10 Ways To Enlist Your Leaders And Employees For Corporate Social Responsibility

At most interactions with CSR and communication professionals I often hear this remark – ‘we do so much yet our leaders and employees don’t seem to care about Corporate Social Responsibility. How do we get them involved and excited?’

To begin, accept that CSR won’t appeal to everyone in your organization and that every employee has their own understanding of what denotes social commitment. Even if organizations claim to have CSR in their DNA and publish reports that allude to this fact getting employees and leaders to volunteer their time need different and unique approaches. Understanding employees’ motivations, aspirations and triggers can increase the chances of getting alignment and participation.

If you are expecting to make CSR a part of your employees’ lives you may want to consider the following tips.

  1. Reduce the barriers to participation: Make your programs simple, easy and accessible to sign-up. Appreciate that not all causes that your organization supports may be of interest to everyone. Give your employees the opportunity to engage in ways that are relevant and meaningful to their lives. For example, one company invited employees to do CSR from their respective desks since their work didn’t allow them flexibility to move away and participate in events outside the office. They were requested to pitch in with creating material for events or work up designs for CSR communication – which they loved immensely. Bust myths that CSR is serious and for those who can find time. CSR can be fun, enriching and for every individual who wants to make a difference in this world.
  2. Appeal to their inner calling: Every employee has a purpose which needs fulfilment. It isn’t often working that keep employees engaged. Academic studies have proven that employees committed to volunteering are more willing to go the extra mile for their respective organizations. Also if they see their organization involved actively and genuinely in CSR work they feel proud to continue contributing. Try creating an ‘individual social responsibility’ initiative that invites projects which the organization can back. This will hopefully appeal more and allow them to give back in ways that are enriching.


  1. Make CSR a part of the ‘everyday’: If your organization’s core values don’t have ‘giving’ as a theme you can still find ways to link everyday engagement with customers and other stakeholders to CSR. Ask managers and leaders to slot time in their daily or weekly or monthly briefings to talk of the importance of ‘giving’ and how it adds value to the people your employees engage with. Be it supporting a charity in a region where the customer is or using technology to improve the community impact.  Understand where your employees currently spend their time outside of work on CSR and leverage their skills and talent in areas that are mutually beneficial.
  2. Focus on behavioral levers: Often what gets watched – gets done. Or, when there is peer pressure you see more interest to participate. Or when there is competition the engagement picks up. If you see a visual that depicts a human challenge you want to solve, there is greater energy to tackle it. Or for that matter, if you tell a story of an employee who made a real difference, others get inspired. These aren’t just tactics – these are derived from research studies and how we behave and what intrinsically drives us as humans. Make changes to your communication and programs to bring in elements that trigger action and lasting change.
  3. Leverage your company culture: Many argue that the culture in organizations can influence how CSR is done. If the leadership backs the causes you see more passion from the rest of the organization. Often, you may be in an organization that may not have a robust social responsibility culture or a ‘giving’ mindset. In such situations you need to adapt and adopt other practices to rally employees.  Starting ground-up is the best approach since grass-root impact has immense power to attract the masses. Pick one or two key initiatives and showcase it a case of how your organization is making a difference. Then work through your CSR champions and leaders to influence others. If you need to bring CSR back on the agenda as a value you need to table it at an appropriate forum.
  4. Show the ‘Big Picture’: One of the biggest reasons why employees and leaders avoid engaging is because they seem unaware of the CSR agenda or are overwhelmed by the numerous activities that take place. It helps to paint the broad picture of what and how will take the organization’s CSR effort forward. The ‘big picture’ can be a large goal which inspires and rallies everyone. For example, adopting a village and making it self-reliant in a year in terms of sustainability measures.
  5. Brand your initiatives: Add zing to your CSR communication by branding the events and initiatives. The brand must be visible at every possible touch point – be it at onboarding or while your employees become the alumni. Highlight the best work your organization does in CSR and leverage your internal and external digital media outlets to share progress and milestones with stakeholders. In this age of selfies and millennials it helps to know what they are seeking and map your programming around their actions. Tap into their motivation to promote CSR. For example, enable ease of publishing videos and photographs they take and craft a contest that draws their attention.
  6. Demonstrate transparency in decision making: Sharing how CSR decisions are made is crucial to enlist support. Be it on funds raised or allocated as well as for causes the organization supports employees have a right to know the thinking and rationale that goes behind the scene. When communication on this theme is limited or vague employees begin to distrust the process and system. Publish your charter, agenda, committee and principles so that employees know your organization’s approach to CSR and trust the team to do the right thing.
  7. Make employees a part of the solution: CSR attempts to solve larger issues that the world faces.  Break it down for employees to know what the organization can do to contribute to those issues. Invite employees to pick areas they can influence and provide solutions. Allow them to think creatively and own the challenge. Enable their work with resources and direction. Remove obstacles in their path and keep their managers informed of how the employees are adding value.
  8. Recognize your champions: Employees aren’t expecting rewards for CSR work. They expect appreciation and real-time. They are keen to see tangible impact on the communities that they support. Think of creative ways to recognize and improve their CSR understanding. For example, expose them to CSR best practices at conferences which you can fund or enroll them for online courses on CSR that broadens their perspective.

