Yes, please implement a CSR program – but only if you have buy-in

The reasons why all businesses, whatever their shape and size, should consider introducing a Corporate Social Responsibility[i]  program are numerous. The positive impact on employees is just one.

Millennials want to work for organisations who stand for something other than just the bottom line. And in case you missed this stat – millennials will make up 50% of the global workforce by 2020 and a whopping 75% by 2025.

It’s not just millennials who care about purpose – 67 % of people prefer to work at a company that’s socially responsible.

CSR can be major attraction to bring the best and brightest talent to your door – and it can help keep them there as well (bonus: reduced staff turnover helps keep costs down).

As Peter Frumkin, PhD, Professor of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania says:

“… when it comes to motivation, I think CSR also has a powerful role to play. CSR can bring employees to work with a greater sense of enthusiasm and commitment. When an employee engages with the community, finds a connection to a non-profit or to a cause that matters to them, they’re going to come to work feeling that they’re part of something bigger, and their commitment and motivation is going to rise.

Employees that are part of a company they feel are responsible and caring, are going to stay there, and they’re going to be deeply committed to the company in ways that are, that cannot be captured just by salary and compensation practices alone”

Ok, so you accept CSR is important for business. Now you need to understand that for CSR to be successful, two key groups must be on board and fully supporting the initiative.

The first group is the Executive leadership group. If the people at the top aren’t walking the talk and clearly demonstrating that they believe CSR is important, then how can they expect anyone down the line to believe in it?

On the other hand, a decision made by the Executive to introduce a CSR program which is then implemented without any employee consultation, is equally unlikely to be successful.

Two recent client projects illustrated this point very clearly to me.

In both instances, I was engaged to discover the level of interest for a targeted CSR program within their organisation. If an appetite for a targeted program did exist, then what were the current social issues that concerned staff the most? *

During one on one interviews with a select number of people within the organisations, it was very clear early in the process that one company had buy in from its employees, whereas the other did not.

 “It’s great to be going out in the community with projects like this but it’s like the company needs an internal hug first”

was what Company A’s employees told me.

Staff also told me they could, on average, devote no more than 1 hour a month towards the CSR project.

At Company B, they are already ‘doing’ CSR. Employees donated dollars to their chosen charities, or volunteered hours of their time to causes.

But there was a clear hunger for the business to be doing more – because they could, and because their employees believe they should.

As I was told

“To become a sustainable business we need to respond to our obligations…Our staff want to work for a company who is concerned about the community issues and that is giving back.”

In this company, the level of employee interest in being part of a CSR Consultative Committee was so great, the Executive believed membership would have to be regularly rotated.

I am a firm advocate of the power of a good CSR program to help drive employee engagement as well as acting as a form of soft branding for the business (and of course, for actually doing good in our communities).

What these clients have reminded me is that even the ‘best’ CSR program will fail at the first hurdle, unless there is ‘buy-in’ of the Executive and staff.

If you are thinking of introducing a CSR program within your company, or tightening up the existing activities you already do, then kudos to you.

Can I just ask one favour of you though? Before you do anything, please listen to what your people actually want.

You could do this by running an online survey or facilitating focus groups. One on one interviews, or old school style “suggestion boxes” are also options for giving your staff a voice.

The key is not the how you listen, but the fact that you do.

If you would like help hearing what your people are saying about CSR, Workology’s CSR package can help. Drop me a line at alison@workologyco.com.au or go retro and phone me on 0400 019 599.

Of course, listening to your employees isn’t the only crucial ingredient to ensuring the success of any CSR strategy. We will be exploring other essentials such as linking activities with the organisation’s overall purpose in future blogs. So stay tuned.

*In case you are interested (and as you’ve read this far, I’m assuming you are) then the results were mental health / suicide was the top ranked issue of concern for employees of both organisations.  Homelessness, Domestic violence and Environmental/Climate Change round out the top 4.

 

 

  • [i] Corporate Social Responsibility has almost as many definitions as there are organisations that practise it. Professor Frumkin’s definition is “Everything a company does to create public value, including giving, employee volunteering, sustainability practices, ethical behavior in the supply chain, and beyond”. Another definition obtained from a client’s employees is “Contributing to society through finance, time, skill and influence…organisations playing a more active role in the community they are involved in…being a company that acts on their values”

 

 

About the Author:

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Following four careers spanning 20 years, fostering cultures where people want to work because they can thrive and are valued is what truly drives Alison Drew- Forster. Having studied and practised law, Alison was initially drawn to industrial relations, human resources and organisational development roles. Working as a lawyer honed Alison’s natural ability and love of identifying problems, applying relevant context such applicable laws and factual context, in order to provide practical and cost-effective solutions to clients. These unique insights from the “dark side” made Alison curious on what makes a corporate culture work well? In time, she recognised patterns in toxic workplace cultures, and recognised that healthy and thriving workplaces adopted the opposite approach. This led to the creation of a program designed to help business leaders grow their people and their business -and Workology Co was born. Alison believes the best answers and solutions are found in listening. During her career she has fine-tuned the art of conversation and married this with her naturally high empathy, which helps unearth the true voice of people within an organisation and new approaches that bring out the best in people and their workplace. Alison is thrilled to share her naturally intuitive and human centred approach to creating impactful solutions for business people. Her realistic and infectious optimism resonates with both business leaders and employees as she creates a human centred design approach to creating unprecedented business solutions.

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