Friday, November 18, 2011

CSR for HR begins at home

The new Do Well Do Good Public Opinion Survey on Sustainability survey has just been published. The survey was conducted through an online panel organized by Qualtrics Labs, Inc. between October 28 and November 2, 2011 with 1,001 respondents consisting of 500 women and 501 men on behalf of Do Well Do Good, LLC. The report contains a wealth of perspectives and insights about the way consumers view the responsibilities of corporations, for example, these top level findings:

Support for Sustainability: 83% of consumers think companies should try to accomplish their business goals while still trying to improve society and the environment, down from 88% in last-year’s survey.
Leadership: 70% believe that corporate CEOs hold a high level of responsibility for their company’s impacts on the environment, employees, and the larger community.
Climate Change: Nearly 64% agree that climate change is real and 65% agree that human activities have contributed to it and 48% claim to have been affected personally by climate change.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions: 78% of consumers believe that companies should decrease their emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, but 40% and less believe that companies in the United States or in their own communities are looking for ways to do so.

However, what caught my eye was this:
Choosing from a list of 17 issues, respondents were asked to rate how important it was for companies to address them. The top five most important issues represent a cross section of social, environmental and governance topics, namely:

  1. Pay employees competitive wages and benefits (e.g. health care, pension)
  2. Provide training and educational opportunities for employees
  3. Effectively manage their use of energy
  4. Be honest and transparent about their business practices and manufacturing processes
  5. Ensure that their suppliers respect human rights
See that? The TOP THINGS that consumers want companies to do when they consider responsible behaviors is treat their employees right - care for their economic and professional wellbeing. 

CSR for HR is not just something that companies should do to make themselves feel good. Consumers are noticing! Every employee is also a consumer. Company practices are an open secret. When I started to work for a multi-national corporation over 25 years ago, I was told that my salary is personal and I should keep it to myself. Would that fly today? Corporate practices are so transparent that those companies which do not deal with the core issues of how their CSR and Sustainability practices are embedded in all management decisions may lose not only the best talent but also consumers.

Is there better proof that it is time for HR to wake up to CSR?

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I am not a human resource : 10 tips for handling layoffs

I read an interesting article in India's Business Line about the way Bank of America is handing layoffs of 30,000 people over two years.

The author reports:
"I called a friend who works at the bank to ask if the company had announced a schedule internally of how and where the lay-offs would take place, and how employees could find more information about it. She said she didn't know much more about it than what was reported in the papers, and employees were calling one another to find out if anyone knows more. "

The article goes on  to discuss the logic of decisions to reduce headcount ("When personnel costs are a major part of the business, it is so much easier to reduce the numbers employed and show quick results, rather than find and execute new growth opportunities.") but perhaps more importantly, the way in which such massive layoffs are executed. The article concludes with a classic sentence : "One protestor in the Occupy Boston movement held a sign that read: “I'm not a human resource. I'm a human being.” I guess that said it all." 

This reminds me of Anita Roddick's iconic statement which I have quoted for years, which she wrote in her book, Business as Unusual: "We were searching for employees but people turned up instead!" Yes, it's true. People are entire microcosms and each one is a link in a very large social chain. Companies which believe people are simply "resources" to be hired and fired depending on the way the numbers on the balance sheet show up on a given day are sorely missing the essence of sustainable business. Companies which take a nonchalant attitude to layoffs are destroying much of the social value they create in other ways. 

When I was ah HR Director with Unilever, we, regrettably, had to take a decision to close down a production plant employing 100 people. The plant had been operating for many years and it was loss-making to continue manufacturing at that site. There were many ethical issues to deal with arising from the decision to close the site, not least of which was when to advise employees. On the one hand, why not tell them as early as possible to enable them to prepare effectively for closure? On the other hand, the plant needed to continue operating until closure and if people know the plant will close, they may leave early or reduce motivation or productivity . Catch 22.

We ended up on the side of giving employees almost one year notice of intention to close the factory. Then, we worked with every single employee to offer relocation, outplacement support and provide financial and other assistance. By the time the plant gates shut for the last time, all employees had a solution - some were relocated to another plant, some had found jobs, some retired and some were in vocational retraining programs. Some had left, by agreement, during the closure notice period, with full severance benefits, to enable them to take another job much earlier than their scheduled release. The factory continued production right up until the last unit on the production schedule. While employees would probably have preferred to keep the plant open, everyone agreed that the way the plant was closed was responsible, fair, supportive and decent. What was the cost? Probably a lot less than if we had given the statutory month's notice and left people to fend for themselves.

How do you release employees in a fair and responsible manner? Some guidelines from my personal experience:

Provide timely information: Advise employees as early as possible after a firm decision has been made. Don't let them hear it first from the newspapers. Present the rationale for closure while emphasizing your commitment to the wellbeing of employees through the change. Emphasize values and principles in the way the company is approaching the closure or layoffs. Make sure employees know that the "what" is hard but the "how" will be carefully and caringly supported. Equally, in the case of downsizing, keep up a strong communication line with employees who will remain with the business. Their morale and peace of mind is just as seriously affected by layoffs of colleagues and their concern both for friends and for themselves (maybe they will be laid off in the next round ?) needs to be managed no less sensitively.

Engage the unions: If employees are represented by a Union or Employee Association, work closely and respectfully with the representatives. Keep talking. Stay open and honest. Remember that severance terms may seem high in the short term but they protect the business interests in the long term - within reason, be generous.