Getting employees and leaders aligned is important for the success of the organization. How and what you do can make a difference between action and apathy. Try these steps and let me know how it goes.

Happy to hear your views and success stories.

I Have Done My Bit. Why Isn’t It Enough?

Vanessa is very disappointed.  Her manager had just completed a meeting where she was told that despite her best effort in getting a campaign over the line, her inability to transcend the role and partner effectively was creating friction in the team.

Her communication team was tasked with launching a CEO Forum across its 6 offices in the country.  Pintop United, her company is a leading medical equipment manufacturer and the communication team is considered key to the success of their employee engagement initiatives.  Over the last two months Vanessa and the team planned the events to ensure the CEO’s interactions with employees went smoothly. Vanessa was particularly in charge of organizing the events while her counterparts were on point for crafting messages and communicating the forum’s benefits to employees. They also rallied employees to ensure the participation rates were high.

Vanessa believes she has exceeded expectations on her specific part of the campaign and therefore deserves a fair share of credit. Unfortunately, her team members felt that she wasn’t involved as much as they would have loved her to be and never really demonstrated ownership of her piece. Here is a discussion between Vanessa and her manager. I invite you to reflect on this conversation and share your perspectives.

Vanessa: “Dileep, I called for this meeting to share my point of view on the feedback you received from the team.”

Dileep: “Sure Vanessa, go ahead.”

Vanessa: “I am deeply hurt that others in the team felt I wasn’t contributing to the event. You know how hard I worked on what was on my plate. It took me so many hours of planning and thinking to get the concept and campaign in shape. How can they say I wasn’t partnering?”


Dileep: “Vanessa, appreciate you sharing your views. You are right; the team has indicated that you weren’t in effect working as a team. Yes, you did your part. It was delivered well and finally we did end up with good outcomes. The stakeholder was pleased. However, that isn’t good enough. It also matters ‘how’ we delivered the outcomes and as a manager it is also my ownership to ensure you all work cohesively.”

Vanessa: “You called out everyone’s responsibilities and that clarity helped. Everyone had a role to play and I did what I was supposed to. Why should it be a problem?”

Dileep: “Yes, agreed. But, just doing what you are supposed to is a given and an expectation. By adding value to everyone else and contributing to the overall success of the team is what makes the role more gratifying is how I see it.  We are not debating if what you are saying or what the team said is right or wrong. There can’t be a right or wrong answers.  However, why is it that there is a perception which exists about your ability to contribute collaboratively?”

Vanessa: “I don’t know. If the perception stays what can I do? It is for the individual to think about. I am not bothered. Why must I be doing so?”

Dileep: “Why don’t you tell me then – if you were leading this team, what would you think of such a behavior? What will you take-away as an inference?”

Vanessa: “Hmm. Unsure. I can’t figure out.”

Dileep: “Why don’t you think about this and let us meet again in sometime to overcome this concern”

Vanessa nods her head and leaves the room.

What are the issues on hand and how will you help Dileep and Vanessa address them? Please share your views here.

5 Tips That Can Help Your Creative Work Win Communication Awards

Planning to enter your organization’s or client’s work for an award? Consider these 5 tips while submitting your entry and boost your chances of winning laurels.

Pitch it like an ad:  When you are competing with numerous entries for an award it is helpful to catch the jury’s attention easily. The entry – if a campaign, needs to highlight how it is sustainable, engaging, game changing and memorable. Remember that the judges are busy people and if they are evaluating entries for multiple categories the chances are that they have limited time on hand. Make it intuitive and simple for them to gain insights on why your campaign hits the right note. Use infographics and creative ways of showcasing your work. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy appeal.

Balance the heart and head: A campaign that doesn’t appeal to both these elements will rarely get the attention of the jury or for that matter the audiences they are intended to target.  Share how the campaign evoked the audience’s participation and made a powerful statement which transcended the initial brief. Include hard data points and the softer touch which made the campaign come alive.



Simplicity and consistency:  Nothing can beat the simplicity of a campaign – how it was easy for the audience to contribute, how it involved them and helped make it their own. Also what made the campaign look and feel the same across any platform or device or geography that it was executed in. Furthermore, if the campaign can be run by a third party without the involvement of the creator you have a winning entry.

