has wider interests, families, friends, passions and community interests that they pursue. The idea that workers fit into a 'work' box with no connections to the rest of their life is a bit 1950s.
As younger generations enter the workforce there is more focus from them on the integrity of organisations, how they are funded, what they stand for, and how they make our world a better place. Businesses that want to keep on attracting talent need to understand the whole person that comes to work, if only to keep staff.
However, there is an even bigger win available for organisations if they can build on the individual and collective aspirations of everyone they employ. Providing opportunities to build employees' skills through mentoring and community support initiatives can enrich their experience and increase their innovation. Staff have so much more to contribute then we give them credit for.
Businesses and their staff have the potential to make life-changing things happen in their communities, and one great example of this is the very emotive issue of children in care. There are more than 3,000 children in the UK waiting to be adopted – most wait for well over a year in foster care while suitable families are sought to give them loving, permanent homes.
There has been major reform of the adoption process in recent years; things have been sped up and outdated policies regarding who can and cannot adopt have been scrapped in favour of a more inclusive approach.
Some key facts about adoption:
- There is no upper age limit. We need to find parents in their 30s, 40s, 50s and even 60s
- You can be single or married, gay or straight
- You don’t have to own your own home
- Adoption agencies can no longer use ethnicity or cultural background to rule out prospective parents
But still children wait because of a shortage of people coming forward to adopt them. Big business – and HR departments in particular – can play a major role in helping bring families together (putting organisational social conscience to the test in the process). The government has recently funded a new, innovative scheme that seeks to test this theory in practice – The Cornerstone Project.
Cornerstone was launched in March 2015 and its remit is to reduce the time that children wait for adoption by finding families wanting to adopt, as well as providing hands-on support to people who go on to adopt. Cornerstone’s model is predicated on the involvement of big business as a conduit to the precise types of people most open to and interested in adopting a child.
It uses a mix of staff intranet/internal comms channels with face-to-face information events bringing in experienced adopters (sometimes from within the company) to talk to interested employees about what it’s really like to adopt. Crucially, Cornerstone focuses its efforts on finding families for the specific children waiting – rather than a generic appeal – and engages staff in a very real and vivid way.
Cornerstone provides a dedicated mentor for those employees that do decide to pursue things further, who will guide and advise them through the process and beyond so that families are supported right from the very start of their journey.
This type of approach is a real test of any organisation's social integrity, but what better way can there be to demonstrate social values than to take children out of care and bring families together? And with that comes a deep and genuine sense of employee loyalty – quite possibly the ultimate win-win situation.
Helen Costa is CEO of The Cornerstone Partnership. Angela O’Connor is CEO of HR consultancy The HR Lounge