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The importance of companies getting behind staff tackling important causes

 

 

Last June, I attended the London Black Lives Matter march. I chanted, I yelled, and I said his name: ‘George Floyd’. I am not Black, but I wanted to show my support, my disgust, my respect. Attending the march (with my mask, of course!) felt like a no-brainer to me, despite Covid. Racism is as much a pandemic as Covid– one that’s pervasive, systemic and ruthless.

One that I’ll surely never suffer from, but one I do not want to be complicit with. So, I marched. When I logged back in to work emails on the Monday, I was pleased to see a wave of messages in support of the movement, and felt great that Splendid had my back when it comes to tackling causes I believed in. As a company, I am glad that we manage to collectively learn and better ourselves on issues like racism – be it via promoting Black and BAME artists in our Tuesday Tune Club, through social media initiatives such as when we turned Black Friday on its head and celebrated Black British businesses instead of mainstream retail price promotions, by discussing anti-racist literature in our book club or by providing mandatory training on unconscious bias.

We discuss more than racism. I recently sent a group email linking to an article asking why if you think gender equality is important you use ‘hey guys’ as a way of greeting people?  Read this to learn more, as most of my colleagues did, participating in a healthy email discussion as a result.

At Splendid I’m never afraid to ‘reply all’ to share my opinion – and that matters. What young people look for most in a job today is to be themselves at work – more so than number of holiday days or even pay[1]. Self-expression and and being yourself at work are among the most important job criteria for Gen Z employees, along with having an employer that cares about their opinions. Valuing individuality and having the freedom to express yourself isn’t new. What is new, however, is that younger generations increasingly express their individuality through vocalising social and political opinions. They’re a generation looking to support social change, and a key concern for Gen Z is challenging ingrained cultural stereotypes and inequality[2].

So as well as providing a space for self-expression, today’s employers need to take a step further by supporting and getting behind the ideas expressed by young employees, since they are more than just opinions, they form part of an individual’s identity. It’s great to give space for these ideas to exist, but more than that, companies need to help staff act on these ideas. At Splendid, this has become the norm – just like the BLM march, we were encouraged to attend the Extinction Rebellion marches back in September 2019 and given a ‘Special Leave’ for this occasion, which didn’t affect attendees’ annual leave allowance. Similarly, if we were interested in attending an event related to a cause happening outside of London our schedule could be re-arranged so we would be able to do so.

This January, at Splendid, we really want to shine a light on sustainability – climate change is an important issue affecting all of us and this month, we are being encouraged to get involved where we can. And right now, ‘where we can’ means… the kitchen. One easy way everyone can help support the planet this January is by reducing their meat consumption, and to help us do that, Splendid is giving everyone Tesco vouchers to purchase plant-based food to help us get going.

What else can companies do to support cause-related activities for staff? I’ve seen other companies providing time off for volunteering – something we’d love to implement at Splendid and which we’ve been talking about recently. I’ve volunteered with a charity called Literacy Pirates – an East-London based charity that works with children aged 9-12 whose teachers think they would benefit from extra support with reading and literacy. These children often come from disadvantaged backgrounds and might not be able to get the help they need at home – so anyone can volunteer and give support in reading and writing to better their education and their prospects in the long-run. It was an amazing, rewarding experience and I would love for Splendid to facilitate this further with a yearly charity day allowance, and I’m 100% sure I wouldn’t be alone jumping on this.

I’d love to hear from more people at Splendid and beyond about other great social purpose initiatives they’ve seen and which we could consider implementing!

[1] Research conducted by Dr Martens in the context of their 60th anniversary (2020)

[2] https://www.illumestories.com/2018/12/gen-z-and-the-challenges-of-the-most-individualistic-generation-yet/#:~:text=Gen%20Z%20express%20their%20individuality,ingrained%20cultural%20stereotypes%20and%20inequality.