See the individuals: Work with employees to understand their personal circumstances and the implications of the change for them and their families. Each employee has individual needs. A collective severance package may not be the right approach for everyone. It is worth understanding where employees are in their life-cycle and what kind of assistance would be most relevant for them during a difficult period of change.

Involve families when appropriate: Sometimes the blow of layoff may affect the family as much as it affects the employee. A husband or wife, or even children, may find the stress of mom or dad losing their job very difficult to handle. Practically it might affect personal plans such as pension options, housing situation, higher education plans or payments for ongoing medical needs etc. If appropriate, for those employees where this is critical, involve the families, talk to them as well, help them to understand the company decision and the support it can provide. This may seem like overkill to some, but not all employees will need this and for those that do, it can make the difference between getting the best out of the layoff situation and becoming immobilized by double stress.

Be clear about severance terms and conditions: Make sure every employee knows her or his precise entitlement upon departure from the company. Help employees understand what this means - how much actually will be left after they have received severance pay, paid taxes, managed insurance policies etc. What holiday pay is still due to them? What other payments will they receive?

Provide practical assistance where it is needed. Some employees might require early retirement preparation and support for managing personal finances. Some might require retraining. Some might need outplacement services to help them prepare for a job. Longer-serving employees might not have been on the job market for 15 years or more - preparing a resume or handing an interview will be as easy for them as doing a PhD. Some employees might want to start an own business and may need some referrals. Be flexible in providing what is needed, not just a standard one-size-fits-all package.

Proactively locate alternative jobs: Contact all potential employers in the area and try to match their needs with those of the employees you are relasing. Do what's necessary to open up opportunities which might not have automatically appeared on the radar.

Train all managers to be sensitive, supportive and responsive. Managers may not have the authority to change a decision to release employees but they all have the opportunity to be caring and supportive. Make sure managers talk with "one voice" and present an aligned picture to employees.

Smile in the face of adversity. Employees need you to maintain a positive and optimistic, confident approach. Losing a job may seem like the worst thing in the world, but it can often represent an opportunity. While that's not easy to hear for most when faced with a redundancy notice, a sensitive but optimistic approach can help them grasp the positive and not get stuck in the negative.

Keep talking: Even when you have nothing to say, say it. Create opportunities to talk about the situation and let people vent while reinforcing possible opportunities. Celebrate when employees find alternative solutions. Keep people informed. Answer the tough questions. Be open. This may well be the most important topic of conversation for employees for months. Join them. Keep telling them what you know, even if it's not significantly different from what you told them before.

In summary, managing layoffs is real CSR-HR stuff and HR Managers must bear responsibility for the way this is handled, even if they are not responsible for the business decision to downsize. Ultimately, this approach will strengthen the business.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Too little, but not too late: gender equality

I came accross two pieces of news yesterday:

The first:

The second:

The Gender Diversity Index data shows that the average percentage of women on Fortune 500 Boards of Directors is 16.42%, based on research from the 2020 Women on Boards organization, whose  objective is to have 20% of women on corporate boards by 2020. The current status ranges from 32% in the winning boards and 10% of companies which had zero female Board Members. After all these years, and all the fights, campaigns, programs and commitments made,  female representation in the largest 500 companies in the USA remains at 16.42% on average. And the fact that some consider 20% by 2020 to be an inspiring objective is just plain sad.

However, Henkel are doing their bit to advance women, through the appointment of Kathrin Menges as the first woman on the Management Board. The first ever woman since Henkels' founding 135 years ago. This is the team she joins:

What a great diverse bunch! And now they have Kathrin Menges. Well done!

Henkel has a great blog all about diversity and inclusion. Full of information and stories about what Henkel is doing to create an inclusive culture.

One aspect of diversity is gender balance. I looked at how many women there are overall in Henkel's team - from their 2010 online Sustainability Report, we can see that women are still very much a minority:

My only question is: why on earth did it take 135 years to get one woman on the Management Board? And will it take another 135 years for the second?

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices.  Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Executive Briefing :HR's role in CSR

Just published!! The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Foundation Executive Briefing on HR's Role in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability. Produced in partnership with the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA) and the North American Human Resource Management Association (NAHRMA), this report explores the important role HR can play in both developing and implementing sustainability strategy.

The Executive Briefing is authored by :

Sully Taylor : Professor of International Management and former associate dean for graduate programs at the School of Business Administration, Portland State University. She has published extensively in international HRM, global mindset, leadership and corporate cultures, and also teaches sustainable HRM and leadership. She is currently a guest editor of Human Resource Management Journal for a special issue on sustainable HRM.

Michael Muller-Camen : Professor of International HRM at Middlesex University Business School in London and has a chair in HRM at Vienna University of Economics and Business. He has published extensively in international HRM, green HRM and age management, and is the co-editor of a special issue of Zeitschrift fur Personalforschung (German Journal for Research in Human Resource Management) on green HRM.

and myself.

It has been a privilege to work with two such distinguished academics on this Briefing. Our work continues as we collaborate on a more extensive report for publication next year covering Best Practice Guidelines for HR Managers. Watch this space!

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices.  Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CSR for HR: Romania rocks!

