Category Archives: Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility: A Lever For Employee Attraction And Engagement

corporate social responsibility

This Forbes article contains some challenging results from surveys about what some employees would be willing to trade off in terms of pay in exchange for a workplace that was into social responsibility, positive environmental impact or similar values. I’m a little cynical but having made some similar trade-offs myself in recent years, I can believe it. I think my cynicism is around the fact that these employees must have some baseline of income they’d demand before they start getting all altruistic. Fair enough. The happiness research says that beyond a certain point, more money doesn’t make you sustainably happier. So maybe some of these warm, fuzzy organisational behaviours would?

When it comes to employees, ‘happy’ is not the same as ‘engaged.’ Happy is whatever you think it is for you. Engaged means you’re applying discretionary effort at work – i.e. doing stuff you don’t HAVE TO because you CHOOSE TO. That said, I’d like to be happy and I’d like employees to be happy. Of course, the big question is to what extent am I, or any employer, willing to pay for that happiness? My usual answer applies, “It depends.”

It would depend a whole lot less if there was a genuine willingness to make some trade-off. We’d all love to hug a tree but might be less inclined to live in one.

35% would take a 15% pay cut to work for a company “committed to corporate social responsibility” (whatever that means.) 45% would take a 15% pay cut to work for a company making a social or environmental impact. (I presume they mean a positive impact?) 58% would take a 15% pay cut to work for a company “with values like my own.”

Employee engagement and people’s natural internal motivation is driven by, amongst other things, a sense of purpose – contributing to something greater, something beyond self. I think that, for this influence to kick in, it would have to be a more specific personal connection than merely a general or vague corporate social responsibility. It would need to be precise and relevant to the individual. Taking a 15% pay cut to work for a company that might cure cancer sounds like a box you’d tick on a survey. But if you had cancer or loved someone who did, you wouldn’t have time to tick the box or take surveys because you’d be passionately engaged in working towards helping cure cancer. Nothing inspires a personal protest against motorways more than a letter revealing your house is in the way of a motorway development.

The sad thing, not so much about the article itself but how some employers may interpret it, is how some employers may choose to use the information from the survey. If the primary finding was that people will take a pay cut to do good deeds with us, you’d like to think that would encourage employers to do good deeds etc. The last recommendation of the article was to optimise social media to spread the word about the good deeds. This spin angle is what many businesses will pick up on. What will get generated may not be a better world but a noisier one. But I suppose the community-minded employee has to find out about potential employers somehow. I do worry that the truly socially responsible corporates will be drowned out by those with shiny facades and little true depth.

So, long-story-short-too-late, I agree that community contribution or social responsibility or whatever label you choose to use, could be a useful lever for enhancing employee engagement but it would have to be strongly personally relevant and emotionally connecting. But, even if it wasn’t, I’d prefer banks etc not to be parasitic blood-sucking leeches.

Weight Training Your Self Discipline Muscles


Self discipline is a ‘muscle’ we can build by making small temptation corrections then incrementally increasing them

This article by Douglas T. Kenrick realistically stresses that we can’t be trusted. He rattles off some well-known studies showing how ill-disciplined people can be when faced with temptation. Given that other studies, such as Mischel’s marshmallows, have shown that having self discipline is one of the major contributors to a person’s success, a lack of it must be cause for concern.

I want to dislike the article because the guts of it is that we cannot trust ourselves so rather than try to change ourselves to be more reliable, we need to affect our environment. We need to avoid or prevent the temptations being around us as much as possible in the first place. Kenrick writes mainly about food but it is as true of alcohol, smoking, loser friends and time-wasting as well. So, we shouldn’t stock our larders and fridges with sodas, cookies, candy and chips. If we suddenly feel like them and we have to walk to our car to drive to a store, we’re less likely to do so. And if these things aren’t in our faces, we’re less likely to think that we want to. Good luck with that. Avoiding things is always a problem because, ultimately, you can run but you can’t hide. You will be confronted with your enemy-items soon enough via TV, billboards, a friend’s house, your workplace. What happens then? You go even more overboard.

