10 Ways the Arts Can Enhance Your CSR Program

May 11, 2016 6:25 AM ET

By Jordan Shue

We know that businesses use corporate volunteerism not only as a tool to increase their reputation in the community, but also to recruit and retain employees, give them a sense of satisfaction and purpose in the workplace, and make them feel more connected to and engaged in the company’s overall mission.

However, Quantum Workplace’s 2015 Employee Engagement Trends Report found that employee engagement declined in 2014 across companies of all sizes, and only 65.9 percent of employees were engaged in 2014. And according to Deloitte’s 2015 Human Capital Trends Report, “Culture and engagement is the most important issue companies face around the world. 87 percent of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges.”

Is there a solution to this problem? Well, it might be closer than you think, and it’s called “the arts”.

Engaging employees through volunteerism and the arts is key to fostering a desirable work environment, increasing efficiency and morale, and doing good in the community as well as the company. You can bridge the employee engagement gap by using the arts as a vehicle for driving positive change in a company’s culture.

Here are 10 ways the arts can boost employee engagement throughout various facets of your company:


  1.    Relieves workplace stress
  2.    Increases positive mental health


  1.    Recruits and retains employees, especially millennials
  2.    Trains your team to be the best representatives of your company


  1.    Fosters a desirable work environment
  2.    Advances efficiency and morale


  1.    Builds the competitive advantage of your business
  2.    Encourages critical thinking and innovation


  1.    Forges connections with new customers
  2.    Makes the community a better place

How do the arts create these positive changes? Arts & Science Council’s Cultural Leadership Training (CLT) Program and the Center of Creative Arts’ COCAbiz program, among others, help employees enhance these skills on the job. Their programs also help businesses determine the leadership potential of their employees based on his or her interest in participating.

Through CLT, for example, business employees in Charlotte, North Carolina are trained to serve as volunteer board members for arts-centered nonprofit organizations. They learn about governance, legal, and fiduciary responsibilities, they visit arts organizations and venues, and they engage in creative activities. One participating employee from Wells Fargo says, “I feel proud to represent a company that has such a strong commitment to investing in team members and strengthening the communities where we do business.”

In St. Louis, Missouri COCAbiz focuses on leadership development, communication skills, creativity and ideation, and collaboration, through custom experiences for businesses. “People become experts at their jobs by doing the same thing many times. But repetition can lead to people getting stuck in a cognitive rut where it becomes hard to see new perspectives,” explains Steve Knight, COCA’s Director. “We use artistic experiences as a way to help people escape from those mental ruts and rise above their normal routines to find new solutions and opportunities.”

Across the country, today’s most innovative businesses are using the arts to help them meet some of their most demanding and vital objectives. Learn from these examples in Americans for the Arts’ essay on using arts partnerships to inspire and engage employees, which delves more deeply into the cases mentioned above.

How have the arts helped impact your organization’s CSR program?