Thought and focus: Did the campaign hinge on thorough research and draw deep insights from audiences before crafting the solution? If yes, you are on track to make a mark vis-à-vis your peers. Was the campaign linked with the business agenda? If yes, it has a greater chance of landing a metal. Lastly, was it outcome oriented? If yes, your campaign is worthy of recognition.

Strategy and execution: To make a lasting long term impact your campaign is expected to work seamlessly from strategy through execution.  The jury may not be able to sense that from your content easily and therefore it is tougher selling this crucial part of the award entry.  Demonstrate how your leadership’s involvement links strategy to execution. Highlight how your organization or client is living the campaign beyond just the award entry.

I had the honor of serving as a member of the 2015 #SABREAwards Jury for South Asia which concluded recently. Was inspired by the creativity and passion showcased in the entries.

Engagement Is Every Employee’s Responsibility

Think about it.

  • Did you join an organization expecting others to engage you? Or did you join because you felt the organization fit with your values and you offered skills that could possibly improve the success of the firm?
  • Did you expect to be waited on by others to deliver results? Or did you join because it offered you an opportunity to make a lasting difference?

My blog post – Is ‘Entertainment= Employee Engagement?’ received interesting viewpoints from many readers. Thank you everyone for taking the time to share your comments.

Yes, organizations do have a role to make the culture conducive and to fulfil employees’ potential. Likewise, managers have a role to provide support, line of sight, remove obstacles from the path of employees who can deliver great work and share opportunities for growth and learning.  For inputs on these thoughts, please refer to  presentation slides I shared during an employee engagement masterclass at Praxis 2013.


Every piece of work can be engaging and it is for leaders and managers to help employees see it that way. It may not always be fun but if they know ‘why’ it is being done and how the stakeholder is impacted for the better – they can definitely gain from that experience.

Here are a few approaches that can help you put the ownership and focus on employees:

Dig deeper: Often we get caught up in the semantics.  Have we asked employees what they really want to be effective at work? What is their definition of fun? Is it making work fun or having fun at the workplace? If work pressure is a concern then that needs to be tackled first rather than help they distress with another set of initiatives.

Ask the right questions: Will any employee ever say they don’t want to be entertained? Instead ask – what is that they need to be most engaged at work? When have they been at their best? What helped them stay in the ‘flow’? Tap those levers rather than craft a new bunch of initiatives that will stress out everyone involved!

Hiring right: If you need to engage your employees consider if the hiring process is robust enough.  Asking the right questions can also help you sort and seek appropriate talent. It helps to set expectations upfront and early so that there are no misplaced feelings after your employees join.

Appeal to the inner self: Help employees think about why they work and what motivates their actions. If they can be their best at work they the chances of them being engaged are high. Provide challenging work, enable employees to deliver more, provide opportunities to learn and grow. Never forget to recognize real-time and often.

Give employees ownership: Allow employees to define and own ‘fun’. If it works for them and they continue to deliver the best, it should be fine. No amount of fun and entertainment has ever got business results.  Hard work has – if the work was interesting and engaging.

Focus on what matters: Companies are in the business of doing great work and serving their customers and if resources are allocated for organizing events and entertainment there is very little room for focusing on initiatives that can truly improve employee engagement.

What are your views?


Is Entertainment =Employee Engagement?

Jacob and his leadership team at Optic Data -a global analytics firm are concerned about their employee engagement survey results.  The overall scores are well below the industry average and their 10,000+ strong employee strength at 4 locations in the country is dwindling due to high attrition. They gathered employees in a focus group and asked managers what they felt about the results and reasons. They heard that employees wanted to be more connected and engaged.

The young workforce preferred lesser work load and more ‘fun’ in the office. The managers weren’t sure what to do about ‘fun’ and the work load wasn’t going to get any easier considering heightened competition and increased demand from clients. The leadership team spoke with employees directly and they continued to hear that the word ‘fun at the workplace’ come up in most discussions. They gathered to debate the implications of these findings and the subsequent actions to be taken. Reflect on this case study and share what you think must be the way forward for Jacob and team.

Jacob (CEO): “This survey result is a wake-up call for us. It definitely needs addressing. I am unable to fathom what is causing this even though it says that employees are seeking more face time with managers, improved infrastructure, more recognition and increased pay.”

Nina (HR Head): “I am afraid this isn’t a trend in other companies – which means we have a problem on our hands. “

Deepa (IT Director): “In my team I can say for sure the mind-set is different. They aren’t wired to have fun. They want to have better roles and see growth for themselves. I am not sure fun will solve anything.”



Hari (Process Director): “I disagree. In my team it is about breaking the monotony of daily work. They need to let their hair down and distress. Entertainment might work.”

Jacob: “Curious to know – how many in this room think that entertainment would keen you personally engaged?”

Noticing nervous glances Jacob realized he wasn’t going to get a response. He continues.