I am delighted to announce the first foreign edition of CSR for HR in Romanian which is now available for purchase online and called "Responsabilitatea socială corporatistă în sprijinul resurselor umane". It was translated by Daniela-Giorgiana Arşinel şi Marius Chitoşcă, who had a mammoth task, as my language is often not very conventional (I confess to often making up words as I go along!)

I am grateful to the Post-Privatization Foundation for their idea and willingness to translate and publish this edition. The Post-Privatization Foundation (FPP) is the first Romanian foundation devoted solely to entrepreneurship. Created in 1996 by the European Commission, FPP is a private organization that promotes entrepreneurial education and supports initiatives aimed at the sustainable development of the Romanian business environment – with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises. I had the pleasure of meeting the Executive Director, Péter Barta and hearing about the outstanding work the foundation is doing.

"Responsabilitatea socială corporatistă în sprijinul resurselor umane" was launched at the LBG Annual Conference on 12th September, organized by the LBG Representatives in Romania, ARC Romania. LBG is a model that evaluates and enhances community project performance that was mainly designed for companies. ARC, the Association for Community Relations, is an organization which matches corporate philanthropy and capacity building activities with non-profit causes and has been doing magnificent work in Romania for the past ten years. The LBG has six members in Romania including BDR Societe Generale, Lafarge, Orange, Danone, Ursus Breweries and Raiffeisen Bank whose total corporate community investment is equivalent to 14.5 million Euros with a beneficiary group of 720,000 individuals in 2010. Member companies reach an average of 28% employee volunteering which is high by any standards.

The conference content was most interesting, ranging from a discussion of the impacts of corporate community investment, to an overview of CSR and regulatory developments, to the way the CSR - HR partnership is practiced in leading Romanian companies and a view of tax developments and corporate tax relief considerations for local companies. I was interested to learn from Toby Webb, who now uses the term "smarter business" instead of CSR, about the forthcoming regulation in the EU which is likely to be law by end 2013, requiring EU countries to regulate locally for CSR disclosure by companies. You can find his presentation here. Adela Jansen and Suzana Gras both made excellent presentations showing that CSR (and HR) can really make a difference in the ways companies work and lead to more sustainable results.

I presented on the subject of my regular mantra, focusing on the partnership that CSR and HR needs to forge in order for both to deliver optimum results.  Here is my presentation:

Finally, the conference ended with great excitement with the launch of CSR for HR in Romanian and a book giveaway by lottery! I am grateful to ARC and FPP for their generous support.

I didn't manage to get see much of the city of Bucharest, though I do think this is probably my most favorite sight:

Tasted pretty good, too. But don't tell anyone .......

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Saturday, September 10, 2011

17 DJSI super sector leaders fail at CSR Employer Branding

So many companies claim to have embedded CSR into their core strategies. So many companies issue Sustainability Reports about their sustainability performance. So many students claim that they would like to join a company with a good social responsibility record. So why is the HR function not leveraging this valuable platform in their employer branding and offering to potential new recruits?

This week, the new Dow Jones Sustainability Leaders list was published. The list of Super Sector leaders, the most sustainable companies in the world, according to the DJSI, looks like this:

How many of these companies are exploiting this sustainability-super-sector-leadership in their Employer Brand? Let's take a quick look:

Air France KLM - Working at KLM
While the Air France KLM corporate website does have a section on Corporate Responsibility, a visit to the corporate job site won't inspire your sustainability sensitivities, even though, there too, there is a short summary of why KLM tops the DJSI list every year. "Passion, energy, drive and brainpower are common traits of KLM team members".  Social responsibility, apparently, isn't worth a mention. 

BMW AG Careers website invites you to be part of the success. The focus here is on performance orientation, flexible working hours, family and career and pay and benefits. While the website navigation bar includes CSR, so the prospective candidate searching the careers site may be tempted to have a look, the careers page itself gives no hint that new hires at BMW will be doing anything more fulfilling than selling more cars.

I couldn't find a careers section on the Enagas SA website though you can find a short Human Resources policy, committing the company to fair and decent labor practices, but not necessarily to provide jobs with meaning.

The Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company Ltd also does not have a careers section, through the company has a lot of sustainability messaging on the website. Maybe they are not hiring? Similarly, the Brazilian Itausa-Investimentos Itau S/A does nothing to attract grads other than the presence of a Sustainability Report on the website, while Koninklijke DSM N.V. gets closer to making the company sound attractive to the sustainably minded  grads, asking them:  "Do you see your work in the context of society and the planet at large?"

Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.(or Philips to most of us) doesn't go the extra mile on its careers website, stressing  a diverse choice of ways that grads can use their talents. Is that it?

The Japanese KT Corp has no careers information on their website, nor does the Lotte Shopping Company, but Pearson plc does make the case for "getting excited about job opportunities", though, regrettably, not because of sustainability.

And then we get to Pepsico. Given Indra Nooyi's claims about the attractions of working for a company which puts Performance with Purpose first, you might expect the company's website to be attractive for students interested in sustainability. You would be right.  Why work at Pepsico? Culture, diversty, benefits, development. And what's culture? Performance with Purpose, of course. Pepsico is the first company I come across as I run down the Super Sector leaderboard which aligns its employer branding with its corporate branding and with a sustainability theme. Hurrah!

The people of Pepsico are an inspiring bunch, and all have something to say about both Performance and Purpose.

