In the midst of the squabble over the rise of artificial intelligence and machine powered workplaces, human capital remains the most powerful asset of any organisation and the management of human capital by the human resources (HR) department of a company remains a pivotal aspect of the organisation. Consequently, the baton is on HR to create an enabling environment that would foster the right culture, innovation, motivation and success.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR), a business’ responsibility to conduct its operations in an ethically and socially responsible manner to its internal and external stakeholders, is a proven strategy for driving valuable organisational culture, reputation, innovation, motivation and impact as well as increasing bottom line. Many forward-thinking organisations are beginning to integrate CSR into their business strategy and are reaping significantly from CSR. With CSR, organisations want to build a reputation and culture of responsibility, integrity, transparency and accountability. They want to be known for being responsible in the way they treat their workers, shareholders, partners, regulators and even their competitors and the environment.
It is notable that the goals (improved culture, employee motivation and success) of CSR and HR are similar and their functions somewhat overlaps. Given these, how then do we reach a congruence, where HR supports CSR practices and CSR affects some of HR’ primary functions.
How Can HR Play an Active Role in CSR Management?
HR can help in the management of CSR through its development and implementation, communication and monitoring. While CSR activities directed at building corporate responsibility in organisations may not be directly tied to the remit of HR, they still have a critical role to play especially with regards to imbuing the ideal CSR culture in an organisation.
Development and Implementation
It is the primary duty of HR to create an enabling and friendly environment in which workers can carry out their tasks, grow and compete positively. With regards to CSR practices, HR can help in developing policies that promote responsible employment practices, diversity, gender equity and employee rights. HR can help in the development of CSR activities geared towards employee growth such as learning and development, personal management systems, health and fitness, work-life balance, flexible working hours, volunteering programs and many others. Also, HR can develop light environmental programs such as paper recycling and waste sorting, telecommuting, energy and water conservation efforts such as encouraging employees to turn off electrical appliances when they are not in-use.
CSR is a key element for changing organisational culture, and HR is second only to management in defining how the core values of an organisation should be perceived. Hence, if an organisation sets out to build a culture of ethics and responsibility for its brand, HR is crucial to creating, embedding and fostering that culture in the organisation. In well-established organisations these activities are co-developed along with the CSR and sustainability teams, while in much smaller organisations without a well-founded CSR or sustainability department, HR can assume leadership of this role.
HR is an influential player in disseminating information to the members of staff of every organisation and its effectiveness in carrying out this function cannot be underrated. HR can inform employees about the various CSR activities being carried out by the organisation and help send a clear message to employees about how important CSR is to the organisation. In some instances, employees are unaware or under informed about the remarkable efforts that their organisation is putting in to make the world a better place, hence it is the role of HR to pass this message across. By sharing CSR information and celebrating the organsation’s achievement, the momentum needed to sustain the activities is provided.
In the same vein in which HR manages and monitors staff performance, HR can also provide monitoring support or take up leadership role in monitoring how the organisation is faring with respect to various CSR activities. Given the broad organisational perspective that HR is privy to, it is well placed to proactively monitor CSR success.
Effects of CSR on HR Functions and Employees
CSR is critical to several HR functions such as employee development and engagement. Studies have shown that CSR is great for employee recruitment, retention, motivation and skills development. CSR also helps in embedding responsible values in employees, therefore setting the tone for the right organisational culture.
CSR is a key element for prospects especially millennials when they make decisions on where to work. CSR is also critical to an organisation’s recruitment process. CSR practices that focuses on employee volunteering and community engagement helps to attract valuable and committed talent to an organisation. Due to how CSR positions an organisation, prospects whose values and purpose matches that of the organisation are enthusiastic about working for them.
For newcomers, CSR shows the organisation’s DNA to this category of employees. They know what the organisation is concerned about and try to align as well as bound themselves to other members of the organisation. Established employees involved in CSR activities will come to work feeling motivated. These employees are a part of something bigger than themselves hence, they have a sense of belonging and enthusiasm about their job, what the company stands for and the value that they are contributing to society. Research has shown that engaged employees are more productive, customer-focused, and profit-generating, also high motivation and engagement breeds commitment which reduces frequent turnover and endless hiring.
The last category of employees affected by CSR is the withdrawals, which are workers that are moving into retirement or to a new job. CSR activities such as volunteering helps this category of employees to find purpose and new skills. As these workers (especially the retirees) transcend into another phase of their lives, all their professional and extracurricular activities are what informs their choice of what to do next or what roles they should consider taking up.
It is clear that CSR is not the direct function of the HR department however, it has been established that some CSR and HR functions overlap. Therefore, HR can play a very crucial role in the management and support of CSR activities and in turn CSR can positively affect employee engagement functions. As the corporate world evolves into one of responsibility in which businesses work towards using their activities as a force for good, all hands are needed on deck and the support of a crucial player like HR is crucial in this journey of corporate sustainability.