Giving is a cultural trait that can enable a group to perform better, empower and trust each other more, and establish a culture of inclusion, by creating virtuous cycles of gifts and retro-gifts. Here is more explanation as to why “giving” works.
Giving is a powerful act that doesn’t necessarily take much effort or time to implement. It is not a contract, but it is somehow binding and can spur a culture of retro-gifts, which can, in turn, help launch and scale great virtuous cycles. If you, as an employee, give to people simply because they are part of the same company, giving becomes a great vector of inclusion because it doesn’t discriminate (no preference for gender, ethnicity, age, etc in your gift).
However, giving can be done in certain ways that not only benefit yourself and your employees but benefit the company as a whole too.
Contrary to what some people believe, it isn’t cynical to actually give value to others and expect something in return, it is just human as history and sociology prove it’s been done by everyone since the beginning of history — it’s not cynical because you never know for sure if someone is actually going to give back. It is not as if a contract was signed, so there is no timeline or specific expectations when it comes to a gift being reciprocated, and people can give back whenever they want, much later.
So why not leverage this tool and make it your powerful ally to launch, strengthen or sustain your company’s inclusive culture?
Below, you will find a few ideas for how to foster a culture of giving.
1. Recruit and empower women and underrepresented talent
- More women will statistically impact a culture of donation. For instance, in 2017, 64% of donations to nonprofits were made by women. “The Ultimate List Of Charitable Giving Statistics For 2018”, 2018 link ; The Nonprofit Times, “Studies Examine Men Vs. Women In Giving”, 2015 link
- Similarly, we see that underrepresented groups tend to act more in Equalithons we (at Essteem) organize, and participate in our events. They want to give back time and resources because they need support themselves.
- Now, recruiting women in tech can be a tricky thing due to a pipeline issue — or what you think is a pipeline issue. But it can actually mostly be driven by a lack of employer branding with women in tech. Events, of which Hackathons, discussion, ERG-led programs can help with that. Hackathons are great because they also include thought leaders at your company and let them innovate and influence how you can implement things.
- However, recruiting underrepresented talent cannot be a unique, one-time effort, like hiring a single woman in a team that is extremely male-dominated. Chances are she will soon leave. Companies should rather enable women to mentor themselves through women and male ally groups — there are plenty of examples, for instance PTC, an Essteem customer leader in enterprise software, has created several ERG (Enterprise Resource Groups) that support discussion, and actually implement things through Equalithons where they send mentors who give time, access and recommendations
2. Train people to ask, and how to ask
It goes without saying, giving is easier to do when someone asks. However, asking is sometimes difficult, and it is important to know how to ask, when to ask, and to whom to ask.
How to ask.
- Social status is very important for asking and giving, and, if unrequested, giving can appear condescending if made by someone who is perceived as coming from a lower hierarchical or social status. So asking for help or asking to help can be seen as placing someone in a position of inferiority.
- As a result, it is important to make sure that people feel comfortable asking for things in your organization. Women specifically are or have been known for asking for fewer promotions than men — and other studies show that they could be less prone to asking for resources in general.
When to ask.
- There are moments when people cannot give because they have just too much work. Be kind to them if that’s happening once. If that is repeating, you might want to avoid helping that person.
- Timing questions within a discussion is very important as many sales reps know very well.
To whom one asks is particularly important.
- Try to avoid potential implicit bias with question asking. You wouldn’t like a company where only white people ask or receive. To avoid that giving becomes segregative, it’s important to explain that everyone in the organization can ask and should receive — with the caveats related to hierarchical status.
- We have included a few tips on how to do this in our Slack in our career tips section — you see more and join there.
To foster inclusion and giving, we generally recommend training mentors in your company for how to give, how to ask, and to whom to ask. This way, mentors become your culture ambassadors and you can achieve viral effects so that “how to ask” is really embedded within your company’s culture.
3. Train managers to define and monitor gifts
Hiring managers are probably in focus here more than others because the way they hire and then promote their teams is crucial for your success.
Include acts of giving in quarterly or yearly business goals.
- Initially train your managers so that they can define what giving means with their employees. Then as employees know that giving is part of their objectives, ask them to keep track of what they give so they can leverage that in their next review.
- Monitor your internal discussion platforms like yammer or Slack and build metrics around giving that both managers and employees can use. This can be facilitated by hashtags you define and that managers share during employee reviews for the next quarter/year.
- Employee engagement tools might also enable some metric features.
- Another and final thought: leverage micro-credentials like these so that employees feel valued.
Beyond employee reviews and metrics, the simple thing to ask all managers who recognize a need to support underrepresented talent, is to learn how to give some of their time and access and attribute meaningful rewards and recognition to people in their teams. (see # 4 below)
Most managers never thought of giving as part of what a company does at heart, but explaining why and enabling managers to give will actually be very easy.
4. Reward employees who give
Incentivizing employees to give can take the shape of acknowledgments, monetary bonuses, career advancements.
- This can be a gesture such as an end-of-year award ceremony acknowledging people for their charitable work, which is not only empowering for the individuals but fosters a culture where people feel acknowledged not only for things they do at work but also outside of work.
- Certificates can be given to employees that perform well on giving. They are part of the reason why your company recently gained in productivity. Acknowledge that. Here are certificate design ideas, and here is an example of what Essteem gives.
- Team shoutouts, company awards, and Linkedin endorsement rallies for someone who got the reward of “most impactful donating”
- Once managers have defined and monitored giving, they can reward great giving behavior with a bonus. For instance, think of small amounts like $300 for a person who consistently gave to others outside of their immediate missions without decreasing their own missions’ performance.
- Managerial positions should generally be given to those who enable better allocation of resources in a company, those who participate the most in a culture of positive reinforcement, and basically those who empower others by giving more of their time.
- Knowing that women generally give more than men, implementing a culture of giving that is tied to promoting people could be a new, practical way to achieve better gender parity in leadership.
In summary, giving can be a powerful act that creates a ripple effect of benefits but doesn’t have to take much effort or time. Recruit and empower women and underrepresented talent: they may give more than others. Giving works well when people feel like they can ask, which is why you can leverage mentors to train employees to ask. At the same time, train managers to define and monitor gifts so that can be noticed and rewarded. Finally, reward employees who give through acknowledgments, monetary bonuses, career advancements.