Friday, September 24, 2010

What do CSR people really do and how can HR help?

A lot has been written about what it takes to make a good CSR Manager, or CRO, or CSO, or VP CSR, or whatever it is that the CSR leaders in the business prefer to call themselves. An example is  the very interesting study produced by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) based on a survey of 400 sustainability professionals. The study identified two core skill sets, one for hard skills and one for soft skills. There are the softs skills are as follows:

There is not much in this list which  actually which is different from any type of staff manager in any business. Communicating, problem solving, inspiring - these are management fundamentals. This is why the CR Practitioner Competency Map  (Let's call it Le Map, for short) might just add the missing link. This Le Map (haha, sounds good, right?) was developed by the CR Academy, which is a collaborative project led by Business in the Community in the UK.

Anyway, Le Map "has been designed to assist CR & HR practitioners to be more effective. It sets out the typical business outcomes that CR practitioners are working towards and the challenges they face, along with the associated knowledge and behaviours required to be successful. It also suggests learning resources to help users overcome the challenges. CR practitioners, or those wishing to enter the field, can use the competency map to identify their strengths and development needs in relation to their current role and to plan ahead for future roles. The map can also be used to structure roles within CR departments, assist with recruitment and help organisations support CR practitioner development." (I lifted this paragraph from Le Map website - even us bloggers are entitled to take a few shortcuts).

You can navigate the map from two directions. If you are a CSR practitioner, the Le Map developers suggest you might prefer to move straight into activities. If you are a Human Resources professional, Le Map offers you are route to behaviours. Whilst I would hope that everyone would consider both angles, this makes a certain sense.

Let's assume we are a CSR practitioner, ready and willing to race to another fun day on the job, and ready to make ourselves even more effective in our roles. After we turn on the PC, tweet awhile and check Facebook and the latest CSR news from CSRwire and CSR reports from, we log in to Le Map website and, as instructed, download three worksheets: an Activities Priotitization, a Personal Development Plan and a Personal Behaviours Assessment. By this time, we need Chunky Monkey. Thereafter, suitably refreshed, we progress to the Activities Map and select one activity to focus on (yes, we used the Activities Prioritization worksheet). Beginning with the end in mind (Habit 2) , we go straight to Measuring and Reporting. This section identifies four different types of activity (business outcomes) with a drill-down for each, describing the types of action steps required (challenges) and the the knowledge, behaviours necessary and resources for further information.  That's a lot to take in and requires some time to study. This level of detail is provided for each of the 13 Activity Areas of a CSR practitioner. 

Then, we decide to make a quick career change (we heard the perks are great in HR) to become an HR Learning and Development Manager. We reaccess Le Map and browse the 16 behaviours that we expect CSR practitioners in our organization to be competent at displaying. Moving straing to the "communication" behaviour, we can review a list of detailed behavioural statements which define what we can expect from my CSR Practitioner. Le Map developers suggest that every CSR practitioner should demonstrate all of these behaviours to a greater or lesser extent. 

Anyway, we log out as we have to go to a meeting about how to embed a CSR culture in the business. We decide to come back to Le Map a little later. 

OK. Scenario over. This is a tremendous piece of work that the BITC and collaborative team have put together. It provides the basic framework for designing and developing CSR jobs, and assisting CSR people in their roles. It is certainly something I would consider using if I were in one of these positions. As a consultant, I can also help me in assisting my CSR and HR clients to develop themselves and their impact in their organisations. As a standalone, it presents most of the basic competency aspects that I would have expected to see.  For practical use of Le Map  in the business, however, a lot of work would be required to adapt this fairly generic framework to the needs of a specific job, organization type and business sector, as the scope is quite broad. However, it is as good a start point as I have seen.

For the future, I would recommend considering expanding the area relating to stakeholder engagement (of external stakeholders) and adding some elements which are found in most competency tools which relate to different levels of jobs in an organization (a VP level role requires quite different activities from a first line management role) and different focus areas (a generalist CSR Manager will perform different activities and require different behavioural expertise than a CSR Reporting Manager, for example). Also, there is something about a CSR Manager which I find essential and that is the walk the talk element, the demonstration of personal passion and commitment to a more sustainable world, beyond the boundaries of the job description. Le Map doesn't quite capture this. But it's a great framework, nonetheless.

In summary, I recommend all CSR and HR practitioners to talke a look at Le Map (after you have read my book on CSR for HR, of course!)

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

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