PostNL NV is the Dutch postal service with over 77,000 employees. Those interested in sustainability apparently didn't get inspired by the PostNL website which does not have a careers section, while Repsol YPF SA does list the ten reasons you might want to work for Repsol and number three (following "worldwide energy company" and working on a "solid business project") is  that Repsol is "committed to society". 

Roche Holding AG on the other hand, has the most compelling sustainability related careers proposition on the company's global careers portal.

This is a clear link between the employer brand and the company's business purpose. It promises a career which is about personal growth AND a contribution to society.

Samsung Electronics careers website runs with the theme of working for a world-class company which is passionate about its people (how original!). Nothing related to sustainability. Stockland in Australia has a careers section on their website. The company lists two days of paid personal volunteering leave as one of the benefits employees can expect to receive though the company values do not relate to sustainability. Swiss Re Ltd, global insurer, also has a website careers section which lists some of the company's do-gooding projects.

Westpac Banking Corp, a company whose approach to CSR and sustainability I have long admired (and featured in my book, CSR for HR), has a surprisingly drab careers section and the "Westpac as an employer" page is about as boring as you can get, with no connection to the corporate sustainability strategy, except for a section about values. The People Policies page starts out with a section entitled "Harassment and Discrimination"  which maybe specifically material in Westpac's business but it's hardly a reflection of how corporate polices advance corporate sustainability strategy.

Finally, Xstrata, a global mining group, tells students why they should choose an Xtrata career. Why? Because you can embrace your entrepreneurial spirit. Sustainability? Who knows?

So there we have it. 19 leaders of the leaders of the leading sustainability-driven companies worldwide are barely making the connection between their leadership in sustainability and their potential to attract employees who are interested in working for sustainability-leading companies. Of these 19 companies, 6 (32%) do not have a careers section on their website and only two (10%)  link their Employer Brand in a credible and inspiring way with their sustainability-driven corporate purpose. Well done Pepsico and Roche!

As for the other 17 companies, what a wasted opportunity! Where is the HR function in these companies and why hasn't the HR function woken up to the fact that the corporate website is probably the most relevant and important place to showcase the corporate Employer Brand which should be aligned with the corporate sustainability strategy?  While it's been a  l-o----n-----g  time since I graduated, and things were different back then (people talked security, not opportunity), I feel sure that today, especially if I were graduating from a Green MBA program or similar, that I would be interested in knowing not only whether the company has a sustainability strategy (and learning about it though the corporate Sustainability Report) but also I would like to know what opportunities there would be for ME to contribute to creating a better, more sustainable world. Only Pepsico and Roche make this connection. If I were HR Manager of all the other 17 companies in this list, I would be getting my act together and using the corporate website as my most prominent mouthpiece, in a way which aligns with both sustainability and recruitment needs.

HR Managers, wake up!!! CSR Managers and Chief Sustainability Officers, why are you not insisting that your hard work in driving sustainable practices in your company is not leveraged as a tool to help your company win the war for talent? Employer Branding is a key tool in the arsenal of the CSO to showcase your company's sustainability culture, to appeal to the new pool of sustainability-aware green-minded, human-rights-supporting, social-justice-oriented, exceptionally intelligent young graduates of today. Sustainability is a key differentiator. With the exception of Pepsico and Roche, nothing else sets these DJSI leaders apart from the bunch. And if I read one more careers website that says "we are passionate about people" I will probably have to go drown myself in a vat of ice cream.  

It is time for HR Managers to wake up to CSR. It is time for CSR Managers to wake up to HR.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices.  Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Can you afford not to let your employees work from home?

The question of what kind of policy to adopt regarding working from home is always a tough one for HR Managers. In a CSR-enabled organization, which values the overall well-being of a key stakeholder group, employees, flexible working is an attractive option (as part of an overall work-life management approach) when it can reasonably be integrated with job requirements, agreed boundaries are defined and a communications infrastructure is in place. A handy, fun decision-tree which was posted on Facebook today made me think about this a little more. Here is the link to decision-tree. It might not be entirely relevant for everyone (one of the questions in the decision tree is: Does the employee work with deadly viruses or flesh-eating bacteria?!) but the basic approach is worth considering.

For years, home working was not seen as an attractive option, but that was mainly based on myths that in most cases can be managed to ensure employee productivity and effectiveness. Issues cited to prove that home working is not effective include:
  • Managers can never quite know what employees are doing and whether they are working all the required hours.
  • Employees are distracted by children, laundry, TV repairmen, personal phonecalls, afternoon naps, mother popping in, ice-cream breaks and more.
  • It's too easy for employees not to be available just when you want them.
  • Employees can disappear and go to job interviews on your time.
  • Employees' home internet connection always seems to go into downtime just before a project deadline.
  • Information security issues - maybe employees are storing company secrets on their home computers and sharing them with all their friends, or even worse, your competitors.
  • Some managers just can't manage remote employees effectively. Or don't want to.
In a CSR-enabled workplace, the Corporate Social Human Resources (CSHR) Manager sees working from home as an opportunity, rather than a problem, and one which ultimately has many benefits including a positive ROI. Telecommuting, as it called, has many benefits for employees, employers and the community.

The following is a great list which I did not invent, you can find it on a fabulous site which contains just about anything you might want to know about telecommuting: Telecommute Connecticut! - the commuter service of the Connecticut Department of Transportation which offers a comprehensive resource that helps employers design, implement and maintain a telecommuting program that enhances the bottom line and makes them the employer of choice.

