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CSR – a tool to increase employee engagement?

CharityFor some companies their CSR commitment simply involves giving money to a couple of non-profit organisations a few times a year. Others regard CSR as a great marketing opportunity: let’s show the world and our customers that we care, that we give back to society.

But I rarely come across a company that regards CSR as a way to boost employee engagement, to motivate staff and to increase loyalty.

One of the HR directors participating in our Best of HR Project shared with us how CSR and employee motivation are strongly linked in their organisation. She also gave us some hints as to how a system like this can be built up until the CSR buzz spreads among employees like a virus.

Let me share some of the things she said.

CSR is a joint effort between individuals and the company

“We are very proud of our CSR programme. Whenever the company gives to charity we always make sure that our employees are part of it.

Our staff’s commitment to our CSR activity has become an upward spiral. With every new CSR activity our employees get more motivated to organise newer, even better CSR activities, to raise even more money for charity. This joint focus on CSR has a great team-building effect and it also clearly, in turn, increases our staff’s commitment to the company.

Here are some of the aspects of our CSR programme:

  • Christmas charity tombola – raising CSR awareness. This was our first step on the CSR route. The Christmas tombola was a relatively easy way of raising employee awareness, because we always have an annual Christmas party anyway. One year we added a tombola to the usual Christmas events, the proceeds of which went to a charity organisation. Thus, instead of only the company giving a Christmas donation – which is invisible to the employees – we made sure that our staff contribute too.
  • Feedback is essential. If we want CSR thinking to spread in the company and act as a motivating tool, it is crucial that people get feedback on where their donation went, how it was received, what was bought from it. We always ensure that plenty of such feedback is given to people. Sometimes the chosen charity organisation gives us a certificate with all our employees names listed on it. On other occasions a representative of the charity comes to us in person to say thank you.
  • Make a donation in person. Buying a charity tombola ticket is one thing. Giving a donation in person is quite another experience. One of the non-profit companies we are currently working with buys actual products from the money we collect and then organises an event at which some of our employees can give these presents to the chosen recipients in person. Naturally, we document these events too. The photos and videos we take become instruments to raise employees’ CSR awareness even further.
  • Cookie fair – you help the way you can. Another charity event we organise is the cookie fair. Some colleagues bake cookies while others buy them. The proceeds go to charity of course. This allows everybody to choose the way they want to give: some donate buy putting their work in, and some by paying for it. At the same time everybody has fun as the event usually turns into a big cake party.
  • Give your lunch to hungry children – making charity part of our everyday life. It is an important element of our company’s package that everybody’s lunch is paid for. They can order food from outside and the company pays for the order. This has always been the case. We have recently introduced a new way our colleagues and the company give to charity: offer your lunch money to the poor. Every day, employees can decide whether they would like to have the company pay for their lunch or whether they would like to pay for it themselves. The money the company saves if the employee decides to pay for it themselves is set aside for charity. The employee has the opportunity to do this every day, so each one can decide whether to make an occasional or a regular long-term commitment. The sum saved by our employees buying their own lunch is then doubled by the company: this is to show that not only individuals but also the company itself cares. The proceeds don’t just go to any charity – it is given to the Feed the Children Foundation of and is used directly to buy food for the children: in effect, employees’ food is converted into children’s food. This allows our staff to feel connected: by not claiming their free lunch from the company they actually give food to children who really need it.
  • Recognise those who give the most. Visibility, non-stop communication and plenty of feedback is very important. We also put an emphasis on recognising those colleagues who give the most, as we did in the “give your free lunch to children” project. We made video interviews with the top 10 contributors and we play those videos at our all-employee meeting.
  • CSR spreads like a virus. By now we have reached the point when charity-thinking spreads among our employees and people come up with their own CSR initiatives.
  • CSR – cooperation between the company and its employees. One of the main reasons why our CSR project is so powerful and motivating is that it is based on cooperation between the company and the individual. In every initiative, employees themselves actively participate; the company provides the framework while also contributing to the chosen cause. This is how our CSR programme increases employee engagement and loyalty and, at the same time, awakens the charity spirit in our people.”