CSR and future of workWith 87 percent of the global workforce disengaged with their work, executives are constantly seeking ways to empower employees to do their best work and help the company achieve its objectives. According to Gallup’s State of The Global Workplace report, the key to employee engagement is to provide impactful, challenging, and meaningful work that gives employees an opportunity to perform their jobs well and feel good about it.

Is it possible that both employers and employees can get what they want? Some executives seem to think so.

Once thought of as philanthropy, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming a fundamental part of increasing employee engagement. And it makes sense that CSR can help. As consumers, we tend to prefer brands that support good causes and protect the environment. Simply put, it makes us feel good that our money is enabling a positive impact on society rather than just helping us consume a new product. But as employees, does CSR have the same effect?

I caught up with Jackie Montesinos-Suarez, head of corporate social responsibility in North America for SAP, to get her perspective on CSR’s role in driving an empowered, engaged workforce—now and in the future.

Q: How can CSR programs build a workforce that’s empowered, engaged, and ready to take on whatever the future brings?

JMS: While helping nonprofits and entrepreneurs in emerging markets is a noble and worthwhile objective, it’s the further development of top talent and increase in brand reputation that bring additional direct and tangible rewards. The concept of CSR changes how an organization engages its employees and develops human potential. It provides leadership and professional development opportunities, while giving employees a chance to participate in a social cause that will make their work more meaningful to them.

That’s why SAP created a social sabbatical program. In addition to significantly higher employee engagement among participants after their social sabbatical assignment, we found that 100% of participants were more motivated to perform in their work. The experience positively changed 98% of participants’ perception of SAP as a corporate citizen, while 96% believe that the sabbatical can help improve their work performance.

Most CSR programs are centered on education and entrepreneurship. By having an idea on what the future of business will require, as far as skill sets and innovative thinking, and linking it to their CSR initiatives, companies can build the workforce of the future. SAP funds a variety of programs with that purpose in mind—the signature one in North America being BTECH, but there are many impressive ones like it.

Q: What challenges do most companies encounter when integrating CSR into their workplace culture? What key strategies can help overcome them?

JMS: For many companies, the biggest challenge is no longer limited money or resources—it’s time. There needs to be patience and understanding that small, incremental change over time can create big impacts. Many executives know that being a responsible company is the right thing to do. But, at the same time, they’re unsure whether “doing good” is really good for business.

Most executives show interest when they know CSR investments are compatible with “doing well.” They just need proof. For example, the portfolio of CSR initiatives should be balanced between projects that yield quick wins and others that drive long-term results. Also, long-term initiatives should be broken down into phases. Each phase should be measured to show stakeholders whether the desired change is occurring or, if it’s not happening, how to help secure the desired end state.

Q: What are your predictions for the future for CSR?

JMS: In my view, CSR will become the standard for all organizations. This approach will enable companies to grow and expand in unimaginable ways. In short, “doing good” will become the norm.

Employees of all ages and levels want to feel proud of their work and take part of something bigger than themselves and the company. They want to contribute to the greater good in society. But it’s the millennials who will make sure that CSR becomes part of the corporate DNA. Comprising 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, this particular generation has the power to reshape the future of work. Millennials are socially minded and value meaningful work over the rewards of recognition and money. And they understand the power of social networking when getting their voices heard.

By listening and responding to the external and internal outcry for social responsibility, companies can attract, retain, and develop their employees. And, in turn, these employees will innovate and create game-changing strategies and technologies that drive future business success. Just look at the Fortune 100: nearly all of them have effective CSR programs that match their vision and core competencies. Every company should follow their example.

Future of Work

Stay Connected

Join over 100,000 of your peers and receive our weekly newsletter which features the top trends, news and expert analysis to help keep you ahead of the curve