Article: Your Most Important CSR is to your Employees

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs the world over are yielding significant results.  No can argue the leaps businesses have made in community activism and environmental sustainability versus just a decade ago.  But too often these programs are forgetting perhaps the most critical component of any true social responsibility plan: the one that touches the human beings inside the company.  And it’s shortchanging the effort as a result.

CSR becoming mainstream

In company meeting rooms all over the world you can bet CSR is swiftly rising up the ranks on the strategic priority list.  It’s most likely not yet at the top, still trailing behind the usual ‘growth’ subjects of Sales, Marketing, Cost Efficiencies, Innovation pipeline, Customer Service, and Talent.  But as companies realize more with each passing day the importance of CSR to all of these aforementioned gold ticket items, and how CSR can and does impact everything you are looking to accomplish, it’s becoming ever more apparent that CSR is turning into much more than just a one-off initiative.  It’s now a critical component to how you reach your customers, solicit investors, attract and keep employees, and ultimately, build your culture and identity.

And companies all over the world are responding in kind.  CSR and its pillars of purpose, sustainability, community, wage practices, diversity & inclusion, and employee wellness are being given added attention and increasing corporate resources.  Just browse down your LinkedIn feed or go to a major company website where CSR real estate is on the up.  

Focus on your people in a foundational way first. The rest will follow.

With all that businesses are seeking to accomplish, there remains one big hole in too many CSR programs – the employees themselves.

Now, you may say that I listed “employee wellness” as a CSR pillar, and I did.  However too many organizations, even those who are progressing their CSR faster than others, are failing to note a very foundational aspect of employee well-being, and as a result, are short changing both the meaning and impact of their CSR strategy.

Seeing your employees as full Human Beings is more than providing paid volunteer time, flex commuting, liberal vacation policies, healthy food options, fitness/health instruction, awards & recognition, advancement, mentor programs, and more job training.  Yes, these are important and should be continued.  But what is foundational is seeing them as Human Beings with their own uniqueness, purpose, and magic.  Seeing them as individuals with special talents, natural gifts, hopes, and dreams.   Have you asked your people if they have a personal purpose? Or if they know what their natural gifts are?  Or do you know their individual and most sought after need states (freedom, adventure, creativity, stability)? Have you given them the tools to discover this for themselves?  Much less apply them?  The answer is most likely no. 

All of the perks and engagement activities in the world can’t replace the gift of allowing someone to know and be their true selves, to be in roles that support this discovery, and to align their personal purpose with their professional life. This yields much greater fulfillment, meaning, and excitement. 

Yes this will make your employees more connected and engaged at work.  But, and much better yet, this increased fulfillment, meaning, and excitement will yield more positive influence and behavior from them outside of work, when they go back home to their families, and to their communities. If someone in you employ is always in survival mode, just trying to ‘get by’ day to day, and feeling empty, how do you think these individuals will most likely be when they leave work at the end of the day?  

When you are more in tune with – and living – your true self day in and day out, you become a better mother, a better husband, and a more involved community member.  You are more likely to be sustainable, giving, and connected to others.

What can have a greater social purpose than that?

Not convinced yet?  Guess who will develop, operate, and embrace your CSR programs, including all of your Sustainability efforts? Could it be Human Beings?  Prioritizing this foundational approach will help immensely with the set up, roll out, and reach of your CSR activities. 

When Human Beings are more fulfilled on living on purpose as more of their true selves, you can bet this will reflect in the creation, implementation and impact of your CSR strategy. 

Make the Human Beings in your company your first CSR responsibility.  This will be the foundation for which to build and expand your CSR programs, and your business.

Joe Laranjeiro
International Partner - The Conscious Business Institute