It’s been a unwritten rule for years that companies should – if at all possible – avoid the trap of talking politics in internal communications.
The risk of alienation is huge.
However, voting is another thing entirely.
Every executive team worth its salt should actively encourage civic participation, and with the US mid-term elections now little over a week away, this message is more important than ever.
The role organizations can play is actually fairly logical. Employees need a source of quality, non-partisan information in order to vote and studies show that Americans trust employers far more than media, government and other traditional institutions. In other words, many employees will actually be ‘actively’ looking to you to provide them with support.
Just as executives support corporate social responsibility and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, helping employees engage in the civic process is now becoming part of good corporate citizenship.
To me, there’s a number of key reasons why getting staff engaged with voting is a corporate mission that should be embraced:
Employees trust you
American employers enjoy more trust than almost any other major institution. The Edelman Trust Barometer, which has tracked trust worldwide for more than two decades, shows 74% of U.S. employees trust their employer. The number rises to 77% worldwide.
Among Americans, this is higher than the trust in media (39%), government (39%), and non-government organizations (45%), as well as international organizations such as the United Nations (48%) and the World Health Organization (49%).
Moreover, 81% of employers want CEOs to visibly discuss public policy, according to the Trust Barometer. Large majorities want chief executives to be vocal on jobs, the economy, technology, wage inequality, climate change, immigration and other issues.
As the Trust Barometer put it, “societal leadership is now a core business function.”
Activism is an expectation
It is no secret that consumers increasingly want the companies they do business with to declare their values on important social issues. Employees at many companies feel the same way. Headlines are filled with stories of employees calling on their employers to do more on climate change or other issues.
Encouraging civic participation is a great way to proactively address those sentiments. Indeed, helping employees navigate the election with nonpartisan information is fast becoming mainstream. For example, Time to Vote, a group of companies that facilitates employee voting, has attracted almost 2,000 members. Electionday.org, which has a similar agenda, boasts more that 1,000 companies.
At Capitol Canary, where we work with hundreds of corporations that are active in government affairs, we see major companies like Airbnb, Expedia and Honda conducting nonpartisan Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) efforts for employees – and that number is growing.
How does a GOTV program look? At some companies, it is as simple as offering time off to vote, or at least a no-meetings pledge on Election Day. But that really is a minimum. More sophisticated efforts include adding an election center to your website, where employees can get information and register to vote, as well as sending reminders of key dates, such as early voting deadlines. The idea is to simply provide trustworthy, nonpartisan information that helps people educate themselves and get to the polls.
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Elections are complicated – but consequential
The help that employers provide is often well received because – if truth be told – elections are getting more complicated.
There are almost 7,000 state and federal seats on the ballot nationwide this year, and the number of candidates will be far higher.
All 435 members of the U.S. House will face voters, as well as more than a third of the U.S. Senate, 28 governors and more than 6,000 legislative seats in 46 states. Add the fact that voting laws are changing in many locales (hundreds of state bills have been introduced)m and it becomes clear that casting an informed vote requires work.
The 2022 midterm elections are also important.
They will decide which party controls Congress; how far President Biden can go to pursue his agenda; and which party will have momentum going into the 2024 presidential contest.
People need a source of solid information. Your company can provide a major benefit by helping employees educate themselves, register and get to the polls.
As long as you are not pushing a political agenda, the help is likely to be appreciated.
Remember, your employees trust you.