This is the list as it appears on the Telecommute website:
Employer Benefits

Employee Retention
Many companies use telecommuting as a perk to attract and retain top talent.

Expand Recruiting Options
Home-based work gives organizations the ability to attract a wider range of workers, including the physically challenged, parents with young children, people with elder care responsibilities and members of dual-career families.

Reduced Overhead
Telecommuting enables employers to share work space and reduce the need for parking spaces and alleviates the need for office expansion as their workforce expands.

Increased Productivity
Telecommuters and their managers report that workers get more done when out of the office.

Reduced Absences
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, colds force American workers to miss 20 million workdays a year. The flu accounts for another 70 million missed workdays. Telecommuters continue to work at home with a cold or other minor ailments that may have kept them out of the office. Also, fewer sick employees at work reduces the spread of germs and illnesses around the office.

Employee Benefits

Improved Work/Life Balance
The average American spends about 1.5 hours daily commuting to and from work. Telecommuters spend more time with family and less time on the road.

Stress Reduction
Those who telecommute experience less stress caused by commuting, including physical discomfort, air pollution and noise.

Telecommuters save an estimated $1,200/year on fuel costs alone, and even more when considering wear and tear on their cars.

Increased Productivity
Telecommuters are more productive and produce better quality work because they work in a quiet environment with minimal interruptions and have an increased ability to focus on specific work tasks.

Business Continuity
Companies with telecommuters keep going in spite of the environment, weather or other disasters that may keep employees out of the office.

Community Benefits

Reduced Traffic Congestion
Traffic congestion has become worse in practically every large metropolitan area. Delays are growing by a 41 percent average since 1990 and commuters are wasting three times as long dealing with delays than they did 20 years ago. Economists say it costs tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity and employee turnover annually as workers, goods and materials are delayed.

Reduced Auto Emissions That Contribute to Air Pollution
Reducing auto emissions isn't the main reason for most employers to offer telecommuting. One exception: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which permits up to 30 percent of its 18,000-strong workforce to telecommute one or two days each week, partly because it helps reduce auto emissions.

Less Gas Consumption
Telecommuting twice weekly can conserve resources through reduced gas consumption

Any organization who wants to assess its readiness for telecommuting can do so using the Telecommute Connecticut readiness checklist.

Telecommuting options, then, should be one of the radar-topics of the sustainability-minded HR Manager. One of the most challenging aspects of implementing such a policy may well be persuading the managers in the organization that it's worth their while. But with such a strong list of benefits, with a tangible and measurable ROI, the HR Manager has a good basis for making a strong case and delivering a strong HR contribution. In this regard, as so many others, it is time for HR to wake up to CSR!

Oh and by the way, one more cost of non-CSHR management just popped into my inbox via the Ethisphere newsletter: "3M will pay $3 million to settle age-bias suit" for laying off hundreds of employees over the age of 45.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Monday, July 11, 2011

Five new-ish things about CSR for HR

Here are some interesting things that have caught my eye (don't worry, I caught it back) in recent times regarding CSR for HR.

First, an article which I wrote (haha, THAT was bound to catch my eye) which was published in the German HR Professional Magazine Personalfuehrung, and which I referred to in my last post.  You can download the full artcicle (PDF) here.

Second, something FREE!!! A special issue of Green HRM published in the Zeitschrift fur Personalforschung (German Journal of Research in Human Resource Management)(see how my German is improving these days?!). The Special Issue includes 6 articles which are very interesting for those who want to get some great insights into CSHR with a focus on environment:
This is all pretty fascinating stuff and is free on line until end September. So, click quick!

A big thanks for the heads-up to my distinguished colleague Professor Michael Muller Camen (with whom I am co-writing a best-practice paper on CSR for HR to be published next year).

Third, an excellent article by Derek Wong appearing in the Sustainable Business Forum which starts like this:  "Talents are key to success in today’s business. How much would a company pay to lower staff turnover rate by 12%? Best Employers in Canada winner LoyaltyOne achieved this through going green.?" The article includes an interview with the Chief Sustainability Officer of LoyaltyOne (note: Not the HR Director!) who describes several programs in place to support a CSHR-enabled culture. None of these are particularly mindblowing (leadership commitment, internal communications, environmental education, engagement surveys etc) but when you put them all together in a continuous stream of culture consistent interventions, you can see how it delivers a cumulative effect which I am sure supports the Company's sustainability objectives. I think the key is to get everything aligned and do it consistently.

Fourth, an article posted by my friend Chris Jarvis of Realized Worth, entitled "Social Media Policies for Your Employees and Your Employee Volunteer Program"  from the blog, which quotes a report from Manpower that only one in five companies have a social media policy in place for their employees. If you're one of the four, you had better start thinking about becoming one of the one. EIther that, or your employees will be out there doing it anyway in a way which might not always be to your best advantage.

Fifth, an interesting paper by the Doughty Center for Corporate Responsibility  called "Engaging Engaging Employees in Corporate Responsibility". This is an interesting approach covering various "tactics" and their relative merits in engaging employees in CR. The issue I have is that the role of HR is somewhat bypassed and not presented as critical to success. The only real mention that the HR function earns is in these paragraphs relating to Barriers to Cooperation:

"Some organisations work in silos, whether because of geographical locations or because the business function of one branch is different to the function of another. This can make working across internal borders and building commitment difficult, as cooperation is not the expected norm. However, central services such as HR, IT and Legal tend to work across the business and have experience in building crossdepartment cooperation for their initiatives in ways that CR professionals can learn from.

