Get them involved to 'feel empowered to make the changes that matter,' says HR leader at Oracle
Do you sense your employees are sceptical about your corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives?
Get them more involved, said Rachna Sampayo, group vice president of human resources at Oracle, Asia Pacific & Japan.
"The most important factors for non-performative CSR initiatives are consistency and authenticity. By getting employees involved, they feel empowered to make the changes that matter to them — rather than organizations enforcing their own values on them.”
Her remarks came as employees in Southeast Asia cast doubt on the motivations behind their organisations' CSR initiatives. A report from Milieu Insight last year found that over a quarter of employees believe that CSR is mostly just about branding or public relations.
"We strongly believe that CSR cannot be just a measure or an action a company takes for the benefit of its stakeholders — it must instead be embedded into the DNA of the company," Sampayo told HRD.
"Once that foundation is set, initiatives that are rolled out are not just for the sake of painting a good picture, but genuinely, for the betterment of society and to create a positive impact globally."
At Oracle, one of the world’s largest cloud technology companies employees are involved with the company's goal of sustainability, she said.
"We do annual surveys and we know that an overwhelming majority of Oracle employees are passionate about protecting the planet. To align with our employees, we regularly engage and support them in sustainability at work and beyond.”
Good CSR for Gen Zs
Good CSR initiatives have been touted as an effective way to raise engagement, improve retention, and increase morale. And with changing workforce generations and employee expectations, they become even more critical.
"Today, an organization's CSR initiatives are becoming much more serious considerations for existing and potential employees. An entirely new demographic of talent is entering the workforce: Gen Zs," Sampayo said. "Alongside Gen Zs, millennials are also deeply concerned about issues related to society and sustainability and are expecting their employers to feel the same."
Younger employees are more likely to be with employers that are taking "visible and direct actions" for CSR initiatives that can contribute to their sense of self-fulfilment, better satisfaction, and happiness at work, according to the HR leader.
"The best way to tick all these boxes is to have strong CSR efforts that align with their employees' values. With employees also acting as brand ambassadors, the more satisfied workers are, the better the perception of an organization, leading to better retention and attraction rates," she said.
Other benefits of having well-executed CSR efforts include boosting productivity, strengthening loyalty, and improving motivation in the workplace, according to Sampayo. They also foster teamwork by bringing together different groups of people to support a common cause.
Most (87%) Aussies think businesses have a responsibility to do social good, according to a 2018 survey. A further six in 10 (58%) believe businesses have a responsibility to ensure their supply chain does not harm the environment and is free from damaging practices, such as forced labour.
How to execute CSR initiatives well
CSR initiatives have the potential to bring value to businesses and organisations, according to Sampayo — but only if they are executed properly.
"CSR is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and organizations must think about what impact they want to have, and how effective these initiatives will be. This is why an organization's knowledge, expertise and resources should be taken into consideration when building out CSR commitments," she said.
Executives will also play a major role in the success of CSR initiatives.
"CSR is a top-down approach as much as it is bottom-up, and the executive leadership team must champion CSR as they are important in helping initiatives move along and getting the right resources," Sampayo said. "Involved leaders also inspire and empower their employees to get involved in the things that matter to them and the organization as a whole."
It is also important to set realistic and sustainable objectives to avoid diminishing the impact of CSR programmes if ambitious goals aren't reached, she added.
"The most important tip is to simply start somewhere," Sampayo said. "CSR does not have to be donating millions of dollars or planting hundreds of trees — it can be as small as setting aside a day to volunteer or opting out of single-use utensils in the workplace."