Friday, July 2, 2010

Best use of CSR in HR

This article in advises that Hyder Consulting won the HR excellence Award for the Best use of CSR in HR. Best USE of CSR ? Is CSR an HR tool ? I would have thought that the Award should go to the best HR team that operates with responsibilty and accountability. Or the best HR team that works with a CSR mindset. Am I getting caught up in semantics? The category is described as:
"Judges will be looking for an organisation that has embedded corporate social responsibility throughout the organisation, in particular through its people. Entrants should demonstrate the role HR has played in the strategy and execution of CSR initiatives. They should demonstrate how CSR is making a difference to employees and the business through measurable results." Ok, could be worse. (Can you embed something not through people?)

As far as Hyder is concerned, "Judges thought the most impressive aspects of Hyder's approach to CSR was its effort to engage employees and the fact targets for 2009/2010 were agreed by senior management from its five geographic regions. These were to raise £30,000 for charity; donate 4,000 hours of staff time to charity work; establish a monitoring process for capturing data on waste, energy and water consumption; and to devise a system for recording employee travel data to set reduction targets for 2010." But wait, who were the judges - I can't tell - all I can work out is that " The HR Awards for 2010 will be judged by an expert panel of the most influential people in HR." What do HR people know about CSR ? Enough ? I doubt it.  

Hyder Consulting is an engineering company, offering advisory and design services for property and infrastructure development. The Management team of 9 men and one woman (in HR, what a surprise),("Hyder Consulting is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in the workplace."),  does appear to have a CSR commitment and have produced CSR reports for the last few years. The most recent report for 2009 (published 2010)  contains two pages (out of 19) on employees and suffers from a serious case of genericitis, though some basic positive element are included, such as 90% of employees in a survey say they are prepared to go the extra mile for the Company. However, only the good data is shared, which makes me rather suspicious. Similarly, single year data is reported. For example, employees in 2010 numbered 4,182. In the 2009 report, employees in 2009 numbered 4,694. A workforce reduction of 11%. in 12 months. That's quite a hefty number for a small company. No mention of this in the report or references to the way over 500 people were let go. Still, getting back to the awards, the report does provide  detail about how Hyder engages employees: This is basically done in two ways: appointment of CR representatives in each region, and provision of a sophisticated intranet application allowing employees to record donations and resource consumption and provide access to this data to all employees. There is certainly something to be said for this positive level of internal transparency. It would have been nice to hear more about HR processes which support the embedding of a CSR mindset in the business. How do HR do it ? What is different about the way HR functions ?

Anyway, it is good to see the inclusion of a CSR theme in HR Excellence Awards. At least that's something. And congrats to Hyder consulting for making it to the top of the shortlist beating Equity Insurance Group and Sainsbury's . However, as the tone of this post may indicate, my take on this is that it is rather primitive. Full marks for intention, but I think this award misses the point. It is not clear to me that the award encourages the adoption of a CSR mindset by the HR function, or good project management by HR to implement projects such as internal communications or employee volunteering. If the latter, HR will only be as good as the corporate strategy. If the former, the HR function will itself be transformed and support a more responsible organization whatever the business strategy. Does that make sense ?

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

1 comment:

Cathy Joseph said...

I am reminded of a company that suddenly became aware of ad hoc volunteer activities being done by most of their business sites and packaged them as the organization's commitment to CSR. Chances are, they are not alone. Such a lost opportunity.

It is encouraging that the UK is offering this award - I am not aware of it being offered here in the US. I am hopeful that it will prompt more HR professional to explore CSR, and in a more meaningful way. This is not an example of excellence, but it is a start.

As always, thank you for a terrific post!

Cathy Joseph

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