Cooperation cannot occur if trust does not exist – the CR department specifically needs to have a reputation built around delivering, understanding the business, and being integral to business success. You need access to the knowledge of, for example, HR and Internal Communications for presenting an integrated approach to employee engagement and communications. Often, the placement (if positioned on the periphery) or influence of the CR team itself can themselves be barriers to building cooperation for CR initiatives when motivation or commitment is not present. In these instances, work is needed to build the legitimacy of the CR team and strategy."

This grossly underplays the important role of HR in CR strategy development and core organizational processes. Another mention of HR is in a case study of an (unnamed) company in which is stated: "The HR team is distrusted, being seen as supporting leaders and not employees".

If this sorry state is a reflection of reality, then the situation is even more urgent than my mantra. You know what that is.

It is time for HR to wake up to CSR!

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices. Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Saturday, June 25, 2011

CSHR going global

CSR for HR in Germany
I was delighted to be asked to give a 9 hour course on #CSR for #HR to Masters students in May for the Steinbeis University in Berlin, Intitute for Corporate Responsibility Management. I had anticipated 9 hours being rather a lot, but they all flew by with some interesting questions and debates. Apparently, CSR for HR is quite a big subject :)

This is how the schedule looked (3 sessions of 3 hours each).

As always, preparing lectures helps me get my thoughts together and think more deeply about things. For this lecture, among other things, I considered the question of what's material for the HR Manager, and offered a generic materiality matrix for HR managers. This will of course change from company to company, but here is the matrix I developed for students to get an understanding of the scope and relative importance of different issues on the HR Managers annual work schedule.

As with any function, having established materiality, and developed an action plan, the key thing you should always want to know is what success will look like when it's all done. Here, I showed students a sample HR Scorecard which is not exhaustive, but generally explores the sort of metrics that the CSR Manager could adopt to measure sustainable HR performance.

CSR for HR in Mexico
I also delivered a lecture on CSR for HR to Business Executives from a range of business functions studying in a University program in Mexico. Again, this generated some interesting insights and gave me hope to believe that the discussions back at the workplace will be even more interesting.

CSR for HR in India
In February 2012, I will be honored to deliver a lecture at the HRD World Congress in Mumbai, India, alongside a series of impressive speakers. This is the conference's 20th anniversary and it always draws a large and important crowd of delegates. It is refreshing to see an HR conference that places Sustainable HR Management squarely on the agenda.

CSR for HR in Gernamy (again)
This month, my article, The Seven R's of Sustainable HR Management, appeared in the June Edition of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Personalfuehrung magazine. In this article, I present a model of seven steps to sustainable HRM, with each step beginning with R. 

The idea is to Re-vision in order to leverage the corporate vision or mission into something which is meaningful to all employees and goes beyond the financial purpose of the organization, reflecting a broader social purpose. Making a positive difference in people's lives is much more engaging than simply growing revenues and profitability. Reality check suggests that the HR Manager needs to look well beyond the management team and the employees to understand both how HR practices are impacting on society and the environment as well as what these broader stakeholder groups expect from a business. Re-assess means reviewing all strategic HR policies and practices to ensure the fit with the sustainability agenda. I suggest process for an HR-Sustainability Gap Analysis which starts from business needs and ends up with required sustainable HR pratices. In Re-frame, the HR Manager must ensure there is alignment between different aspects of HR policies in the areas of: values and ethics, recruitment, talent management, training and development, compensation, welfare and wellbeing programs, health and safety, internal communications and general support for society and environmental issues. Rate implies establishing clear targets at the outset and ensuring that every individual has performance targets which make the connection with sustainability objectives. The HR Sustainability Scorecard mentioned above may assist in this process. Reporting is about disclosure of HR sustainability performance. HR metrics are included in Sustainability Reports and the Global Reporting Initiative, the most widely used framework for sustainability reporting around the globe, includes 25 specific performance indicators which fall within the scope of HR Management policies and practices. Finally, Repeat means do it all over again, as the business environment is dynamic and strategies are continuously adapted to meet new needs. 

It is encouraging to see that CSR for HR is going global. Let's hope that HR Managers are at long last waking up to CSR!

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices.  Contact me via on Twitter or via my website

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

7 Ways to get started with CSR for HR

It's always nice to be published in a language other than my own, even if I can't understand it :). Today, my article called 7 Ways To Get Started With CSR for HR was published in a newsletter called HRM Scope, which is published in Dutch for the Netherlands and Dutch-speaking Human Resources community.

It starts like this:

HR-beleid in 7 stappen duurzaam
Duurzaamheid is al lang geen hype meer en groeit wereldwijd gestaag uit tot standaardnorm, ook voor HR, zegt HR-auteur Elaine Cohen. 'Steeds meer organisaties kiezen ervoor de verantwoordelijkheid te nemen voor de gevolgen van hun handelen voor de samenleving, de planeet en volgende generaties. In die keuze voor duurzaamheid kan het HR-beleid een grote rol spelen,' zegt Elaine Cohen, auteur van het boek 'CSR for HR, A Necessary Partnership for Advancing Responsible Business Practices'. Read the full version here.

