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Is local community engagement relevant to global businesses?

CS_Bernadette-Byrne-thebigword400x400Over the last four years, thebigword has been increasing and enhancing its engagement with the local community, recognising that this activity makes a valuable contribution to our business strategy.

In the world we live in today, consumers and businesses buying services or solutions from another consider corporate social responsibility (CSR) to be an important priority — and engagement with local communities is one of the key strands to a successful CSR policy.

So businesses that encourage community involvement set themselves apart from their competitors, resulting in greater customer loyalty and happier employees.

Our strong activity in this area has opened doors for new business

Initiatives once thought of as ‘nice to haves’ have now become key components of thebigword people, technology and commercial strategies. Given that most public and private sector organisations are now working on their community impact, our strong activity in this area has opened doors for new business, sometimes forming part of our clients’ final selection decisions.

thebigword may be a global business with a global reach and outlook, but it is incumbent upon it – and businesses of a similar scale or ambition – to create a positive impact at a local level, helping improve the social and economic development of their communities.

For example, thebigword was shortlisted in 2014 for an Investors in People Award for Best School/ Business Partnership, thanks to its work with Roundhay School, Leeds, through the Ahead Partnership’s ‘Make the Grade’ programme.

As part of its work with Ahead Partnership – a social enterprise that works with the public and private sectors to foster social and economic regeneration – thebigword has been sending volunteer mentors to Roundhay School to help children be more aware of opportunities and future choices.

bigword2Our mentors have helped the children with interview skills, and have held careers talks at the school. Roundhay School pupils have also visited thebigword global headquarters in Leeds, where they were encouraged to consider careers in languages and given Japanese language and origami lessons.

Activities like these really bind our staff to thebigword because we demonstrate investment in them and give them the paid time-off work that enables them to give something back to the communities they live or grew up in.

Activities like these really bind our staff to thebigword because we demonstrate investment in them

Similarly, our highly successful apprentice programme has secured a local and reliable recruitment stream for us, allowing us to grow our own industry talent, rather than rely on recruiting from competitors, whilst also reducing unemployment locally.

We were, as a result, Leeds City Council’s Large Apprentice Employer of the Year in 2013 and named as a national Top 100 Apprentice Employer. Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP visited thebigword as part of his focus on Apprenticeships in Leeds and both our CEO, Larry Gould, and HRD, Karen Milner, are Regional Apprenticeship Ambassadors for Yorkshire and Humber.

thebigword also includes working in conjunction with Leeds University to tap into their academic research in an area that is critical to thebigword’s R&D team, thereby generating revenue for the university and allowing thebigword to develop competitive advantage.

All of these local community engagement activities and more have had a hugely positive effect both on the communities themselves, but also in the working practices and reputation of thebigword itself. These in turn, improve not just our business at a local level, but increasingly — and critically — at a global one as well.

Bernie joined thebigword in 1994 and has made a significant contribution in various roles, in both Operations and Sales management. As one of the main Board of Directors, Bernie provides a voice for the customer at the board and ensures that the customer is strongly represented. Bernie has overall responsibility for thebigword’s CSR and Sustainability initiatives involving People, Partners and Planet. 

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