Thursday, June 28, 2012

CSR for HR: Getting the message through

It's easy to assume things. It's easy to assume that, if you have a policy in place, and you have communicated it, or even posted it on an employee portal somewhere, that employees will notice it. Such assumptions rarely turn out to be true, and in the case of Human Resources, it's rather a lazy and irresponsible basis for performing the HRM role. As employees are core stakeholders in any business, HR should not underestimate the need for a proactive process to ensure employees are aware of their rights, entitlements, the policies which affect their working lives and also, of course, their duties and obligations. This is simply good HR. But it's also good CSR.

It is not enough to get the message across.
You have to get the message THROUGH.

A recent article in People Management reports that:  "Nearly half of all employees are not aware of their company’s HR policy ... In a poll of 1,000 workers, only 53 per cent claimed to have knowledge of their employer’s HR guidelines and even fewer (43 per cent) were aware of their company’s structure. Less than a quarter (23 per cent) of those canvassed understood their firm’s corporate social responsibility policy and only 27 per cent knew of their employer’s service guidelines...."

This is squarely in the Human Resources professional camp and should be regarded as a core HR-CSR responsibility of HR Managers.

This responsibility is two-fold:

first, deliver a process in which HR Managers proactively ensure employees are provided with the relevant information and have the opportunity to ask questions

second, design a process for ensuring that HR gets positive confirmation that this is implemented in practice.

Pushing out policies is not the value that HR adds. Getting the message through and engaging the minds and hearts of employees to deliver outcomes which support the business, is the value.

HR Managers: Wake up to CSR!
Wake up to your unique role in your business and to your responsibilities. 

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

Friday, June 15, 2012

Two CSR for HR resources for serious HRMers

I came across this interesting well-written paper entitled "Corporate Social Responsibility - Implications for Human Resources and Talent Engagement", a research paper by Winnie Kwan and Emily Tuuk coming out of the Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies at Cornell University. The research addresses 4 questions:
  • To what extent do early career employees consider CSR strategy in their evaluation of employers?
  • How do organizations and HR leadership integrate CSR initiatives into their employee value proposition?
  • What are some of the priorities/challenges in leveraging CSR as a way to recruit and retain talent?
  • What type of role does HR currently play in this process and how could it be further developed?
First, the paper looks at motivators of Generation Y employees for joining a company. As usual with these surveys, potential recruits confirm that they consider CSR as a factor in choosing an employer. Interestingly, this study makes the distinction between companies which are seen to adopt some CSR initiatives and companies which have CSR as their core, integrative business approach. In the former case, Gen Y has a preference. In the second, they will take a lower paying job. However, as with all surveys of this nature, no-one researches what Gen Yers actually do - only what they think they might do. To what extent attitude is a predictor of behavior is unclear to me.

The other interesting thing about this research it the discussion of the HR Role. The paper proposes an HR-CSR Integration Matrix:

Reproduced without permission (sorry!) from above-mentioned research paper.
The paper discusses the ways HR can be involved in supporting and even leading CSR efforts.

"The organizational structures outlined earlier can more effectively position HR to take on a stronger leadership-oriented or consultation-oriented type of role in designing and executing these CSR initiatives. But specific organizational cultures determine the level to which such structures become enablers or constraints on HR’s deep involvement with CSR strategy. As a result of the interplay between organizational structure and culture, HR can adopt a functional or proactive role within this space, though both are not mutually exclusive. HR acting in a functional capacity emerges through the implementation and management of CSR programs within the talent population. Such a role also includes the assessment of employee feedback and offering consultation to strategy devisers based on such data. A proactive stance features HR in the role of co-developing the company’s strategic direction for CSR matters. It also reflects a strong HR priority on building a culture of responsible leadership through fostering and coaching CSR champions among its client groups."

This is spot on, and clearly, the more proactive the HR function is in co-creation of strategy, the more effective the organization will be at delivering its business and CSR objectives.

The conclusion reads:
"Organizations need to enable HR to serve as a steward of human assets within their operational frameworks. To enact real change within global communities, organizations will need to strengthen HR’s capacity to help employees become more proactive and integrated into their cultures of responsible leadership."

This is very clear. Not only does HR need to wake up to CSR but organizations need to enable HR to perform effectively in this new role.

For those HR managers who want to get serious about CSR and Sustainable HRM, I recommend a resource recently published by the SHRM Foundation, called "HRM's Role in Corporate Social and Environmental Sustainability" and authored by two illustrious professors:  Sully Taylor, Professor of International Management and former Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at the School of Business Administration, Portland State University. and Michael Muller-Camen,  Chair in HRM at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business and is Associate Professor of International HRM at Middlesex University Business School in London - and myself!  Read what the amazing China Gorman, former COO of the SHRM, has to say about this paper on her blog here. The paper is designed to be a resource for HR Managers and this is what it's about:

"This report aids human resource management (HRM) practitioners in understanding sustainability in an organizational context. It can be used as a guide for the HR function to support sustainable business and perform HRM sustainably. Divided into two main sections, this report begins by examining the critical role HRM plays in sustainability and the HRM tools available to embed sustainability strategy in the organization. The second section introduces a roadmap to sustainable HRM. It outlines global business approaches to sustainability, labor standards and specific aspects of sustainable practice such as employee volunteering, employer branding and green HRM. Finally, the report explores the new HR skills required for practicing sustainable HRM and the applicability of sustainable HRM in different types of organizations.

Happy reading and CSHR-ing!

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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