Christian Arno

8 ways to engage employees on corporate social responsibility activities

9 min Read
Group of five happy employees jumping together in a bright corridor

I have to admit, when I hear or read the term ‘CSR’ I kind of glaze over. I think it’s because it makes something that should be exciting sound a bit dull and detached. Another acronym that can be filed neatly alongside the other stuff businesses don’t look at very often.

This isn’t what the spirit of CSR is about; it should run through the DNA of a company and act as a driving force, moving the business towards a future where it’s living in harmony with people and the planet.

I know, I know. Businesses have to start somewhere, so if you’re reading this article with the intention to kick start (or reinvigorate) CSR initiatives, don’t let my qualms with the term stop you. CSR is an amazing tool that can be used to boost employee engagement. In fact, a Net Impact study proved that one of the most effective ways to foster employee engagement is to embed CSR into the culture of the company.

Yet many leaders fail to make CSR a success, mainly because they tackle it the wrong way.  

CSR is and should be ‘in action’. Everyone in the company should be involved in the process, from investors to employees. If you are looking for ways to engage your people in corporate social responsibility activities, here are 8 things you can try:

1. Be a role model

A key driver of employee engagement and participation is transparency with senior management. According to USA Today, once employees see their leaders volunteer, donate, and participate in social activities, they tend to follow them.

2. Let employees lead

In a 2016 Cone Communications employee engagement study, 75% of employees qualified their work as more satisfying when they were allowed to make a positive impact at work.

This brings us to a crucial point: CSR's benefits stretch further than helping your business reach ESG targets. They can actually boost productivity because people feel more motivated and loyal.

Talk to your employees, ask them what kind of activities are of interest to them. Don't just dictate what actions they should take.

3. Keep track of your impact

As people take the time to get involved in a CSR programme, they want to know the impact they are having.

For example, at Pawprint, we help businesses track and monitor the impact that each of their employees has when it comes to CO2e emissions. This allows them to measure the combined impact of all employees and set SMART goals to reduce that impact.

Additionally, our ‘Groups’ functionality enables teams to set goals or annual objectives that everyone can help to achieve. It's informative, fun and shows employees the good they are doing in real-time.

4. Get others involved

A PwC study found that 75% of employees are very likely to recommend corporate volunteering to their peers.

By encouraging your employees to invite people outside of the organisation to CSR activities, you will not only increase the impact of their actions (making them feel even better about taking part), you will also amplify your business’ impact by using its spheres of influence to sew a better way of living into the fabric of humanity.

5. Reward and recognise

TedX revealed that 58% of employees believe that one way to boost employee engagement is to reward them. If you mean business when it comes to achieving objectives related to CSR, consider a rewards scheme; ideally, one that supports the good causes you’re directing your efforts at.  

For example, you could incentivise employees to reduce their carbon footprints by offering ‘slow travel’ days (days where they can work from a train so that they don’t need to fly to go on holiday) to those that manage to achieve a certain amount of reduction.

Recognition is also a biggie when it comes to engaging your people; all too often, employees only receive feedback when they’ve done something wrong. This only serves to diminish confidence and put up a wall between them and ‘their employer’. Instead, inject policies into your CSR activities that celebrate people when they get it right: even a brief call-out on a team meeting will go a long way to keeping people engaged.

6. Incorporate CSR into business processes

CSR shouldn’t be seen as a ‘add on’ to business-as-usual; the values and concepts it promotes and uncovers should filter right through to every aspect of your business, from process, to supply chain, to people.  

If CSR is the initial driver for this, that’s absolutely fine. Use the activities to scope what and where you can be making a difference, then set to work organising your business around these findings.

For example, if—through CSR activities—you discover that employees are passionate about eliminating child labour from the textile industry, take that as a prompt to audit your business to ensure you’re not indirectly supporting this practice elsewhere. Also, audit your policies to eradicate the possibility of ever supporting it in the future.

When employees see the business’ commitment to change, they’ll feel heard, motivated and willing to give back the same dedication.

7. Keep employees posted

Everybody likes transparency. According to Psychology Today, management transparency is the most important predictor of employee happiness. For this reason, strategic CSR decisions should not remain within the walls of conference rooms.

Inform your employees about progress, volunteer hours, donations, impact and ongoing projects. This makes them feel part of the common efforts.

If you’re looking for a tool to help with this, look no further. Pawprint for Business enables organisations to collect feedback, track sentiment and communicate initiatives.

8. Ask for feedback

Have conversations with your team to find out if the company's CSR programme is as exciting and engaging. Ask what needs to be changed, improved or added.

Again, Pawprint is a great tool to help with this. It doesn’t just track employee’s carbon reduction but also sentiment around environmental initiatives. Learn more by clicking here.

Other tools that you could try are Trickle and Office Vibe; both awesome tools for collecting employee feedback.

Bottom line

CSR should not be seen as an end goal. Rather, it should be seen as a journey where joint efforts create a sustainable corporate culture - one that benefits not only the company and its employees but also the world.

Pawprint helps you sustain your CSR efforts and grow your business through your employees. With the help of behavioural change techniques and digital technology, we’ll turn environmental CSR into a tracked activity that’s fun and even a little bit addictive.

Thinking about Pawprint for Business?

From evidence that sustainability is an existential issue for businesses, to how Pawprint delivers 360° board value, we’ve got one helluva business proposition for you.

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