The message is clear: people want to work for organizations where they feel they are engaged and learning. This is what inspired Paula Bernardino, MCM, SCMP, CSR-P, to pursue the study “Engaging Employees through Corporate Social Responsibility Programs: Aligning Corporate Social Responsibility and Employee Engagement” and examine whether companies that engage in social and environmental stewardship also benefit from employees who are more aware and involved.

Once the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy and programs have been defined, how do you ensure your communications strategy, plan and actions are aligned and will help deliver the desired results to get employees interested and engaged? How much of a proactive role do communications need to play to align CSR and employee engagement?

An online survey with 100 respondents in Canada demonstrated that applicants research a company’s CSR information when applying to work there. And once working inside the organization, employees notice CSR initiatives and want to get involved.

To further the reflection on “engaging employees through CSR programs” and find out if companies that engage in social and environmental stewardship in Canada also benefit from employees who are more motivated in the workplace, an online survey was conducted between July 2 and July 24, 2020. Anyone in Canada working for a company, either in the private, public or non-profit sectors, and whether part time or full time, was asked to complete the survey on the platform Survey Monkey. A total of 100 responses were collected. Respondents were from the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

Key Findings

  • Approximately 67% of respondents said they “searched the organization’s corporate social responsibility strategy” when they applied to their current position.
    • Those in the non-profit sector said CSR is part of the organization’s DNA and therefore did not require additional research.
  • 46% of respondents said it was “very important” for them to work for an organization with a corporate social responsibility strategy, and 26% said it was “important.”
  • 80% of respondents said they were “motivated to engage in their organization’s corporate social responsibility strategy.”
    • However, motivation to engage was dependent on factors such as the respondent’s workload and whether they perceived the engagement to be “meaningful” and “aligned with the work” the organization does.

Implications for Practice
Studies keep demonstrating the business case for corporate social responsibility and the return on investment (ROI) for a company’s performance and reputation. There is also a strong case for corporate sustainability and better employee engagement. Knowing this, communicators need to keep CSR in mind when creating and implementing their communications plans. CSR programs will appeal to employees with the right messages while also showing alignment with the organization’s purpose. In other words, CSR needs to be seen and treated as a business function, not as another project within the communications team/department.

Paula Bernardino is a strategic consultant in communications and corporate social responsibility while also guest speaking at conferences and panels on sustainability, corporate social responsibility and strategic communications. She is also a course lecturer at McGill University in the Public Relations program and an instructor in the Professional Development Institute at the University of Ottawa. Her study “Engaging Employees through Corporate Social Responsibility Programs” won the “Best Paper – Practitioner” award at 2020 CCI Milan Conference on Corporate Communication on September 17, 2020.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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