Tailoring a Bespoke CR Strategy: Why You Should Engage Employees

If you had a chance to take part in or review the #CSRchat on Twitter this week, you will have gleaned some key points about employee engagement in the context of corporate responsibility:  what it means; some examples of who’s doing it well; what might be required to undertake employee engagement; how it might be measured; who might be involved.  But, surprisingly, not too much was said about the benefits of undertaking employee engagement – perhaps there just wasn’t enough time!

Some of the benefits that I heard from other participants included “a heightened emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for his/her job/organization” (@TCBCCS), “sparks positive feedback” (@gchesman), and “ideas from many sources, action from many sources, creativity and interest in the company beyond the job duties” (@EXAIR_KE).

I thought I would use this post to describe some of the benefits that I have found after conducting the kind of employee engagement I described in my post last week [Advice for the Shoestring Practitioner: Sustainability Mapping, January 31, 2011], in the context of developing corporate responsibility (CR) strategies.

  • Employees confirmed – and in some cases, corrected – the intelligence we had gathered in our preceding benchmarking and sustainability mapping work.
  • Employees identified issues, risks, barriers, and weaknesses we might otherwise have missed, and, perhaps more importantly, highlighted strengths and opportunities we could leverage to achieve critical early successes in implementation.
  • We were able to identify gaps in employee understanding of CR and sustainability issues, and incorporate an awareness-building, education, and training component to address these in CR strategy development and implementation.
  • We were able to daylight concerns about publicly adopting a CR policy, and ensure the business case and/or CR strategy addressed those concerns explicitly.
  • Often, employees had already given considerable thought to identified challenges, and were ready to share innovative ideas for potential solutions.
  • Many employees explicitly expressed appreciation simply for having been asked to share their perspectives, opinions, and expertise, and subsequently expressed excitement that the company was taking CR and sustainability issues seriously.
  • Because employees had been involved in the development of the CR strategy, they felt a sense of ownership that manifested in their ongoing championship of its implementation.
  • Senior managers and executives were more inclined to support the CR strategy and/or policy framework because they knew that the expertise and concerns of their operational staff had been taken into consideration in its development.

In summary, in my experience, early employee engagement enables the development of a bespoke approach to CR and sustainability that is relevant and sensitive to the realities of each specific organization, and which enjoys a high degree of support and buy-in from the outset.

Have you realized other benefits from employee engagement around the development and implementation of a CR or sustainability strategy?  I’d love to hear about it.  Still not sure about the merits of engaging employees?  Let me know what your concern is.

  1. Thanks Celesa for elucidating the benefits to employee engagement and you are right, it seems to be an aspect of the #csrchat that did not get teased out all that well.
    I am a strong advocate of employee engagement provided it is authentic and intended to bring value to the employees as well as the company. Done well, it can be transformative. Employees will give generously and authentically when they believe they are contributing to the greater good. But far too often I have seen management walk away with the intelligence gathered and then fail to return with any meaningful offering.
    Talk about a quick way to get the cattle out of the barn!

    • Thanks for your comment, Cathie!
      I completely agree with your observation about making it meaningful for the employees. One of the first questions I ask a client who is contemplating employee engagement, is whether or not they are committed to following through – communicating not only what was learned through employee engagement, but what the organization plans to do with the knowledge, and acting upon it. Nothing breeds disenchantment like raising hopes and expectations without then following through with meaningful action.

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