How responsible business benefits O2

As someone who will be graduating from university in slightly over a year, managing to secure a good job with good employer will soon be one of my key priorities after the academic stuff is finished. A good job is not all about pay, flexibility and extra benefits, though of course these are important and help to motivate us. But what else motivates us, and why?

I’ve had a chance to think about this question over the last few days, when planning for Responsible Business Week (or #RBWeek, as it’s known in the Twittersphere), which is starting today. The theme of the week is #proudtoworkfor – asking employees from across different businesses and industries to tweet why they are proud to work for their company.  This theme is very interesting to me; as someone who works as part of the Think Big team, I meet a lot of employees for whom Think Big is one of the main reasons why they are proud to be part of O2. It gives them a chance to do something different, to help others, and to make a difference. And most importantly, they enjoy it.

Before I joined the business, I had heard a little bit about Think Big while researching for my job application, though I had never given it much thought. Indeed, I had never given sustainability within business in general much thought, even in the case of companies such as Unilever and Marks and Spencer, which have very high-profile sustainability programmes. Back then, it seemed to me that the primary goal of large corporations was to maximise profit, and so it was hard to see where sustainability programmes such as Think Big could contribute to that. So when I started at Think Big as a Talentum intern back in July, I really had no idea what to expect, or what the job would entail.

In the time since, I’ve had the chance to experience Think Big in action on a day to day basis, and see for myself the difference that it makes. I’ve been at Think Big Schools where young people who are initially shy and withdrawn grow in confidence to the point where they can stand up and present their ideas without help from O2 employees. I’ve worked with a young person from GoThinkBig, who came to help organise our annual International Volunteer Day, and who gained valuable skills and work experience in the process. And just last week, I was at the launch of our new Think Big Hub, a 2,000 sq ft. space that this year alone will help 3,000 young people; offering them hundreds of hours of work skills and employment training, and providing a space for them to work on their social enterprise projects. Interestingly, The Hub was opened by our CEO Ronan, as well as Fiona Blacke, the CEO of the National Youth Agency, and Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society.  This shows two important things; firstly that our leaders are treating Think Big as a core part of our business, and secondly that our work is being recognised by others in the field, which is a testament to everything that Think Big has achieved.

Something else that I have noticed is the difference that being part of our Think Big programme makes to our employees. This is something of a hidden benefit that is not talked about enough, not just at O2 but across the sustainable business field. Our people who get involved in Think Big – perhaps through fundraising or helping at an event such as Think Big School – become more personally and professionally developed as a result. They become more motivated, they have fresh ideas, they get to meet new people and they get a new perspective on the business as a whole. Of course, this evidence alone was merely anecdotal, so last summer we did a pioneering piece of research along with Global Action Plan to see if there really were business benefits from increased internal engagement with Think Big. And indeed there were; our research showed that for every £1 we invested in Think Big, we made a return of £1.40 in business benefits. It showed that productivity, motivation, and networking skills increased among those actively involved in Think Big, as did loyalty towards O2, both as a brand and an employer.  In other words, Think Big is not just good for helping others, but it is also good for helping our own employees.

So as we celebrate Responsible Business Week, I very much encourage you to share your stories of your employers, and why your organisation is one that you are #proudtoworkfor