How Giving Back Pays Off

How Giving Back Pays Off

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities are often seen as a tool to enhance corporate image and make individuals feel good. But is that all that it can deliver? Is it really a standalone portfolio? Can it actually complement your organization’s people agenda?  

Back in my earlier days when I was heavily involved in driving the Foundation and volunteer group, I came to realize that CSR activities actually have more potential that most people perceive. In fact, it should be a key pillar for HR and the organization. Why so? Let’s explore further.

Talent development platform

Activities don’t just happen. In most cases, companies will either assign teams to organize the volunteer activities on a rotational basis or have a group of passionate volunteers to get things going. For the former, instead of randomly assigning, a more purpose-driven approach could be taken. Young leaders or high potentials in companies can be tasked to spearhead such programmes to test their ability to lead in a controlled environment. Besides that, they will have the opportunity to work with people outside of their comfort zone and develop skills that may not be readily honed in their current scope of work. Areas that talents can be exposed to may include project management, strategic planning and even external stakeholder management. This can be supplemented with the donation dollar to create a win-win situation for both the beneficiary as well as the organization.

Create shared experiences

Volunteering activities is a good tool that companies can employ to bring employees together and foster greater bonds. Whether its working with young children or the elderly, activities that require collective effort will help them get closer and work together more cohesively outside a work context. Of course, activities must be planned in the way that it does not leave employees in silo or allow freeriding. Everyone must have a part to play and with the collective effort, achieve a desired outcome together. An example will be building a herbal garden for elderly folks at a nursing home. By setting an outcome, employees are made to form teams and explore ways to best run the activity together. In turn, shared experiences are created and employees will develop better understanding of one another while deepening their relationships.

Opportunity for cross-entity interaction

For bigger organizations with multiple entities or companies with regional coverage, it is often difficult for employees across different units to meet up. Volunteer activities can provide the much-needed opportunity for employees from different areas to finally meet and interact. During which, employees can finally put a name to certain faces or simply make new friends during the activities. The additional platform to connect with other groups of people within the organization can help build invisible bridges that are necessary to enhance communication for cross-entity assignments.

Boost mental wellness

Providing employees with time off from work to get away from their daily routine is a good way to boost mental wellness. As the global market continues to enter a tough situation, we can expect the pressure from businesses to be passed on to employees. Individual workers will be expected to take on more work while facing higher level of stress to deliver results. During such times, opportunities for them to take a breather will be crucial to prevent burnout and help enhance their productivity over the longer run. By taking their mind off work for even half a day, it will allow them to rest their thoughts momentarily while being engaged in meaningful work.

Build a company with strong “heartware”

As important as the financial figures may be, companies that are truly successful are those who do not neglect the importance of their people. In order to ensure that the company advocates a culture with strong “heartware”, it is key for leaders across various levels to develop empathy. Empathy can be developed through CSR activities, whether it’s donations or volunteer work, once participants are able to appreciate the impact of their giving. Consistent exposure will help shape their beliefs over time and that is essential to develop leaders with a people-centric mindset that can then drive a company with strong “heartware”. Not only will this impact existing staff, it will help boost the company’s reputation as well as trust in stakeholders since they are aligned that the centerpiece of the organization’s success lies in its people.

Closing thoughts

It may seem that CSR activities are now viewed as tools to deliver a separate set of agenda instead of truly giving back to the society. Instead of viewing it from a one-dimensional lens, why can’t there be multiple winners from such initiatives? After all, this does not need to be a zero-sum game where either the community or companies have a larger share of the pie and cannibalizing from one another. With the right moves and synergy, the pie can be expanded to benefit more groups. So next time if anyone tells you that CSR is just a mere branding tool, remind them to think twice.

This article was first published on HRD Singapore 3.01.

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