“I meant – how many of you came in to this organization expecting the company to be engaging you?”

Tom: (Finance Director) “Not me. I was excited to join, saw the potential for growth and was impressed by the company’s achievements.  My role is of interest and that keeps me going.”

Nina: “Same with me. I heard of this company and with big data the next big wave; this was the place to be!”

Hari: “I suggest we organize some fun and games in the workplace – movies on Fridays, give away ice-creams, put bean bags in the lounge spaces and create a gaming zone.”

Deepa: “Good ideas. We should also consider music shows and theatre in the offices”

Nina: (looking skeptical) “Isn’t that a lot of work to get all these done and won’t it take away focus from what we are supposed to do – deliver the best solutions and services for our customers?”

Tom: “I agree. It will see a productivity drop and our clients may get worried about the results we are supposed to deliver against.”

Jacob: “Is it about making the workplace fun or have fun in the workplace? Can entertainment solve engagement? How do we even know that it will do any good to their morale? I am unsure we are getting anywhere with this. Can I request you to mull over our strategy and come back with a clear decision on what we must actually do?”

All nod their heads, agree to do more thinking about this situation and come back.

What can the group do? What is your point of view? Please share it here.

What is your Internal Communication SINPO Rating?

As a young DXer I often tuned in to many interesting stations on a Sony short wave radio that my father had. I had to carefully turn the dial and catch the signal from a station while keeping the antenna near a window!

Getting through to stations such as the British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Australia, Radio Sweden and Radio Netherlands helped increase my understanding of the world outside and gave me insights on audience engagement practices.


Those days, radio stations provided a snail mail address for listeners to correspond with and send back a QSL card. The listener shared specifics details about the reception (in terms of a SINPO rating – signal, interference, noise, propagation and overall) from that part of the world and it helped the radio station know how to adjust their frequency to get to most listeners. The scale for each variable extended from 1 (lowest) to 5 (the highest) in terms of strength.

The QSL card served as a collector’s item for the listener and also provided insights about the station and the country’s culture. It often took weeks to send an aerogramme and then receive a response. This experience of corresponding with radio stations, receiving reception reports and getting QSL cards exposed me to surveying and feedback mechanisms relevant to communication.

Today, when I relate this experience to work many elements continue to explain internal communication. From a process context we are aware that in communication there is a sender and a receiver. Noise and interference comes in the way of accepting messages shared.

Signal is about the strength of the transmission and with internal communication is the quality of the messages that are sent. Interference is about the overlaps that exist among stations operating in similar or adjacent frequencies and we often know how conflicting messages or timing can impact the acceptance of internal communication. Noise from a short wave perspective relates to the cacophony of content that jar the reception and come in the way of the good communication. Propagation is to do with consistency of communication and Overall relates to the audience’s experience with messages shared.

If you look at your internal communication practices from this lens you may be able to draw inferences on how your audiences are interacting and experiencing what you share.

Interested to know what you think.

Do You Have Skin in the Game?

In 1999, a silver haired bespectacled gentleman – Rajpal at an advertising agency I worked taught me an important lesson.

Responsible for the production department his role was crucial to the success of any brand campaign we ran.

Those days, hard copy artworks were the norm as designs moved from concept to completion. Rajpal, a hard taskmaster and the ‘owIMG_0108ner’ of the agency studio never allowed any artwork to go past him to production unless the copy chief, the art head and the client servicing executive had all signed on the copies. If anyone evaded his attempts at penning their signatures they often got it back hard. He would ignore their pleas on billing or look the other way for any new tasks which came by.

No amounts of name dropping or calls for urgency were entertained. He was labelled ‘hard hearted’ and ‘cruel’ by many in the organization but the leaders knew the value he added. He was the quality gatekeeper and the conscience of the agency! Rajpal would give his customary grin if an account executive told him how upset the client was or that we were close to losing a prestigious account. Nothing unfazed him. If you hadn’t got the requisite approvals and sign-offs the client could wait and the design wouldn’t leave the office!

By ensuring people put their skin in the game (by signing their name on what they crafted) or believed were their best work he put ownership back in context. Apart from the individual’s and the agency’s reputation on the line there was a lot more at stake – the client’s funds, the time and effort of many team players  and most importantly, the respect for the process.

Think of the work you do every day in your department and what leaves your inbox as it heads towards your stakeholder. Did you put your best foot forward? Are you truly proud of what you delivered?

Consider a campaign your team is managing currently. Did your team sign off on their work? Do they have a stake in the outcome? Have you sought better quality on outcomes if they didn’t meet the mark? Are you agreeable if the outcomes were met if the process wasn’t followed? Does the buck stop with you or with the team?

What passes by you becomes the standard that others think you have set for yourself and for others. To have skin in the game you need to take ownership, champion quality and be committed.