Why Aren't More Companies Measuring Employee Engagement on CSR?

Published: Mar 11, 2011


A recent Smartbrief poll asked whether companies measure employee engagement on CSR. As you can see below, over 70 percent of the respondents said they don't do so. And of the small percentage that do, only a little more than half seem to be doing so effectively, i.e., either by including a specific section in annual performance reviews or offering monetary incentives.

Are you optimizing the full potential of your workforce for CSR and sustainability?

The others—over 11 percent—continue to bucket CSR into cause-related volunteering.

I've spoken about this several times in the past: A company's best brand ambassadors are its employees. Tapping into them is an easy win for the brand, and, unfortunately, also the one most often overlooked in any strategy discussion. What is contributing to this continued ambivalence?

Performance Reviews: Too much measurement

One oft-heard plea is that "We're already measuring our employees on pretty much every metric possible under the sun. Will we really gain from yet more measurement?"

Argument: First, what isn't measured isn't efficient. Second, do you have enough employee engagement opportunities in place to begin with? Because if you do (think affinity group/Employee Resource Groups, regular forums, speed mentoring, etc.) then measuring wouldn't be an issue.

Not enough clarity on CSR

Every company contextualizes CSR a little differently, depending on its own set of stakeholders and business needs. My recent post on why executives don't understand CSR directly tackled this sense of vagueness. Even 3 Challenges for CSR Executives identifies why this lack of clarity continues to devalue all the progress being made by many companies.

This creates significant roadblocks in laying out standards and guidelines that can be universally applied.

Argument: Why not spin the question on its head, as Crespin suggests, and instead of trying to lead sustainability from the top, use it as a reason to engage your workforce? Whether that's through the power of social media, ERGs, informal settings, team building exercises, or open brainstorming sessions. And there are many leaders in the field that can offer objective—and very different—approaches to embedding CSR in your work culture. (EMC's Kathrin Winkler, Campbell Soup's Dave Stangis and PwC's Shannon Schuyler)

These executives have made significant inroads because of their foresight in being able to objectively pry CSR's intangibility to apply to their business models and needs—and they've all started by actively involving their workforce in the process.

Lack of support from leadership

We only have to look at the very different management styles of Jack Welch and Tony Hsieh to understand this concern. While Welch believes in shareholder value and profit before social good, Hsieh prioritizes customer service, employee collaboration and creative innovation over the bottom line.

Argument: But these are two extreme examples. At the heart of this debate is not as much a generational divide as not having enough contexts to convince leadership about the value of CSR.

Schools, besides shifting their curriculum to address issues like business ethics, accountability, and CSR, are also collaborating more closely with organizations to meet these gaps. But for corporations, this means a closer look at their HR and organizational training strategies.

As Hess' Director for CSR Paula Leff put it, at the end of the day, CSR and sustainability are operational—and organizational development—issues. Once that is effectively communicated, the entire approach to employee engagement, strategic model, and corporate citizenship changes.

Are you optimizing the full potential of your workforce?