Friday, January 27, 2012

CSR and HR in the business of trust

I have been doing a little homework in preparation for the CR for HR professionals Conference that I have now been asked to chair, to take place on 7th February in London. As far as I know, and I may have mentioned this before, this is the first focused conference on CSR for HR, so I am very happy to be a part of this and kudos to the CIPD for organizing it.

Photo credit: BITC
Part of my homework has been talking to some of the movers and shakers in this space, who will be speaking at the conference. Cathy Lewis, for example, has been the HR Director of Prudential for UK and Europe since November 2009, and responsible for CSR since March 2010. She says: "Sustainability for me means 'continuity' of 'life'. Haven't we all realised that the things in life that last and endure are the things that we've given constant and steady attention to? In business it's the same, and the most corporately conscious organisations are those that have made a commitment and build on it every day through lots of little things that add up to real commitment."

That's a great approach, and one which I suspect most readers of this blog can subscribe to. 

The business of Prudential, an international financial services group and in the UK, a leading life insurance and pensions provider with seven million customers and 25,000 employees worldwide (>2500 in the UK), has much to gain from the adoption of a CR approach. "When people buy financial services products they buy TRUST, our products are a promise for the future. It's not like retail, where you walk out of the shop with your shiny new 'item' in a bag. CSR is one of the ways that we can demonstrate our core values. We aim to 'do the right thing' in all our relationships, whether that is customers, colleagues, stakeholders, partners or communities in which we work."

Prudential's 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report provides information about the Group's people practices and includes:
Prudential's Group-wide development programme, Momentum, which is designed to build a cadre of globally-minded high-potential individuals, externally or internally recruited early in their careers for fast-track progression. Momentum places a strong emphasis on diversity. There are currently 60 individuals on the programme, of which approximately a third are women.
Prudential's reward system is based on both individual performance and behaviors – both what people achieve and how they achieve it. This is, we believe, fundamental to building a high performing culture.
More than two-thirds of employees in the UK now own, or have an interest in, Prudential shares through employee share plans.
Prudential won a national award in 2010 for the ‘Best Learning and Development Strategy’, sponsored by the market-leading UK industry publication, HR Magazine.
Prudential UK is one of only 38 companies to achieve the BITC CommunityMark since it was launched in 2007.

(Moving off-topic for a second, humor me, I was happy to add some new words to my vocabulary, upon reading the Prudential CR Report: "Retirementology" is a new way of looking at retirement management, which unmasks life-long financial patterns and examines how, if left unchecked, these behaviors could harm prospects for retirement. "Equimortis", apparently, is the dangerous condition of relying on home equity to fund retirement, "Bingefy" is justifying a big-ticket purchase because you were previously frugal and "Kinphobia" is the fear of having to tap into retirement savings to support the extended family. And after reading the CR Report, you can also visit the website and buy the Retirementology book! in which you will find some additional new words to add to your daily vocabulary. This is all the creation of Dr Greg Salsbury, Executive Vice President of Jackson, Prudential's U.S. business. So now we know. I wonder if these will soon appear in the Oxford English Dictionary? I will never think about retirement in the same way again :)) 

Getting back to Prudential UK, there are 10 People Principles that guide everything the Prudential people do - the principles are the DNA of the organization. The principles have been around and governed the actions of employees for many years, but recently, HR supported a process in which Prudential articulated them by working with the whole company to capture what the business is all about. One of these principles explains Prudential's commitment to sustainable business. 

When I asked Cathy what aspects of the HRM contribution to CR at Prudential she was most proud of, she replied like this: "Most proud" makes me think of special moments when you are reminded of what we all do together. So I'd probably pick out our Employee Volunteering Awards (EVAs). Once a year we celebrate the individuals and the teams that are making a real difference. I get the privilege each year of presenting at the EVAs and this is a most humbling and inspiring experience. Inspiring because you get to see the great things that people have made happen and humbling because you realise that everyone of us, has it in our power to make a difference..... and yet we don't always take the time."

Interestingly, Prudential UK does not actively leverage the company's CR agenda and positive reputation for recruitment, which is often seen as one of the significant benefits of a CR program. Cathy explains: "Our CR agenda and activities have been established for a long time and whilst we don't explicitly use what we do to promote ourselves as an employer, more often than not, candidates tell us that our reputation is what attracted them in the first place."