For all those of you for whom English is preferable, or even essential, here is the original article I submitted, as, despite being a polyglot, Dutch is not part of my repertoire.

7 Ways To Get Started With CSR for HR

All over the world, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement has been mainstreaming as a business approach which goes beyond the letter of the law and accepts responsibility for impacts on stakeholders. Every business impacts on people, society and the environment through the way it employs people, serves customers, erects buildings, inhabits offices, uses transportation, manufactures products, develops new product ranges, launches marketing campaigns and more. In determining business strategy to generate growth and profit, CSR thinking demands consideration of society and environment alongside financial considerations. It has been proven that businesses who do this well deliver improved financial performance over time and contribute not only to the sustainability of the planet, but also to their own sustainability as businesses. CSR is changing the way companies develop strategy, take decisions, execute processes, engage with employees, consumers, external pressure groups and communities and respond to the diverse expectations of all these groups in this fast-moving, transparent age of business. It is demanding a different sort of contribution from the HR function.

The key partnership role of HR in this context is embedding a culture of CSR because the business performance is only as good as the decisions its people make and the way they perform. As the guardian of corporate culture, HR's role in embedding a CSR mindset in any business is critical.

I propose that the Human Resources function has a responsibility to be proactive in leading the establishment of a CSR-enabled culture within any business. This includes adapting recruitment and retention processes, training and development programmes, remuneration and reward programmes, new tools for employee engagement based on platforms of community involvement and more. HR Managers should lead processes to engage employees with sustainability strategy at each stage of their life-cycle and create employee ambassadors for responsible business. HR Managers should develop a CSR-mindset, whether or not there is a corporate CSR strategy which directs them to do so and whether or not their next career move depends on it. Why? Because CSR for HR is an imperative. It's a route to better business, more engaged employees, improved impacts on society and environment and ultimately a stronger, more influential and more effective HR Function.

The following are 7 examples of how HR can adapt its approach:

Create a culture built on a social mission: All companies have a social mission, even though they might not have articulated it. Walmart has "Save Money, Live Better" to indicate a business which improves people's quality of life; Nokia is "Connecting People" highlighting that access to mobile and digital technology is an important driver of social and economic development; Campbell's Soup has "Nourishing People's Lives", which indicates a much broader social contribution than making a profit on selling cans of soup. Employees today are looking for meaning in their work; they are less motivated by pay-checks alone. The HR Manager should ensure that each and every employee understands and identifies with the company's social mission, and leverage this to attract and engage employees in both an emotional and professional context. Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico, said recently that the Pepsico's "Performance with Purpose" agenda is the single biggest recruiting tool they have at Pepsico.

Take a Stakeholder perspective: HR Managers all too often are inward looking and tend to work in the space between management on the one hand and employees on the other. However, by considering and engaging with all stakeholders, which include employees' families, local communities, environmental groups etc., HR can understand the broader implications of HR decisions on these stakeholders and adopt policies and processes which ensure maximum positive impact. This is good for the business as well as good for stakeholders.

Advance Diversity: At Intel, for example, diversity is a way of life. HR processes can be leveraged to create an inclusive culture where the entire workforce can contribute to greater innovation, improved customer relationships, reduced workplace conflict and enjoy higher motivation, productivity and workplace loyalty. This means designing HR processes which actively seek out candidates from diverse backgrounds, proactively training managers to hire with an inclusive mindset, purposefully creating a workplace which respects the needs of different employees, especially minority groups, and sensitively promoting diversity in internal communications.

Go Green: Reducing environmental impacts is one of the most serious business challenges of the day. Businesses can gain advantage only when the entire workforce is engaged. HR support for employee-driven Green Teams to enhance employee contribution to improved environmental impacts including lower electricity consumption, reduced use of paper for printing, recycling, waste reduction and more delivers benefits of reduced operating costs, improved environmental protection, and employees who derive satisfaction from becoming ambassadors for a more sustainable planet.

Care for employee well-being: Investment in employee well-being delivers big returns. In a program  implemented in Unilever, employee well-being programmes for managing stress, nutrition and exercise delivered a return of $6.59 on every $1.64 invested. HR policies which help employees to manage their own well-being deliver an ROI in reduced absenteeism, reduced health care costs, higher productivity and longer job tenure. If HR does not drive this, no one else in the business will.

Protect Human Rights: There are over 200 million children illegally employed in businesses around the world, over 12 million people in forced labour and millions of employees who do not enjoy the basic right to freedom of association. HR managers need to help identify the human rights risks in their operations and supply chains and ensure robust HR policies to uphold human rights. Creating a culture in which these issues can be openly addressed requires a new skill on the part of HR Managers. Doing it well protects and advances the business, employees, and communities.

Skills-based volunteering: Employee volunteering programs help build motivation, team-work, sense of belonging and help retain employees while making communities stronger. What most HR Managers do not realize is that volunteering is also a platform to provide unique skill-building opportunities which can be valuable in the workplace. GlaxoSmithKline's CEO Andrew Witty says that their "Pulse" volunteering program causes employees to "come back with a different world-view of a corporation and help change the company from the inside-out." Given that CSR is also about creating change, community volunteering programs can be a superb tool for HR Managers.

