Thursday, 24 March 2016

Community focus - the need of the hour



The times are ever so changing. Communities that once provided the cohesiveness with its support, protection, cooperation and the camaraderie, have slowly waned into alienated individuals. The change in jobs, life styles and technology have shrunk the life of people into the four walls of their houses. But technology, with its global connectivity, has also ensured that people are, today, aware of the problems faced by humanity around the world. Of late, more and more people are becoming increasingly cognizant of the pressing social issues of their communities and are eager to engage with them.
This changing environment has urged the companies and businesses to interact with the communities, locally and globally. People, today, demand that businesses actively take up an extended role in solving the social problems. Awareness of the relevance of corporate social responsibility(CSR) has been growing in the GCC over the last 10 years. But survey reports and studies by Dubai Chamber of Commerce indicate that, in the organizations of the area, there is significant gap between organizations’ acceptance of CSR and ability to implement these initiatives.
At this juncture, the traditional approach to community engagement by businesses will no longer be adequate. The companies must force themselves to explore new and innovative CSR strategies to replace traditional philanthropic programmes. The programmes also must advance, adapt and appeal to the local needs of the communities. There are various ways for businesses to collaborate with communities. These include sponsoring a community event, offering company products as gifts, mentorship programs, employee volunteer programs, scholarship programs, environmental initiatives and many more alternatives by which they can reach out to the people around
The effects of focusing on communities are multifold. It includes-
Customer loyalty and building customers base : Many studies on the subject hint that customers tend to purchase products/services from businesses that are supporting the causes that they believe in. A solid customer base, crucial to any business, can be developed by getting involved in community-based activities. It will, over a period of time, help in establishing customer rapport and loyalty.
Sales growth and increase in revenue : Harvard Business School research found that companies with efficient CSR practices outperform their counterparts over the long-term, in stock market as well as accounting performance.

Many factors like customer loyalty, brand visibility and networking are directly associated with increase in sales and revenue. 
 
Brand awareness, credibility and networking : Brand awareness, marketing, increasing the visibility of your business and building its credibility among the customers are some of the key aspects of sustainability in this highly competitive world. Getting involved with the local community is an excellent way to achieve this. Interacting with people help in creating new opportunities and giving you feed back about your business. Ideas to create effective promotion strategies, improve product/services, increase customer retention and much more can stem out of these interactions.
Employee satisfaction : Volunteering in the local communities is credited with having positive effect on the lives and careers of the employees. Employees of companies with CCI (corporate community investment) initiatives are committed to their employers, according to a University of Bath study. Encouraging employees to be part of the community engagement programmes stands to help in employee retention.
The time is always right to get involved in community linked activities. Many programmes like ENGAGE Dubai (which is part of an international network of businesses and community organisations that collaborate to develop healthy and sustainable communities by facilitating employee volunteering in their local communities) are already in place to promote the connect with the local communities. The end results are increased revenue, loyal customers, happier employees and stronger communities. It is a win-win situation, gratifying to all involved. Along with impressing the socially empathetic consumers and employees, you will also be the change the present-day world needs.