I will leave the last word to Cathy Lewis, as it expresses well what I believe more HR and CR Managers should wake up to. "CR is an integral part of our People Strategy at Prudential UK and Europe, so for us the link is seamless. How we treat and value our colleagues, and how we support the communities we work in, come together as part of how we do business every day."

And after the last word, I will just add another last word to say that I am very looking forward to hearing more of Cathy's insights, along with others, at the CR for HR Professionals Conference on 7th February.

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

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Work Life Balance pays off

One of my favorite pieces of reading is HR Magazine, which plops into my postbox each month. I find this is always choc-a-bloc with relevant and insightful, informative and entertaining articles which I both enjoy and learn from. The website is pretty good too, and HR Magazine is one of the few publications which always includes a CSR-HR perspective. Some of you may recall that I was a guest speaker at an HR Magazine event last year. Since then, I keep a keen eye on what they are publishing.

A recent article caught my eye (the same eye!). It's called: Work/life balance ranks higher than stress as the biggest health concern for employers, says GRiD. GRiD is Group Risk Development, and they advise as follows:

"After enduring a difficult year where many businesses were obliged to reduce headcount, the survey of 500 employers with 5-1000 employees from the trade body for the group risk industry, found maintaining a good work/life balance for staff remaining in the business ranked as the top health issue for more than one in five employers (21%). This is ahead of stress and mental health issues (19%) - currently cited as the most common cause for workplace absence."

This is a fascinating finding and should make HR Managers sit up. Work/life balance has been one of those amorphous subjects that doesn't quite seem important enough to address in a detailed, formal, structured way.  It's sort of about how people feel and not really a hard numbers easy-to-grasp issue. It's also very easy to ignore. And yet, an uncaring and inflexible work culture can be one of the biggest hidden costs of any business budget and can, to a large degree, be quantified in cost terms related to productivity, absenteeism, health costs, workplace conflict and customer service. 

Volkswagen made news recently when they took a step to force employees to observe work/life balance rules by introducing a ban on work emails outside work hours on employee's cellphones by blocking Blackberry servers. This is an interesting development and may go some way to limit employees' exposure to unreasonable work demands outside hours. However, releasing employees from commitments outside work hours is only one part of a holistic approach to work/life balance issues. A lot of what affects work/life balance relates to how many hours people work and the kind of programs that are in place while they are at work. In 2011, the Quebec Government thought this whole subject was so important that they launched a program for rewarding employers who provide work-life balance benefits to employees.

In my book, CSR for HR, I address this subject. First, I say that there is no such thing as work/life balance - balance is something that we can almost never achieve and sometimes don't want to achieve. Basically, we need to achieve a harmonious stressless approach to managing out total life responsibilities which derive from all our activities in work and outside work. These can be multiple. It's not just about work and family. Here are just some (definitely not an exhaustive list) of the aspects of being at work that can affect the way we manage our total life responsibilities:

And here are some of the overall types of programs and policies that HR Managers can consider in order to assist employees in addressing the way work can fit into their overall harmonious life planning.
We have seen that overall wellness programs in business, which often include elements which affect work/life balance, can deliver a 10% increase in financial performance. So, HR Managers, it is time to wake up to CSR!

And back to HR Magazine, you might enjoy this article which quotes research that found by giving employees input into the development of their workspace, productivity can improve by as much as 32%.

Or this article, which refers to research that found almost two thirds (64%), of employers do not expect female employees to return to work after their maternity leave; of which 47%, say they believe this because of 'previous experience.' Now that's a whole other issue which is of major significance both for women and for businesses. But we should leave that for another post.

In the meantime, I think an ice cream just about right now would significantly improve my work/life balance!

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  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Keeping up with CSR for HR

So much is happening in CSR for HR these days. This post is to help you (and me) keep up.

