‘A small favor’ said the subject line. An e-mail winged in from a motivated employee calling interested individuals to chip in aid of the victims of the worst floods South India has seen in decades. The mail goes on to articulate the project, the effort, the expectation, the plan and people involved. Right down to the finer points of how ‘aerial surveys’ and ‘fund transfer’ can get done online on the website. What was interesting about this initiative was the passion and creativity which the mailer communicated. All within a span of a few days – the floods situation worsened in the last week or so.
I am sure most organizations would love to have something so well thought through and ‘employee-led’.
The recent NASSCOM Foundation report ‘Catalyzing Change 2008-2009, Towards Inclusive Growth’ however points to a maturity model that highlights ‘engaging employees’ but does not call out ‘supporting employee-led initiatives’. Out of the 6 factors in the model only one relates to employees, the rest focus on funding, policies, interventions, and domain expertise and resource allocation.
Interestingly, out of the total of 42 large Indian companies who participated in the survey only half have a full fledged group or resources driving the agenda, only 26% have a structured CSR policy in place and 29% have a sustainable model for CSR.
For many companies, contributing to corporate social responsibility can pull them in many different avenues. What constitutes CSR and who owns it is still a grey area in organizations. One of my students raised this pertinent question – was it HR, the CEO, the Communications team, a dedicated group or external agencies who championed CSR? As far I know companies which truly believe and practice what they preach a dedicated resource or a group of individuals manage this very vital function in the organization. In some cases, a core team from various functions come together to jointly run the program. I have seen the latter run well only when it is ‘employee-led’ and ‘enabled’ by the business. Without a strong commitment from the leadership employees often see these initiatives as eyewash.
In the October 5 edition of Business World, one consultant puts it aptly – ‘it has to be seen in a value framework that determines the way the organization works.’ Otherwise it is a ‘ritualistic undoing of guilt’!
As an internal communications professional I have driven and closely supported large scale CSR interventions and employee volunteering initiatives in the organizations I have worked for. Apart from the immense impact it has on employee engagement the sense of belonging and team spirit such programs create is enriching. Unfortunately, very often communication professionals are involved too little or too late in the overall scheme of things.
Like the example above, oganizations can tap and channelize energies on key initiatives that are close to employees’ hearts and have a relevance to the business and their existence.
With the changing new media environment where collaboration and equal involvement are key factors, partnering with your employees’ CSR beliefs is most conducive for a better world.