Taking CSR to the next level
4 ways a corporate social responsibility programme can enhance company culture
By Emma Davidson, Area Retail Manager – City of London, Express
Too often, executives have viewed corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a source of pressure or passing fad. However, according to a 2014 survey by Nielsen, 67 percent of employees prefer to work for a socially responsible company. Research has also found those who frequently participate in company volunteering activities are nearly twice as likely to be satisfied with their career progression.
As the business world wakes up to the value of CSR, some leaders are taking it to the next level and using it as a creative opportunity to empower their businesses and wider society.
So, how can CSR programmes be effectively implemented into today’s workplace culture to create real change?
A CSR programme presents an opportunity to promote strong internal and external relationships with other local businesses, charities and citizens.
For example; when Express worked with its partner Metro Bank’s COO, on a recent Salvation Army project, it helped strengthen ongoing client relations and led to more potential charity partnerships.
Letting employees experience the commitment first-hand is critical. Leaders must be prepared to make a personal time donation and include members of staff from across departments and levels of seniority.
Connecting company members on a personal level will help enable employees to communicate more openly at work, which in turn, increases motivation and productivity.
According to a study by PWC, 86 percent of millennial employees would consider leaving a company if their CSR values no longer matched their own. At Express, our prospective graduates often ask about our CSR programme and see it as one of the critical elements of our employee value proposition.
As a company’s career page tends to be the first point of call for potential candidates, it’s important for CSR information to be visible. Make sure you promote the relevant articles, awards and policies, as well as posting images and videos that feature employees participating in charitable events.
We believe an open CSR culture contributes to high retention rates and is one of the reasons why we have been voted one of top 100 companies for graduates to work for by The Job Crowd.
Many business leaders are stuck in a limiting “zero-sum mindset”, afraid their CSR policies will give too much to employees and take too much from stakeholders. However, there are real tangible business benefits if done correctly.
One-off initiatives can be time consuming and ineffective. For best results, spread CSR plans throughout the year so activities occupy around 1 percent of an employee’s time. This equates to around two working days a year which should be achievable for companies both large and small.
Incorporate it into everyday business life, such as cycle to work and lift share schemes. Smaller charitable initiatives such as coffee mornings or group participation in events like Race for Life, complement more serious, long-term corporate objectives.
Where possible it’s better to undertake volunteering positions relevant to the skills and professional goals of individual employees. This will deliver more value to the charity involved and help the employee enhance their skillset.
80 percent of employees who take part in workplace volunteering say they are fully aware of their employer’s community investment policy, but this falls to 44 percent for employees who don’t.
Employees need to be informed of the collective impact their CSR contribution has. One of the most effective ways to communicate this is to focus on the long-term social impact.
For example, instead of saying “We raised X amount of money for a particular charity” you should provide an example of the actual results achieved – I.e.: “The amount of money we raised will cover the cost of running a charity chat line for three days”. These kinds of statistics can be shared to act as a boost for employees and could give them the nudge they need to sign up for the next CSR event.
It’s important to ensure CSR enables companies to make a genuine difference to society and delivers tangible business benefits. If done correctly, it can improve brand reputation among stakeholders, attract new talent and most importantly, certify employees are proud of the company they work for and are inspired to perform at their best.