3 ways to involve your employees in your CSR program

Koen Wijffelaars
Co-Founder - Design Strategist

One of the reasons I love my job is that I have the privilege of talking to many passionate CSR managers within many different industries. Funny thing is, no matter what kind of industry we encounter, many of them say the exact same thing: “If only more people within our organisation would care more deeply about our CSR efforts”

It’s a recurring statement and a very relevant issue; in our previous article we talked about why it’s crucial to involve employees in your CSR program and how it can have a huge effect on employee engagement, happiness and retention. So what can you do to make your employees actually feel involved, make an impact and instill a sense of pride for belonging to your organisation? Based on our experience and research, we’ve defined 3 best practices to accomplish this goal.

1. If you want to involve your employees... actually involve them

Seems like a no-brainer right? But you’d be surprised how often an employee involvement program is designed in the board room without any input, communicated top-down and as a result fails to connect to a majority of employees. The solution is really quite simple, start the process with listening to your employees. Get to know what people in your organisation truly care about, what themes or causes make them tick, find out how they’d like to be involved and get to know who your internal ambassadors are.

Asking one’s opinion does not only creates a sense of involvement, it also ensures you know what to focus on to make sure your program really connects with what the people within your organisation find important. Listen closely and continue to keep asking questions.

2. Don’t tell people what to do, tell stories and facilitate

Once you know what makes people within your organisation tick, show them how they can get involved by setting up a smart communication strategy across your different channels, but by all means, do not force people into participating. Start out by growing internal awareness of your engagement program, whether it has to do with volunteering, donating expertise, raising money for charity or creating a more sustainable organisation. Step two, facilitate; make it as easy as possible for people to join in in a way that suits them. After a while, people will start hearing about their colleague next door running a great fundraising marathon, volunteering at a local refugee center or growing an epic moustache for Movember. The more of these personal stories start to emerge, the more compelling it will become to join in.

3. Lead by example

While it’s crucial to get inspired by stories from direct colleagues, it’s equally important for upper management to lead by example. On the one hand to inspire everyone within the organisation, and on the other hand to decrease any cynicism or criticism that can pop up when a new program is presented. This study at the American College of Greece in Athens shows that when a CSR program is being supported by charismatic leadership, cynicism goes down and participation goes up. Imagine, if you’re setting up an employee volunteering program, nothing is more effective than having the CEO getting his/her hands dirty as well. Not only will it inspire, it will also remind everyone that no matter what product or service you’re selling, in the end we’re all just human beings and we all care about more things than just making the next deadline.

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