Role of Employees in CSR Communications

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Employees represent the most powerful brand communications channels. The most fruitful way to link philanthropic or employee volunteerism programs and the corporate brand is through a company’s employee base. What they say about their company and its offerings can often have more impact on company’s brand equity than any advertising campaign. If they understand them, endorse them and –most critically- feel a part of them, they will communicate this understanding with accuracy and passion. Keeping employees informed is, thus, key to successfully integrating philanthropic efforts with corporate brand building.

The first objective concerning employee CSR communication is to create publicity and a good reputation through word of mouth using CSR. Employees represent a powerful channel through which it is possible to communicate in positive terms about the company. The second objective of CSR communication with regard to employees is to increase employees’ satisfaction and commitment through CSR. So employees working in an ethical and socially responsible company are more committed to it. The third objective discussed in the literature with regard to employees is to increase the appeal of the company as a future employer through CSR. The fourth CSR communication objective is to reduce employee turnover through CSR. When employees consider their organization as socially responsible, they are less likely to leave. Furthermore, employees are also seen as a valuable source of information about how those outside the corporation are reacting to the CSR initiatives. That is why employees should be a primary target for CSR communications.

Effective CSR communication is grounded in employee support. The premise is that employees committed to CSR facilitate trustworthy CSR communications. Employee will verify messages that external shareholders hear from the corporation as well as communicate their own positive messages about the corporation’s CSR initiative. The better informed the employees are about CSR, the more effective they are at communicating about the organization’s CSR activities. This is also an opportunity for employees to feel a greater sense of involvement and identification with the CSR initiative, thus signifying the importance of corporates securing employee commitment for CSR concerns at every level.

Employees are considered as one of the most important stakeholders for CSR communications as they are not only an audience but also a key component when it comes to external communication with stakeholder audiences.  Therefore,the important task is to first adapt employees’ perceptions and then their attitudes and behaviors, so they can deliver the message with a higher level of congruence to external stakeholders (communities, consumers, financial groups, and government, etc). Internal consistent and congruency are vital to a successful external communication of corporate identity. Internal communications particularly assumes predominant importance in a situation where the organization deals with major changes such as adopting corporate sustainability model.

The channels of communication used for communicating with employees calls for a mix of one-way and two-way channels of communication including informal communication through conversational dialogue. There are various ways in which the engagement of the employees can be achieved. For instance,  utilization of emotional relationships and encouragement of collaboration through community and demonstration of underlying value as factors in CSR communication strategy will help companies attain their employees’ objectives. Similarly, internal communication with company employees can occur through many channels including the Company Value Statement, Regular All-Staff Meetings, New employee orientation, Suggestion Boxes, Posters and Banners, Newsletters, Intranet, Memos or Emails, Internal Web Portals, and Internal videos or Brochures.

In order to make sense within the organization, CSR needs to be implemented from an inside out perspective, allowing employees to be a part of co-creating an ethical organizational culture. This will enable employees to act as promotional assets and good corporate ambassadors for their organizations to external shareholders.

Today, the power of employee word-of-mouth has been greatly magnified given the popularity and scope of social media platforms such as blogs and social networks. It is, therefore, advantageous for the employees who work in CSR to be active on social and online media. This will enable them to locate relevant online discussions and contribute their own posts. Employee blogs, employee tweets, posts to discussion board are low-cost options that can, further, go a long way in establishing the credibility of a company’s CSR activities along with extending the reach of the CSR messages. Videos or images posted about a company’s CSR activity by employees can help create a content community. Employees can also be asked to help tell the company’s story and those who do so can be publicly recognized via intranet, or posters within the organization or meetings with the CEO. All this is just an extension of corporate transparency.

A company is in a position to exert greater control over the content of CSR communication by members of its value chain, i.e. employees, than by those who are not part of the value chain. Companies should, hence, encourage informal yet credible communication channels such as word of mouth. Companies should not underestimate the power and reach of employees as CSR communicators since employees typically have a wide reach among other stakeholder groups through their social ties and are often considered as credible information source. Thus, companies should “tune up” their internal CSR communications strategy and find ways to engage employees and convert them into companies’ CSR advocates. Employees should be informed consistently, concretely, and coherently about CSR initiatives, including program specifics, rationales and successes. Moreover, they should be included as participants in the planning, design and implementation of CSR activities. Keeping the employees informed and actively involved will strengthen their commitment. Active and meaningful CSR communications will also translate to higher levels of employee retention and engagement. Studies show that companies with a high level of engagement are, on average, more successful.

Thus, employees are indispensable for reinforcing a brand’s CSR message.

REFERENCES

  1. Supriya Motwani, Communicating CSR is More Challenging than Paying CSR at http://www.irdindia.in/journal_ijrdmr/pdf/vol1_iss1/8.pdf
  2. Shuili Du, C.B. Bhattacharya, and Sankar Sen, What Board Members Should Know About Communicating CSR at https://www.conference-board.org/retrievefile.cfm?filename=TCB%20DN-V3N6-111.pdf&type=subsite
  3. Mohamed Bibri, Corporate Sustainability/CSR Communications & Value Creation: A Marketing Approach at http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:831498/FULLTEXT01.pdf
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