Sounding the CSR Bell: Greater Training Impact Through Integrated Corporate Sustainability Messaging
All of us in the L&D space have a tremendous opportunity (and I would say a mandate) to get a real buzz going around corporate sustainability and social responsibility (or CSR for short). In some circles, it’s hardly news these days: more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies have CSR sections on their websites now, and development of formal CSR reports has increased seven-fold since 2010. It’s a bandwagon that most businesses are on. Yet from what we can tell, this long-term trend has barely caught any attention in the training and learning community.
From our vantage point as a training company that loves to support our clients in doing good in the world, we see this as a huge missed opportunity. Regardless of the training topic, integrating CSR messaging into your training is an opportunity just waiting to be leveraged.
Here’s an example: A global consulting and accounting firm asked us to develop a learning solution for on-boarding new hires—simple (some might say “boring”) stuff like computer setup. We saw an opportunity to boost the engagement while introducing these new folks to the firm’s commitment to sustainability.
- Each task was transformed into a subway stop.
- Points were awarded for completing the challenge at each station.
- At the end, learners used their points to build their own environmentally and community-friendly city, with the firm’s CSR events and campaigns highlighted.
- With their maps complete, learners got excited about sharing with each other and learning about the firm’s CSR efforts.
Just as gamification increases engagement and retention, infusing CSR messaging into your training adds significant value. When employees connect with the meaning of their work and the good things their company does, they become more emotionally engaged in their work, more loyal to their company, and better learners. My colleague, lead instructional designer Catherine Davis, has written about this in her blog, “Does Your Training Have Meaning?”
We are always on the lookout for creative ways to integrate sustainability content into our training courses. Here are a few tips we’d like to share with you, our peers in the learning and development community, on how to integrate CSR content into employee trainings.
- Educate yourself on CSR
For a primer on why businesses do CSR, we recommend checking out Bob Willard’s website on the business case. We also love Wayne Visser’s CSR 2.0 framework for a flavor of the different kinds of CSR commitments a company can make.
- Research your company’s approach to CSR
Every company has a different approach to giving back as a business. Take time to get familiar with all the good things your company is up to: CSR reports, corporate citizenship webpages, volunteering programs, charitable giving, and any corporate values and ethics information you can find. (It will make you feel good … which supports our point.)
If you can, interview members of your CSR team to get their thoughts on CSR, the company’s approach, what programs employees are most excited about, and what messages they would like to see communicated to employees. At most companies, the CSR team doesn’t talk much with HR or learning teams, which we see as a missed opportunity. They’ll be excited to know they have another exciting channel to spread the word and it won’t even affect their budget. Hello, new best friend.
- Study the case for integrating CSR into e-learning and training
When people see their company doing good things, there is a positive effect on retention and performance. To learn more, start with the links above to our own thinking on the topic and they will point you to other resources. (We’ve done a lot of research and thinking to lay the groundwork for this important and new conversation. We are passionate about this and always eager to share our knowledge!)
- Build your customized case for integrating CSR messaging into your e-learning and training
This is where you can shine - get your instructional designers, project managers, and creative team together. Think about how you can best incorporate the CSR function into your training plan for over-the-top success.
Given the typical lack of communication between CSR and HR teams, you may have to sell your client or team with the information you’ve gathered from the three steps above. The good news is that as a learning pro, absorbing and presenting information is your bread and butter! Your consultative and proactive approach will mark you as a L&D professional who understands training can not only achieve the course objectives, but also add value to your brand, increase retention, and do good.
What are your next steps? Follow the plan above, and then you are ready. You can start small and easy-here are some ideas:
- Add a few slides in a new hire training.
- Propose a short video for use in recruiting events (boy, do those Millennials love CSR).
- Include relevant CSR examples in scenario-based training, such as using an example of a “green” customer who prefers sustainable products (which also serves to highlight your company’s response to this market demographic).
I would love to hear from you and how you may already be infusing CSR. At SweetRush, bringing a focus on CSR into the world of learning and development is a core part of our own CSR initiative. This is work we are passionate about, and we welcome any level of dialogue with others sharing this passion.
Interested in learning more about integrating CSR and training? Check out our interactive infographic, The Five-Stage Model of CSR: How Training and Communications Can Help.
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Andrei Hedstrom brings vision, leadership, and his deep concern for people, community, and the Earth to his role as SweetRush’s chief executive officer. Andrei earned his master’s degree in counseling psychology, building on his undergraduate degree in religious studies, and served our country in the Persian Gulf War. As a SweetRush co-founder, he has worn every hat in the company, from graphic design to overseeing production, yet his sweet spot is building long-term, strong relationships that serve as a foundation for partnership and ongoing success. By fostering a culture of caring and commitment, and applying SweetRush’s expertise within sustainable and socially responsible businesses, Andrei drives and shapes our mission and purpose.Website: www.sweetrush.com/