Mobilizing CSR

Apps, gamification can help get employees involved

As much as we are living in an increasingly connected world, finding effective ways to engage and mobilize employees around corporate programs remains a challenge. Employees are busy, have competing priorities and are employed in a complex matrix of different work arrangements (such as remote or virtual work, flextime, telecommuting and satellite offices), creating a difficult environment to meaningfully connect with employees. 

Nowhere is this problem clearer than with managers tasked with rallying employees around corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

Many employees are unaware of their company’s CSR programs, let alone participating in them. Despite established, positive links between employee engagement in CSR and operational performance (such as employee morale, loyalty, efficiency and retention), companies continue to be constrained by outdated communication channels — namely, email, posters and intranets — which continually deliver low rates of employee awareness and engagement. 

Email’s out, mobile’s in
Email is out for CSR communications. Employees typically receive an average of 121 emails a day, according to a 2014 survey by Radicati Group in Palo Alto, Calif. Further, the average employee spends 28 per cent of the workweek managing emails, according to a 2012 McKinsey Global Institute study. 

It is no wonder then why CSR managers are having such a difficult time raising awareness and engagement through internal programs and initiatives. Their voice is drowned out by the noise of other organizational priorities as they compete for employees’ attention on traditional communication channels. 

To engage today’s busy, on-the-move and geographically dispersed employees, the traditional paradigm of CSR communication has to shift. Gone are the days of longwinded newsletters, “green” meetings and case studies buried somewhere on a company intranet. 

Today’s employees, especially millennials, expect timely, relevant and personalized communication in digestible pieces. 
The good news is the technology that’s going to flip the paradigm on its head is already here, and employees have it in their pockets — the smartphone.

Enterprise mobile apps provide a convenient communication channel that’s not only familiar to most but can reach a much broader section of employees — including front-line employees who lack corporate email or constant access to a work computer.

Mobile is a direct and proactive way to engage and to verify that important, time-sensitive CSR communications are being consumed and understood by employees — all in real-time. More importantly, mobile can be the conduit by which employees communicate feedback and opinions to management, helping to foster employee buy-in in a bottom-up approach. 

A mobile-centric approach to communication allows CSR managers to cut through the noise of corporate communications, giving them the ability to get employees’ attention when and where they want it, in a way that traditional communication channels can’t. Here’s how:

Push: Mobile platforms, including many apps, provide the ability for employers to send targeted messages, via push notification, at the exact time employees need to see them. 

For example, front-line retail employees could be “pinged” with information on a consumer-facing environmental program in advance of its launch.

Once live, talking points and program positioning can be broken down into easy-to-understand components and delivered directly to an employee’s smartphone. 

Information delivered in the form of questions and quizzes allows CSR managers complete visibility to identify and address knowledge gaps in real-time. Having front-line employees advocating and articulating intelligently to consumers on behalf of corporate CSR not only enhances brand image but can greatly increase operational efficiency and help grow the business.

Direct: Mobile doesn’t require an employee to open an email or go to a website and download additional information. 
With mobile apps, employees simply tap the notification and are taken directly to the information to be consumed — increasing both awareness and knowledge.

And it eliminates the need for them to navigate through the infinite piles of information typically dumped on intranets. For example, a well-designed mobile app and the curated delivery of information can take less than five minutes of employee time per week while quickly establishing knowledge around new CSR programs and initiatives.

Customized: Successful enterprise app developers take a page from popular consumer loyalty rewards programs — uncovering underlying employee motivations and target messages that will spur action.

For example, apps give CSR managers the ability to segment staff by any number of demographics or divisions and develop customized messages. Analytics suites attached to mobile apps can remember which employees expressed interest in a particular type of initiative or program (such as energy or waste) and will weight future delivery of messages to these topics. 
This is the ultimate in developing a one-on-one, firm-to-employee relationship.

Gamification: Many mobile apps draw upon the mechanics of social psychology and behavioural theory to gently “nudge” employees towards environmentally preferable behaviours. Creating a gamified experience and rewarding employees for engagement can establish a fun, competitive and social context for CSR activities, increasing both employee awareness and participation in such programs.

Smartphones are a game-changer for communicating and aligning a team in a corporate environment. 

Off-the-shelf software, including mobile applications, make it easy for CSR managers to leverage the most compelling aspects of today’s communications techniques to supercharge employee engagement in their CSR programs. 

Lindsey Goodchild is the Toronto-based CEO of Nudge Rewards, powered by Push Notifications, which helps employers harness smartphone technology to engage and mobilize employees. She can be reached at [email protected], (647) 981-5752 or @lindsgoodchild.

Case study: 
Putting mobile to the test

Recently, mobile’s ability to engage and mobilize employees around CSR was put to the test with Partners in Project Green’s annual People Power Challenge. 

Partners in Project Green (PPG) is a partnership between the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority that was established to unite the thousands of businesses in the area in an effort to become more environmentally responsible. One of their major initiatives, the People Power Challenge, pits companies head to head to earn points in an environmental challenge. 

Competing companies have to actively engage employees in CSR programs in order to climb the leaderboard and work towards the ultimate goal (a cash prize to be used to fuel future sustainability projects). 

Companies earn points by having staff make pledges for environmental behaviour change, giving suggestions on how to improve environmental performance, and taking on sustainability actions and projects. 

In 2014, the Nudge Rewards app was introduced into the People Power Challenge. 

“It provides an opportunity to (engage) those that don’t necessarily have the opportunity to be engaged in-house or at the organization, whether they work at a satellite location, are away from work or work remotely,” say program lead Clifton Copplino.
The app makes it easier for employees to stay connected to the larger CSR goals in a fun way and allows them to self-report on their commitments. At the same time, the analytics platform makes it easy for managers to track the progress and results of their program. 

This year, 12 companies representing 16 teams and more than 10,000 employees competed in the People Power Challenge. As a result of the challenge, there were:

• 2,747 environmentally focused suggestions

• 1,055 projects being implemented

• 653 projects to be implemented over the next 12 months

• over 34,000 pledges for environmental behaviour changes made by competing employees.

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