When implementing CSR, apply the same company values you use while recruiting staff to select a charity partner and seek to develop long-lasting, sustainable partnerships, says Tess Mackean, CEO of talenTtrust.

When it comes to CSR, there are typically two ways companies go about it - giving employees time off to do volunteering work, and organising a company-wide initiative. In your opinion, which one works better?

In my opinion, there is no one option that is better than the other - both options can be highly effective and each helps achieve slightly different outcomes.

Giving employees time off work to commit to organisations that meet their personal passions can help them to feel valued and trusted. This would in turn lead to employees fostering a deeper and more meaningful engagement with the charities as the volunteering they do truly resonates with them; therefore result in a greater sense of satisfaction. Individual volunteering also means that employees have a variety of programmes to choose from, according to whichever gives them the most sense of fulfilment.

On the other hand with company-wide initiatives, the chosen charity may not resonate with every single employee. However, converging for a worthy cause is a great opportunity to improve collaboration across internal teams as employees from departments who would never normally have the opportunity to work together.

In order to make the most of both scenarios, it’s important for an organisation to have strong values and embed them into the core of what they do.

If the same company values that are used to recruit employees, are also applied to selecting a CSR charity partner, it allows the company to invest in a volunteering programme that resonates with the largest number of employees as well as creating impacts that are meaningful and sustainable.

What are 2-3 challenges HR leaders can expect when implementing CSR initiatives? And how can these be overcome?

HR leaders often have a hard time dealing with the amount of coordination required to ensure successful completion of the CSR project. From vendor sourcing and outreach, to the on-going management of the initiative, working with charities can be incredibly resource-heavy, with its own set of challenges including communication delays or adhering to timelines.

However, these can be overcome in different ways. One way is to invest in charity partnerships over a longer period of time. For instance, companies can set up a three-year funding cycle and invest in a charity partner both financially and through volunteering. Charities are far more likely to be responsive once a formal and stable dynamic has been established.

Another way to address this is to use an experienced intermediary organisation who can take all of the administration, coordination and impact assessment off of your hands. This allows HR leaders to focus on their day jobs whilst ensuring the volunteering project runs smoothly and benefits both the charity and your employees.

What benefits can CSR bring to a business? And how can HR leaders quantify these benefits to measure ROI?

In 2020, CSR should already be a fundamental part of your organisation’s strategy. With increasingly pressing societal needs, it’s beholden upon the corporate sector to actively contribute to their resolution, and the benefits of doing so are becoming ever more widely understood.

Aside from the obvious benefits to the beneficiary charity, a well-run CSR programme - specifically ones that focus on skills-based volunteering - can bring unexpected benefits to the business itself. A 2010 Corporate Citizenship Report found that employees engaging with skills-based volunteering programmes had the opportunity to improve skills in the following areas:

  • Communication
  • Ability to coach and support others
  • Adaptability
  • Influencing and negotiation skills

It also identified a significant link between volunteering and employee engagement.

Our own research shows that individuals who take part in skills-based volunteering have increased confidence in their own skills and ability to be consultative. Our volunteers report that their listening and coaching skills improve as a result of their volunteering experience, and they learn skills through volunteering that they will directly apply in their workplace.

The benefits to the wider business here are evident and worth considering when designing a CSR programme. The measurability of these improvements could therefore be reflected through performance reviews; both introspective and 360.

If there’s something HR leaders shouldn’t forget when developing a CSR strategy, what is it?

My top tips for HR professionals developing CSR strategies would be:

  1. Alignment to company values is key.
  2. Seek to develop long-lasting, sustainable partnerships with charities.
  3. Ask your charity partners what they actually need help with and provide that.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are intermediaries who are experts in effectively bringing together charities and businesses, that will save a lot of time and money.

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