By David Saul, managing director of leading serviced office operator Business Environment
The founder and CEO of Causecast — an American organisation that helps businesses become more socially responsible — recently wrote an article on how to turn the most cynical employees into ardent believers in the value of staff volunteering.
With some good ideas on how to motivate employees to get involved in CSR, it’s an interesting piece that’s worth expanding on. The main thrust of the piece is that if you have to tap into employees’ self-interest in order to get them involved in CSR, so be it. Eventually, they will recognise that doing good feels good.
One point it perhaps doesn’t fully address is why some employees are cynical in the first place. There’s a brief mention of the fact that some employees will presume CSR initiatives are self-serving stunts devised mainly to paint companies in a good light, but otherwise the implication seems to be that some people are cynical because that’s just the way they are.
I wouldn’t dispute the fact that this is true of some people, but I don’t think it can be stated as a general truth. Instead, I think in some instances, employees are rightly cynical.
That’s not to say that corporations aren’t genuinely attempting to make a positive difference when they take part in CSR activities, but rather, they aren’t always doing so in such a way that will convince their own employees of that fact.
Consistency really is key to demonstrating a genuine commitment to corporate social responsibility. If a company has no policy on recycling, but once a year asks its teams to take part in a litter clean-up, it’s perhaps no surprise that some employees will be unconvinced their firm is truly committed to protecting the environment.
Likewise, a business that actively volunteers but has no policy on reducing its energy use could suffer the same fate — CSR is likely to be perceived as a mere presentational add-on.
Because of this, it’s crucial that commitment to corporate responsibility is embedded at the heart of a business and central to the overall company culture.
One way to demonstrate genuine support for employees who want to work to improve their local communities is offering them time off work, on top of their usual holiday allowance, so that they can support local charities.
Other steps include ensuring recycling points are installed throughout all buildings, encouraging staff to cycle to work and raising money for charities that employees have a personal connection with.
Of course, everyone is an individual so there’s no single correct way to motivate employees to engage with CSR. However, demonstrating a genuine commitment from the company seems a solid start.
The Causecast CEO, Ryan Scott, also advises businesses to spark employee interest in CSR by tapping into their sense of competition, including setting a challenge to see who can raise the most for a given charity over a period of a few weeks, with an extra day’s holiday offered to the winner.
This certainly sounds like a great way to motivate those who dismiss CSR a distraction from their day job. However, for those who don’t want to get involved because they are disdainful of a perceived self-interest on the part of the company, it perhaps won’t be effective to encourage them to support a charity by appealing to their own self-interest — they more than likely believe in doing good solely for the value of doing good.
For these people, it’s the emphasis on the company’s genuine commitment to CSR that is more likely to boost their willingness to take part.
Businesses need to be flexible about how they motivate their employees to get involved in CSR, but whether it’s appealing to staff members’ competitive side or demonstrating that the company is truly passionate about acting responsibly, it’s important businesses harness their full potential to make a positive difference to the communities in which they operate.
This will result in a true win-win — a more engaged workforce and better communities.
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