How employee advocacy can facilitate social responsibility within companies
Understanding the current challenges
Corporate Social Responsibility encompasses all kinds of company efforts towards activities that benefit society and simultaneously contribute to their business growth.
Companies have been doing this for quite some time now — from philanthropic initiatives such as donations to civic organizations to investments in education, employee working conditions, and health care. What is new, however, is the increasing pressure to align a company’s environmental activities and practices to its business goals, purpose, and values.
Additionally, the current situation comprising the shifting working landscape, Great Resignation, cost-of-living crisis, and general uncertainty is causing a series of extra barriers and challenges for CSR leaders across the globe.
Social responsibility is a topic that’s been gaining increasingly more importance within companies in recent years, especially considering how keen recruits and job seekers are to join ethically responsible companies above all else. And that doesn’t only apply to potential candidates and employees: a survey by Harvard Business Review found that 25% of consumers have zero tolerance for companies employing questionable ethical practices.
In other words, when it comes to corporate social responsibility, many factors come into play, and understanding it fully in all its complexities and intricacies can be tricky.
CSR leaders face many challenges here, from crafting an accomplishable but impactful CSR strategy to merging social and environmental goals with a company’s business. What others perceive as a bigger obstacle is how to report the impact of such a project in a way that builds reliance and bolsters credibility or even how to engage the workforce and gain its buy-in to perform tasks and contribute to the company's environmental responsibility.
Rely on the support and collaboration of your employees
Employee engagement is a significant factor in corporate social responsibility and achieving goals designed to impact society and the company’s bottom line.
CSR leaders are tasked with stimulating the long-term engagement of employees through their initiatives. The subsequent problem is that these need to be in equal part fun and inclusive while simultaneously adding to the overall goals in a user-friendly way.
Engagement is a task – and subsequently, an issue – that encompasses several factors. With employees now busy with hybrid work schedules or even fully working remotely, it’s getting harder and harder for sustainability managers to keep inclusion and a community feeling strong. Not to mention the difficulty of onboarding recruits working from their home offices, sometimes in different cities, and making them feel included in the organization and identify with the company values.
Similarly, getting employee buy-in is essential when it comes to guaranteeing the effectiveness of CSR strategies. If there is no secure, durable involvement from all levels and departments of the organizations, initiatives such as these cannot take off.
To make sure they thrive and achieve better results, a consensus is needed. Yet, this often proves to be a deterrent since many employees might approach these issues with skepticism, aversion, or even disregard them altogether.
What would make the difference in this instance is a strong company culture and values, shared accordingly among the workforce. This has to be communicated and applied systematically, along with a consistent effort of the company and managers to uphold those values and mirror them in the daily work and goals.
80% of people find it of the utmost importance that company values and culture are lived up to from the bottom up to be truly impactful.
This, of course, applies to CSR-related goals too, which need the additional full involvement of the employees to reach their full potential.
Facilitate engagement among your workforce
When considering the needs of companies in this space, there is one – if not absolute – solution that enables companies to solve part of these issues.
When it comes to bringing your employees together, mobilizing them, and getting their buy-in towards a common cause, the first thing that needs to be there is transparency and openness. Where is the company going? What are we trying to achieve and why? What is the bigger picture? What role do the employees play in this?
Full disclosure and visual representation of one’s social responsibility and related objectives are crucial if you want to gain the trust and buy-in of your workforce. Now, this may seem hard to achieve, but with the right tool and program, you can give your employees a space where you can run the gamut of information and be transparent about your intentions.
At the same time, employees will be able to work together, interact with each other, and advocate for the organization by sharing content on Social Media.
The upside for you – the end goal here – is that being active in this space and listening to the employees’ voices will generate engagement among them and with the company's goals and values.
CSR leaders are called to play a huge role in bringing employees, businesses, and communities together.
An employee advocacy platform can amplify their efforts, ease those engagement challenges and improve their achievements.
How? By creating that online community space to gather your employees, curate the content they have access to, and share with them the goals, projects, trajectories, and initiatives, you’re involved in.
If you want your CSR approach to rely on transparency, and inclusion, bringing your employees together, working together, and sharing trajectories and goals to stimulate engagement and interest, then advocacy will be a game changer.
Trust advocacy to ease your struggles
By turning your initiatives, trajectories, projects, and goals into campaigns to share with your employees, you can make them part of your strategy and make sure they have a clear idea of what their efforts are for. By encouraging them to advocate for you – sharing posts and spreading the word about the company and its social responsibility on Social Media – you’ll trigger their involvement and feeling of belonging to the bigger causes they are helping you raise awareness about.
Starting from smaller advocacy-oriented tasks will not burden them with additional work: it will take only a few clicks for them to trigger a much broader butterfly effect. Why? Because employee-shared posts on Social Media have 8x more reach than corporate posts. As a consequence, if you leverage the networks of your entire workforce, you’ll be able to reach a much more extensive network of people. Gradually this will give way to a community feeling, making your employees feel part of something together – something they care about.
It’s up to you how and how much you want to involve your workforce in your CSR, and an advocacy platform will open up nearly endless possibilities. You might want to launch a survey to gauge your employees’ interest in environmental responsibility and plan your subsequent strategy based on your results. Anything is possible because you can personalize your employees’ experience and how you wish to align with your company’s values and culture.
A Harvard Business Review survey found that 70% of people believe it is of the utmost priority that businesses make a good impact. This means employees care.
They want to help your company achieve its sustainability goals and are willing to be a part of it. It’s up to you to find the most effective way to let them do so.