CSR & Employee Engagement: Q&A with Visit.org COO Gal Leibovich
Gal Leibovich is the co-founder and COO of Visit.org, a SaaS platform that offers employee-driven corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities that benefit nonprofits. With experience that ranges from overseeing soldier rooms in the Israeli army, to becoming the head of US operations for Gett in its startup years, Gal has proven to be uniquely skilled in creating efficient, effective workflows and strategies. With his combined expertise in operations, experience with successful startups, and eagerness to have a positive impact on the world — he made the career move away from the traditional business world to help build Visit.org.
In this interview, he discusses the trends and benefits of corporate social responsibility and employee engagement, both for companies, individual employees, and the community as a whole.
How would you define CSR to someone who’s unfamiliar with it?
Corporate social responsibility consists of the “good initiatives” of a company. It consists of all the ways that a company does good and gives back.
Why do you think it is more important than ever for companies to prioritize corporate social responsibility?
There are a lot of communities that need help and support. The younger demographic, specifically, wants their employers to go beyond providing the usual paycheck and snacks in the kitchen; they want meaning in their work. CSR allows companies to comply with their employees’ socially-conscious desires, while also helping to define and communicate the company’s culture and values.
Can you paint a picture for us of what CSR was like when you entered the workforce, and how it’s changed since then?
When I entered the workforce, not many companies had CSR programs. The idea of giving back to one’s community wasn’t built into the company’s foundation or initiatives. Of course, you’d know some individuals who volunteered on their free time — but it wasn’t on their company’s agenda. As the years went on, CSR has become something that companies value and take pride in. And today, you see CSR as a part of many companies’ DNA.
How do companies grow or improve through CSR?
Internally, it brings people together. “Just for fun” company activities such as bowling or escape rooms are great at creating opportunities for employees to socialize. However, when employees get together to support causes they care about — whether it’s a hands-on volunteer experience, or participating in a do-good activity such as attending a cocktail-making workshop that creates job opportunities for those in need — CSR experiences create a deeper, more meaningful connection within work teams. These connections can even occur between people who’ve never met in the office because they work for a big organization.
Publicly, CSR is something that a lot of companies are proud of and value. When the public sees a company giving back to the world — by looking at their website, hearing about them in the media, or seeing their giving-back policy on their product or in their stores — they get a better feeling about who the company is, and are more likely to support them. According to the Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report from 2015, 66% of customers are willing to pay more for products from companies who are socially responsible.
When was the moment you realized that companies want to prioritize engaging their employees through team-building experiences with a cause?
A little over a year and a half ago, the Visit.org team was brainstorming ways we can engage more users. We thought, why not try and engage companies as a group? Unlike a B2C (Business to Consumer) approach, which would consist of an individual going on one of our experiences, the B2B (Business to Business) approach emphasizes a group dynamic.
This not only creates more of an impact for the nonprofits who receive 100% of host revenue from Visit.org activities, but it also encourages employee engagement within the teams who participate. Through our platform, employees have access to various activities — from traditional volunteering, to team-building experiences, to in-office events — each of which support a cause that they themselves get to choose. This makes employees feel empowered to be a part of their company’s giving-back, therefore increasing engagement.
When we decided to see what companies thought of this idea, the reaction was overwhelming. One common feedback was that companies had been looking for a formalized giving-back system — like what Visit.org now offers. Since we launched, we’ve seen an increasing number of participants on our platform.
What CSR trends do you foresee, and what will Visit.org’s role be in them?
The demand for CSR will continue to increase.
Also, one specific trend that I’ve noticed gaining popularity is how CSR programs are now becoming a reward or bonus for employees. For instance, companies will send an employee overseas for a period of time to have a volunteer experience related to their work.
Visit.org’s role in the future of CSR is to disrupt the traditional model and offer companies the opportunity to make an impact in a different, more sustainable, and easier way.
What is your favorite Visit.org experience?
The Visit.org team participates in a lot of experiences as part of our company “team-outings.” I’ve enjoyed a lot. But I would say is my favorite is the Chinatown food tasting tour. We went around and tasted different foods and learned a lot of history that I never knew about, including how the different foods impacted different areas in China. It was a fun experience, and we were also making a positive impact on the world. We were supporting an organization that preserves Chinese American culture and history, and our specific food-tasting tour supported educational museum trips for underserved students.
What are you most proud of about Visit.org?
The thing that I’m most proud of is that we’re able to make an impact on communities around the world.
Our main experience of the platform is as a business: we deal with transactions that send the companies out on experiences. But when we take a second to look at the big picture, we realize that the “transaction” created an opportunity for a group of 30 to volunteer at a shelter.
It’s nice to realize that you made that happen and that those employees are now going to have a positive impact on the lives of others, which might not have happened without us. In day-to-day business it’s easy to let it all pass by you, but my favorite part is when I actually sit and realize that our team is making an impact and sending people to do good.
Cover photo: Kelly Toy and Gal Leibovich at HR Uncubed Conference. Photo credit: Kim Torres.