These 7 ways to get started with CSR from an HR perspective will help the HR Manager contribute to long-term sustainable growth and a sustainable planet. It is time for HR to rise to the challenge of preparing themselves and their organizations for a sustainable future.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices.Contact me via on Twitter or via my website

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Employees should be more than engaged. They should be engaging.

For any of you who are still not convinced that HR Managers can help increase profits, just take a look at this data from the US Postal Service, which I happened to pick up as I was doing a little research for an executive lecture class gave on CSR for HR. I noticed this in an article on 2Sustain.

In 2010, the US Postal Service gained a $27.1 million cost saving benefit as a result of work done by Green Employees (i.e. employees who get involved in the organization's "Lean Green Team" activity). This is made up of the following:

$5 million in reduced resources consumption - energy, electricity etc
$13 million in revenue generation from sale of recycled materials
$9.1 million in landfill fee avoidance

That's a whopping sum of money saved in one year. A real HR contribution to the bottom line.

Emil Dzuray, acting Chief Sustainability Officer of the US Postal Service, said. “Our employee green teams are an important part of building a conservation culture and reducing our carbon footprint.”

This is an example of what I mean when I talk about moving from engaged employees to engaging employees i.e. employees who are engaging. Every single employee has tens of opportunities every single day to interact with internal and external stakeholders. Every single one of these interactions is an opportunity to champion the CSR cause through behavior and words and both. Just think, in a business of 5,000 employees, each of whom has at least 50 interactions a day either face-to-face or online, that's a minimum of 250,000 interaction possibilities EACH DAY.

The role of the CSHR Manager is to create a culture, supported by processes and frameworks, in which the maximum percentage of this total number of daily interactions (I call these touchpoints. Love jargon) with all stakeholders can become sustainability interactions. Each touchpoint is an opportunity to reinforce CSR messages, values, principles. The more employees have CSR as top-of-mind, the greater the number of touchpoints the organization will be able to rely upon to advance its sustainability agenda.

So what we need is engaging employees who leverage sustainability touchpoints.
Great phrase, no?
And who needs to create the conditions for this to happen in organizations?
Yes, you got it. The HR Managers.
But first, they have to wake up.
It is time for HR to wake up to CSR!

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices.  Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pioneering CSR for HR

Following my post about CSR for HR in Ukraine, I can now report back after having returned from a wonderful visit to a lovely country, a fabulous city and a hub of activity in CSR in general and CSR for HR in particular. The Center for CSR Development in Kyiv, Ukraine, led by the energetic and inspiring Maryna Saprykina has been leading a CSR for HR laboratory with sponsorship from Japan Tobacco International and participation of a range of leading companies in Ukraine. This has been a breakthrough process and the event in Kyiv yesterday was the culmination of  a year of work, which also included the publication of a survey of CSR for HR practices in Ukraine. At the conference, a guide for CSR and HR Managers on how to implement CSR for HR in an organization was launched. At present, the guide is only available in Russian, but I am informed that an English version will be published within a month or so. I am really looking forward to seeing it, as it promises to be a highly practical and useful tool for embedding a CSR-mindset and practices in business.

Maryna (second from left) and conference panelists holding the new CSR for HR guide

I was honored and privileged to be able to speak at the conference organized by the CSR Centre. But not before I had done a little sightseeing. Kyiv is renowned for the largest number of churches in any East European city and is often known as the Jerusalem of Eastern Europe. I was able to get a look at two of them - the Cathedral of Saint Sophia (two pics below) which was built after two decades of effort by Prince Yaroslav the Wise in 1037, and the Cathedral of St Michael (third pic, in the distance) which was destroyed in 1934 and completely reconstructed in 2000 and is the second largest cathedral in the city.

Anyway, back to CSR (which I discovered is KOC in Russian), the conference opened up with a panel of four speakers from companies who had participated in the development of the CSR for HR guide. These were:

Alexandr Rudnitsky, HR Director of JTI Ukraine
Denis Brodakiy , HR Director of the Platinum Bank
Ruslan Skyba, Head of Corporate Affairs, Vanco Prykerchenska Ltd
Marina Zaharina, HR Manager at Ernst and Young, Ukraine

Thanks to my outstanding interpreter, Mikhael, I was able to follow their discussion on the importance of CSR in HR practices and on the value of collaboration between the CSR and HR functions in any company.  One comment was made that many companies have values posted on the wall but you need to ensure that they are not just part of the wallpaper! How true. The collaboration between CSR and HR is what it takes to make these values come alive. The panel spent some time discussing metrics, what and how. This is always one of the most difficult areas of the HR function, though there are many aspects of CSHR which can be measured effectively, both in terms of results and in terms of business outcomes. In my presentation, I offered a Sustainable Human Resources Management scorecard which covers a set of basic CSHR metrics which all CSR-HR Managers should, with a little effort, be able to track. In doing so, the HR function creates a CSR-HR Management tool, benchmarking baseline and also, a strong platform for driving transformational change within the business. This is what the Sustainable HRM Scorecard might look like (it's not comprehensive but it's a good start)
You probably won't be able to read this, so I have posted my entire presentation to Slideshare here.

I couldn't have hoped to have more hospitable hosts - many thanks indeed to Maryna Saprynkina and to JTI.  More importantly, I couldn't have hoped to see a better example of inspired, pioneering work in advancing CSR for HR.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices.  Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website
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