That stuff just gets you fat and unhealthy which isn’t great but what really sucks the success out of your life is the brain-equivalents of soda and candy – time wasters like most TV, most computer games and social networking sites. And , of course, at work we have MEETINGS. (They’re ‘candy’ for someone involved.) I’m not trying to get my nag on here. If you’re happy vegetating, please do so on your own time and dime but, please, don’t whinge about your lack of success.

People who end up happy, healthy, wealthy enough, etc are those who can defer gratification. It’s a skill not a natural attribute. You can develop it if you choose to do so and you choose to do so every day as you put in the work, in the same way as a proper weight-training programme can build muscle.

You don’t start by throwing around Olympic powerlifting levels of weights. You start small and warm up first to prevent injury and demoralisation. The same goes for building your willpower muscles. One simple but effective technique to is self correcting every time you say, “Yeah” with a, “Yes.” It’s not that your classier speech will impress people. You’re training your mind to notice what it is you’re about to do. That’s a critical first step in stopping yourself doing it. Give it a go. See how it impacts your thinking and, more importantly, your behaviour. Once you get your ‘yeahs’ sorted out, then you can work your way up to potato chips and, down the line, big life stuff like your spending, saving and studying habits.

I am so hungry right now. Yeah.

Tom Peters’ ‘To Don’t’ List

Here’s a link to a Tom Peters video outlining the stupendously simple but obviously-in-retrospect powerful concept of the ‘To Don’t’ List. Dang, it’s a great idea and its only a two minute long video.

Can Potplants Enhance Health? (How Motivation Via Responsibility Can Add Years To Your Life – Not Just Seem Like It)


Yes, this is an actual POTplant but that's not important now...

Wouldn’t it be great to have a job where you could just cruise? We’ve all probably thought that at times, probably during those times where the going was particularly uncruisey. Maybe we’ve even thought it would be great to retire and potter around, have nothing to worry about.

I MC’d a health and safety conference earlier in the year where Doctor David Beaumont spoke. David is an English Occupational Medicine specialist now resident in New Zealand. Part of his presentation related to case studies of people on longterm absences from work due to accident or illness. I was particularly struck by the stories of the impact on the people and their families, not just, or even primarily, by the financial ramifications, but by the effect on their confidence, esteem and sense of self worth caused by the removal of responsibility and purpose from their lives. And subsequently on their healthAND that of their families. It actually impacts on their recovery from the original accident. That’s why getting back to even light duties is so important, not so much for the employer to minimise their costs but for the recovery of the employee. Work provides a lot more to a person than a mere paycheck to an individual.

It reminded me of a study back in the 70s by Ellen Langer and Judith Rodin. They had two groups of nursing home residents. Both groups were gifted a potplant (a legal potplant, not the POTplant in my picture.) One group were told to enjoy the plant but not to worry their pretty little heads about looking after it. All of that would be taken care of for them. The second group were given suggestions on potplant care but the actual effort was left to the residents themselves. All participants were constantly being tested anyway so they were a great group to assess the impact of responsibility on health.

Within 3 weeks there were significant differences between the groups in health and general activity engaged in, even more pronounced after 18 months. The mortality rate of the first group (having no responsibility for their potplants’ care) was TWICE that of the group with the responsibility. In short, the quality and the quantity of many lives was enhanced.

There was more to this than just potplants but they make a nice and memorable image. The group looking after their own potplants were also given more choice and input into decision-making around their lives at the nursing home. I imagine this gave them a sense of control, even power to a degree. That sense of control and influence is important for all people, contributing not just to health but also happiness, success and so much more.

It isn’t much of a stretch to extrapolate this thinking to the workplace. As a leader of a team, what incremental responsibilities can you arrange to boost the confidence, esteem and sense of self worth of your people?

Although if you accidentally gift your staff a real POTplant, I know a guy who can do you a great deal on workplace drug testing!

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