When it comes to the Future of Work, “It is our belief (and increasingly the belief of many others in the corporate world—from Larry Fink of Blackrock to the leaders of The Business Roundtable and others) that the Future of Work will be driven by purpose as much as profit. From issues ranging from climate change and women’s rights, to immigration policy and income/opportunity inequality, the world is facing some complex challenges,” says Bryan de Lottinville, Founder and CEO of Benevity in this latest TecHRseries Interview.
Read on to grab more insights on the changing HR, HR-Tech and workplace culture landscape.
Hello, Bryan! Please walk us through your professional journey so far.
I’ve been fortunate in my professional career—first as a corporate finance lawyer and then as a senior leader in several high-growth companies, including iStockphoto—and like many people, I’ve always wanted to leave the world better than I found it. After the sale of iStockphoto to Getty Images, I was determined to spend the latter part of my career aligning my actions with my intentions around social impact.
In 2007, I made an angel investment that exposed me to some key metrics related to the charitable sector: of the then $300 billion (now $450 billion) in donations in North America, less than 5% were being made online, less than 5% of that donation volume was coming from companies (notwithstanding the growing importance of social responsibility and broader corporate purpose), and 67% of employees were not engaged in their jobs. Benevity, one of the earliest B Corporations, was founded to constructively disrupt this status-quo, both through automation and scale efficiencies for the sector generally, and by better integrating business impact with social outcomes so that companies would invest more in these initiatives than a ‘hand-out’ mentality was generating. Our tech platform is specifically designed to help corporations and recipient non-profits engage people in doing good—employees especially, but also customers, partners and the public—by making it easy, convenient, integrated and inclusive for people to donate money, volunteer their time and skills, participate in activism and even take small, everyday actions (like creating less waste at the office or biking to work or confronting unconscious bias) that help make positive change. Ultimately, our mission is to help weave “Goodness” into the fabric of corporate and broader culture by empowering people to engage with giving back on their terms, in a holistic, personal and experiential way—within their companies, in their local communities and throughout society and the world at large. So far, our clients and their people have donated more than $4 billion and volunteered 23 million hours to support around 230,000 global causes—and just under 90% of those funds have been paid electronically.
What are your views on the Future of Work? What do companies need to do in order to build a more future-ready workforce?
There is a lot to unpack in a question like this, so I’ll focus more on my world. It is our belief (and increasingly the belief of many others in the corporate world—from Larry Fink of Blackrock to the leaders of The Business Roundtable and others) that the Future of Work will be driven by purpose as much as profit. From issues ranging from climate change and women’s rights, to immigration policy and income/opportunity inequality, the world is facing some complex challenges. These challenges are shaping the expectations of current and future workers and therefore the actions of companies that (seek to) employ them. As a result, people want to participate in efforts to make positive change and they expect the companies they work for and buy from to help them pursue that sense of efficacy. They want to feel like their day-to-day lives—including their work lives—have meaning beyond just making money, and they want to feel connected to a broader sense of purpose and impact. For these and other reasons, there will be a growing trend toward democratization and personalization of the employee experience. That’s the personal/individual component.
But in a broader sense, having a purpose-driven workforce is not only good for the world, it’s good for business. Increasingly, we see metrics like Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria becoming a lens through which investors—as well as consumers, partners and other stakeholders—assess the projected performance, quality and identity of a company. For example: a 2018 Goldman Sachs report cited “growing consensus that integrating material ESG factors correlates to long-term financial returns” and Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest ESG report notes that consumers are increasingly looking to engage with companies that “they believe are transparent in their business practices and serve a greater social purpose.” Companies are also seeing (and the data supports) that engaging their employees around issues that resonate with them as part of their employee experience can meaningfully improve metrics around attraction, retention and productivity.
Arguably, ESG is just another lens through which to view a company’s culture, which is an asset that companies will need to more intentionally invest in and analyze as the need for esoteric talent and data driven insights increases.
According to you, why (and more importantly, how) can global tech companies and B2B firms use the benefits of HR-Tech to drive social impact?
Benevity has always been a big proponent of taking advantage of the synergies between CSR and HR to drive greater social impact. In fact, employee engagement and corporate citizenship are both ‘team sports’ that require a great deal of cross-functional collaboration, and HR-Tech should be the conduit for that. And when opportunities for giving back in a variety of forms are presented as a benefit and part of the DNA of a company, more people engage. As we move from the transactional to the experiential, people are not only co-creating and co-owning desirable social outcomes, they are developing and honing key leadership and other skills that form part of their personal and professional ascension. Key to those outcomes are meeting people where they are with content and opportunities and technology that are user-centric and personally resonant. As a result, progressive companies are increasingly moving away from a top-down, “annual fundraiser” approach to CSR, and opting instead to work with HR to facilitate more open, year around, choice-driven technology-enabled programs. This is why our platform focuses so heavily on the user experience: we want to make it easy, convenient and inclusive for people to give time, money, product and skills; we want to make it inspiring and fun for them to take action and invest in their communities; and we want to help companies use technology in innovative ways to empower and engage their people. The data that flows from these efforts, and the ability to refine and target content to individuals that will be the impetus for latent demand, will make these efforts even more sustainable and impactful.
What’s the role of employee benefits in engaging and retaining the modern workforce? What would your top tips for engaging Millennials and Gen-Z be?
