What is the role of CSR in employee engagement?

'CSR is not just helping the community, but it's helping your internal community of employees'

What is the role of CSR in employee engagement?

Numerous reports have indicated that employee engagement is on a downward trend. But corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities could help get that level of engagement back up, says one expert.

Workers, for close to a decade now, have been saying that they want “to work for a company that really does make a difference in society,” says Jody Steinhauer, CEO and founder of Kits For A Cause, in talking with Canadian HR Reporter.

Amid the current economic situation, “everybody's suffering in a different way,” she says.

Turning to CSR could be a way to engage workers and appeal to their desire, she says.

“CSR is not just helping the community, but it's helping your internal community of your employees. If you can make them feel like they're doing good every day at the office in some capacity – whether it even is something as simple as mentoring somebody in the smallest way — it is engagement. And it's our duty as men and women leaders to facilitate some of those opportunities.”

Newly hired employees are showing lower levels of engagement, wellbeing and inclusion compared to other employees, according to a previous report.

What are the barriers to CSR?

While many employers may be looking for ways to do some form of CSR activities, there are hindrances on the way.

For one thing, “we're all so busy, our time is so maxed out,” says Steinhauer.

Another problem is that most of the people tasked by their employers to handle CSR problems do not have an idea of where to start, she says, pulling from her own experience.

About eight years ago, Steinhauer received 500 phone calls and emails within a span of 83 days from people who were looking for opportunities to do CSR projects.

“I asked them: ‘Do you have a charity or a cause or a pillar of philanthropy in your company that you would like to support?’ And over three-quarters of those 500 said ‘No, we can do whatever we want’.”

She also asked whether they have a budget for their CSR, and 499 out of the 500 had money set aside for the program.

While plenty of employers claim to practise CSR, it’s the ones that have authentic CSR initiatives that will see a greater impact on employees, according to a previous report.

Best practices for CSR programs

To make CSR programs work, employers must treat it as a year-round program, says Steinhauer.

“It's really important to understand that CSR is a 12-month job,” she says.

It’s also important for employers to hear from their workers what causes they want to support, says Steinhauer. To do this, employers can ask workers three questions, she says:

  • What are the most important causes that you volunteered for in the last several years?
  • What are the most important charities to you that you've donated money? 
  • If the company gave a million dollars and allowed you to pick two charities to donate to, who would that be? 

“When you have that data of your employees, you can really see what's important to them.”

Kits for a Cause provides employers with everything they need to host a kit packing event at their workplace, by partnering with non-profits. The team also coaches on how to run an employee engagement or group bonding activity.

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