Do you ever ask, “Where’s the glue?”

Virtual offices. Remote workstations. Flex time. Multiple locations. A series of acquisitions. Employees are all over the place! Physically, yes, but also in terms of corporate culture. What’s the glue that will hold your talent together, creating the corporate culture of success you know you need for the company to succeed? That’s where corporate social responsibility (CSR) can come in handy. Harness the collective energy of your team by making the most of your employees’ desire to do good. CSR is rapidly becoming one of the best ways to engage employees in learning and embracing corporate values, energizing a company’s human resources and giving the company the edge it needs to meet its goals.

What’s hot when it comes to engaging employees in a CSR program? Surveying employees is a great place to start. That way, you can determine current and potential levels of engagement in an existing CSR program. Be sure to cast a wide net around what you call “doing good.” Your employees are probably involved in a wide range of activities that fall under the CSR umbrella, including things like participation in corporate giving campaigns, giving to their own favorite causes, volunteering, recycling, spearheading office campaigns, board service, fundraisers and canned food drives. One-on-one interviews are an excellent source of the information a company needs to get its arms around all of the ways the company and its associates are doing good and giving back. Often, management is surprised to learn just how much good is really going on. And sometimes management is surprised to learn how much–or how little–employees know about the company’s values, its commitment to social responsibility and all of the ways the company is supporting various community and industry initiatives.

Only when you know what’s really going on, and what your employees really think of it–can you define your company’s CSR program, tying a ribbon around all of that good and packaging it up in concise, compelling messages and strategies to deploy in the company’s sales, marketing, market expansion and talent recruitment channels.

And who knows? You might just find a few things that can be tweaked a bit. Sure, keep the activities and the causes everyone loves. But maybe there are a few things that people don’t really like doing but they’re afraid to say so. Optimizing a CSR program, getting things organized and achieving efficiencies is a great way to make a little room for trying something new. Start an employee giving campaign to engage everyone in a handful of strategic causes that bolster the company’s market position. Or consider establishing a birthday program for employees to celebrate each person’s gifts to the community. Or start up an employee education program for employees to learn how they can make the most of doing good, at home and in the workplace. And none of it has to break your budget.

In fact, engaging and empowering employees in a CSR program can be a powerful way to invoke an innovative notion called “adhocracy.” That’s the term Matt Monge, chief culture officer at Mazuma Credit Union and founder of the Mojo Company uses to describe the advantage of giving employees a true voice. “We need to trust our folks enough to let them do their thing,” writes Matt. “Often, the best thing we can do as leaders is create space for our folks to do what they’re good at and then . . . get out of the way. Let them work, collaborate, and make things happen.” Indeed, today’s CSR-savvy companies are asking employees to roll up their sleeves and help make decisions about where the company’s philanthropic dollars ought to be spent to bolster corporate goals, brand engagement and customer relationships.

And here’s the real bonus. CSR. Employee engagement. You know your company has to do both. Why not combine the two and get the most bang for your buck?

How do you know your company needs a formula for CSR success? Maybe the missing glue is a clue.

 

© Laura Wells McKnight 2013

 

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