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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.