This is of course a key part of any discussion of The Future of Work. What does total compensation mean nowadays? If the data shows – as it does – that people will accept lower pay for more purposeful work, we need to think about social impact initiatives as part of the benefits equation, rather than assuming that a slipper allowance or free yoga will attract, retain and engage. As I’ve already mentioned above, people want their workplaces to inspire them and contribute to a sense of meaning. A purpose-driven culture is not just a “nice to have,” but also a “must have” for many of today’s workers, especially Millennials, who will be 75 percent of the workforce within the next five years. Socially conscious and altruistic, this generation of employees (and the ‘Zoomers’ coming in behind them) care deeply about issues like social justice, income inequality and sustainability. They want to take action and be part of something bigger than themselves, and they expect the companies they work for and buy from to help them do it. Companies that hope to attract these workers should certainly consider incorporating rewards for giving back into their benefits programs – whether that be in the form of matching donation dollars, offering paid time off for volunteering, providing “donation currency” rewards for volunteer hours and more.
When it comes to engagement, employers need to meet Millennial and Gen-Z employees on their terms – twisting their arms to write a check for a pre-selected cause because senior management is on the board is not going to cut it. This group is tech-savvy; they’ve grown up online and are used to having lots of options, transparency and interactivity. They want to mobilize and catalyze, with each other and their networks. They want their leaders to ‘do the right thing,’ whatever they think that looks like, and be willing to say something and do something around the social issues of the day (even if that makes some people uncomfortable). In short, the idea of doing good—in whatever form that takes—needs to be consistent with both their expectations and experience (most of which is counter to how Boomers have been doing it for years). It needs to be super-convenient, user-centric and choice-driven. It also needs to be social, mobile, inclusive, transparent and empowering. And, finally, it needs to be accessible on a global scale so that all employees, no matter where they are located, can take part.
Where does Corporate Social Responsibility step in to help build a positive workplace culture? Can you share some examples of social good/CSR activities that some of the world’s leading tech firms are known for ?
Absolutely. Culture is increasingly determinative of the ultimate success of any organization. And one of the ways to create a positive work culture is to engage your people through opportunities to volunteer, give back and do good. The key is allowing your people to give back and volunteer with the causes that are important to them.
Benevity counts some of the world’s most progressive companies among our clients, and many of them are doing some truly innovative things when it comes to engaging their people through social good and CSR initiatives that are reflecting their company culture and values.
For example, Intel recently ran a “Do Wonderful” volunteer campaign on our platform that helped empower 70,000+ global employees to donate more than 1.5 million hours, benefitting nearly 5,000 non-profits, across 40+ countries. Okta, another of our clients, provides many opportunities for employees to donate time and talent to causes they care about and has become really adept at using data-driven performance assessments and optimization to increase participation. They also deploy global ambassadors to capture feedback on what’s working across their workforce to further increase engagement.
How important is it to assimilate corporate culture in the hiring process? What should be the go-to strategy when it comes to hiring candidates for tech/B2B roles?
Culture is incredibly important – in fact, I would say it is one of the most important drivers when it comes to attracting, engaging and retaining talent. Authenticity matters to job candidates as well. People want to work for an organization that shares their values, so businesses shouldn’t be shy about saying what they stand for. At Benevity, we’re intentional in our approach to search and assess for passionate, smart and authentic people who are at the top of their game in technology and other areas of the business. It is very important to hire for culture fit. We ensure that candidates come in and speak with a few people to get a good sense of team and our culture. We look for people who will embrace our values, which include humility, authenticity and accountability. When it comes to hiring, one of the ways we have met some great candidates is through the variety of events we host in our offices, including meet up groups, hackathons, open houses and our partnerships with a variety of charitable organizations focused on building talent.
We also loudly wear our culture on our sleeve and work to include people from Day One. For example, our Launch Pad is a week-long orientation program that immerses all of our new hires in our culture and ecosystem. Through Launch Pad, they get to build strong bonds with their cohorts, are connected right away with Giving Accounts so that they can immediately start giving back to causes of their choice, and participate in volunteering and inclusion-building activities. It really sets to the tone for what to expect from our culture.
What are some of the top capabilities of HR Technology that you think are under-utilized and wish companies would optimize more or extract more value from?
Well, this question is a tough one to answer without bias…I think that platforms and functionality like Benevity’s are vastly underutilized as human capital management tools. And there is a ton that can be done with the data that flows from their usage. For instance, we have found that robust users of our software, churn or turnover at a rate that is 57% lower on average than non-users. Their tenure with a company also tends to be 75% longer than non-users. With the average tenure of Millennials being less than two years, this is powerful correlational information. If we had more demographic data across the board as we do for some companies, we could correlate that with other attributes that matter to HR: promotion, diversity, engagement scores, eNPS, etc.
What according to you will be the top three trends in the field of HR/HRtech for 2020?
Focusing on data and analytics to make decisions in all parts of HR, including personalization of the employee experience; finding new ways to engage with and find talent; and focusing on creating an environment where people belong. The remote work force is continuing to grow, so ensuring companies have the right infrastructure in place to ensure their remote people feel as connected as those that work in head office is also very important.
Your favorite leadership/sales/entrepreneurship quote?
I always like to say: “Never let anyone but the very best version of yourself tell you what you are capable of achieving in life.”
Benevity, Inc., is a global leader in corporate social responsibility and employee engagement software, including online giving, matching, volunteering, community investment and purpose driven actions.
Bryan de Lottinville is the Founder and CEO of Benevity, Inc., the leading provider of cloud-based software that powers purpose-driven business for hundreds of iconic brands, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nike, SAP and Workday. Known for espousing a democratized approach to corporate ‘Goodness’, Bryan provokes ideas that provide better social and business returns, while simultaneously tackling some of the biggest