First, two forthcoming events on different sides of the world which I am immensely looking forward to:

7th February in London: The CIPD, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Europe's largest HR and development professional body, is hosting a conference on CR for HR Professionals. I don't recall seeing a dedicated conference on this subject ever, so this is a very welcome development. The conference opens with the brilliant Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director of Forum for the Future, who will talk about the business case for sustainability and then an impressive array of Sustainability and HR Professionals from IBM, KPMG, Prudential, Aviva, Nationwide and more, will lead presentations and discussions on employee engagement, employer branding, aligning CR and business strategies and communication of CSR to employees, and other fascinating CSR-HR topics. I am looking forward to attending, and also holding a raffle for 5 free signed copies of CSR for HR during the course of the day.

16-18th February in Mumbai, India: The 20th Anniversary event of the World HRD Congress will take place in Mumbai at the Taj Lands' End Hotel. It's been over 10 years since I visited Mumbai, so I am especially pleased to be returning to address this congress. My session, entitled: "Sustainable HRM: A strategic imperative" will be from 11:15 - 12:00 on 17th February. I am looking forward to hearing perspectives on CSR/HR Management from many local professionals and am honored to join an impressive list of speakers from all over the globe.

And another event which I unfortunately cannot attend but which is worth noticing. It has been put together by a friend and colleague who contributed to my book, CSR for HR, Cathy Joseph. It is in New York next week, January 10th at 5:30pm and is all about Organizational Development and the Sustainable Business, and features great speakers. I would be there if I could!

In the meantime, even the Carbon Trust has published a tool to help empower employees reduce carbon emissions in the office.  After registering on the website, you can launch the Empower tool, explore your office, take a trip to the bathroom, kitchen or server room, all the while checking out opportunities to save on lighting, water, packaging waste, use stairs instead of elevators, bicycles instead of cars, unplug your mobile phone chargers and more, as your responses to intended behavioral change clock up kg of carbon emissions saved and new policies to suggest to your manager. It's rather simplistic, but any HR Manager intent on having employees understand where they can make a basic difference, could incorporate this into broader environmental training, if supported by policy and some form of measurement of achievement. I already saved 547 kg of carbon in half a dozen pledges to do things differently. Oops, but that's just on the computer screen. Let's see what happens on Monday morning.
Also, a couple of very interesting publications you might have missed:
Towards Employee Engagement 2.0: A report by and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), the third report on this subject produced by NEEF’s Business & Environment Program, examining how leading companies are moving toward a more strategic approach to employee engagement in corporate sustainability activities by creating a culture of sustainability throughout their firms. This one has examples from Baxter, JC Penney, Stonyfield Farm and Walmart and more and is a useful and interesting read.
Brighter Planet's Greening the Workplace Survey 2011: A total of 972 individuals from 51 countries and 47 US states completed the survey. Key conclusions:
  • Organizations are increasingly engaging employees on sustainability. More than half now promote sustainability frequently or very frequently.
  • Although engagement efforts are spreading, their effectiveness has dropped. The most successful organizations have official policies with upper-level leadership.
  • The role of investor pressure and corporate accountability as a driver of sustainability strategies increased dramatically—it was a factor at 23% of organizations, up from 13% in 2009. Sales and marketing, while the foremost motivator, was unchanged at 30%.
  • The most effective programs promote sustainability in emerging areas like business travel, purchasing, water use, and food at much higher rates than their ineffective counterparts. That said, the most common areas of sustainability engagement are still waste and recycling, energy use, and commuting.
  • Organizations with a method for employees to share ideas were more than six times as likely to have a very effective program. 41% of employers support these communication channels.
  • Organizations that collected data on their footprint, the impact of staff travel and commuting, and employee sustainability efforts were roughly three times as likely to have a very effective program. The number of employers collecting these data increased 15% since 2009, to three in ten.
HR Managers need to think about these findings. What processes to HR Managers need to put in place to support environmental practices? Helping employees share ideas and collecting data (highlighted in red above) seem to have big multiplier effects. Makes absolute sense to me.

So, while all this is positive, I don't quite think it is time yet to abandon my mantra:  "It is time for HR to wake up to CSR".  More HR Managers need to get engaged and make use of all these fabulous opportunities to drive improved sustainability through leverage of core HR tools and new processes. Here's looking forward to a great 2012 in which more HR Managers take the bait.


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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