There are a number of benefits to having a strong internal communication strategy set up to explain your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, accomplishments, and future plans. Communicating internally about your company's CSR helps to inform individuals and departments, bring them "on board," and enhance participation. Here are 4 helpful insights on effective internal CSR communications.
Get Staff On Board
No matter your company's size, it is important that individuals and groups, or departments, understand how their roles are important in contributing to the larger goals of your business. Poor internal communication about CSR can have a number of impacts on its efficacy, a major one being that important individuals and departments may not understand how the program impacts their organizational functions, and, as a result, they may take no action to effectively support CSR program goals.
People work best when they understand how and why their work is making a contribution. To accomplish this, a company can create a CSR philosophy, or mission statement, in order to communicate and reiterate this to all new and veteran staff. As a result, this will appeal to them and show how CSR is not a separate and independent department, but an integral part of your organization. If you are able to convey the relationship between CSR and other departments as mutually beneficial and symbiotic, you will be able to foster employee buy-in and commitment to CSR.
Focus on Content
Whether you are communicating with staff or potential new hires, people are most interested in CSR programs that involve volunteerism or initiatives related to their interests. Just like college studenst may choose a course that incorporates one or more of their interests into the curriculum, workers will want to volunteer with CSR programs that incorporate their personal interests and talents, skills, etc. This may be obvious by the nature of the goods and services your company provides, or it may require obtaining feedback from a survey generated by your internal Communications Department to distribute and collect data.
Appealing to your staff's interests is a great way to select a CSR focus or program of interest, as well as an important aspect of your communication strategy. Appeal to employees interests in your communications. Explain to them what they will be doing, how their work and skills will benefit a program, and how they may benefit from their experience as well. This should be an ongoing process in your communication; continually establishing CSR as not only a foundation of your organizational culture, but also an important part of its functioning.
Choose a Vehicle for Your CSR Communication That Fits
Communication about CSR to your employees can take on many forms; choosing the vehicles of communication that are best for your company will require that you consider various things. One item to consider is how much money and time you want to devote to communicating about CSR. If you have limited funds to dedicate to your CSR communications, a very cost effective mechanism is via email or your company's intranet, if you have one. In addition, try to get individuals to communicate in person about CSR. Emails are easy to skim over, or just not read, and the same is true of intranet posts.
Incorporate your CSR communication into all-staff meetings, departmental meetings, or even meetings about benefit enrollments, etc. This is another vehicle for facilitating interpersonal, face-to-face communication about CSR. Employees can also ask questions and offer feedback in settings like this. You can even create meetings, either all-staff, or in smaller groups, strictly about CSR. Dedicating this sort of focus and time to CSR sends a clear message in itself that your organization values CSR and values employee involvement and their input about company CSR strategies and practices.
Suggestion boxes, whether they be tangible boxes in or around an office, or a virtual suggestion box online, is a great way to solicit feedback from employees about CSR. Remember, communication is a two-way street. You should communicate with employees about your CSR strategy, not at them.
Regardless of the size of your organization, communication should always, in some way, involve a leader in the company. You can have CSR newsletters and emails come from your CEO or bring them to speak at meetings or events. Whatever the method, involve leadership in CSR communication.
Aside from the content of the message itself, when a CSR newsletter comes from a CEO or other executive, there is an implicit message about the importance of CSR in your company. When leadership shows that they value the CSR initiatives of their organization, they are validating it for other employees and lower-level leaders. Their involvement, or lack of involvement, has a trickle-down effect; therefore it is in the best interests of the CSR department to heavily involve executives. Ideally, a CEO or other high-level executive will serve as the face of the company's CSR initiatives.
DeSantis-Breindel is a consulting agency that works with companies to improve a variety of functions, including employee engagement with CSR. They note the importance of leadership involvement with CSR communications: "A well thought-out branding and communications strategy, backed by the support of an engaged CEO, can align CSR activities with the corporate brand in a way that is both authentic and meaningful, and transform all volunteer, philanthropic and sustainability initiatives into culture-building activities" (Does CEO Engagement Lead to CSR Impact?).
These are just a few insights into what makes an effective internal communications strategy for CSR, which can increase commitment and participation among employees. If you would like to learn more about developing an internal communication strategy that is right for your organization, there are many guides and resources you can reference to build your strategy.
Here are a few suggestions for further reading:
CSR Europe: Internal Communication and Employee Engagement
EUROPA: A Guide to Communicating About CSR
Internal Communications and Employee Engagement 2013