PRIMA Europe, publishers of Community Affairs Briefing, has just completed a year-long study into the links between community involvement and staff development, morale and motivation and recruitment. Funded by seven companies – British Airways, BT, Grand Metropolitan, IBM UK, Kingfisher, NatWest Group and Whitbread – and conducted under the auspices of the CCI Research Forum, it
collected such evidence as is currently available from companies that there is a positive link and
devised new ways to manage, monitor and evaluate community involvement so as to identify and then quantify its impact on human resource needs of companies.
This Best Practice article concentrates on staff development and morale and motivation and on how CCI can meet human resource needs in the context of a strategic planning process. Having documented the available evidence of business benefits, the full study concluded that there is a firm link. However much of the evidence comes from small sample sizes and does not allow firm conclusions to be drawn, for example, about exactly which grades of staff can enhance specific skills from particular community activities.
Measuring staff development
National trends in education and training are leading to new qualifications based on competence in performance to certain standards. NVQs, Investors in People and the Management Charter Institute are some of those initiatives. At the same time within companies, training and development needs of staff are increasingly expressed as a set of generic competencies required of all grades of staff.
Community involvement through the various forms of secondment and volunteering can be structured to develop these competencies. The development gain can be identified through a competency matrix, allowing the effectiveness of community involvement options to be assessed. The study devised thirteen generic competencies categorised between those related to:
personal effectiveness, essentially an individual’s own skills and his/her ability to relate to others – such as adaptability, communication, collaboration, creative thinking and innovation, and influencing skills;
management effectiveness, essentially skills to lead and organise others – such as decisiveness, leadership, project management skills and maximising performance; and
business effectiveness, essentially the factors relating to overall business success – such as customer focus, excellence and continuous improvement, business awareness and technical / professional skills.
The competency matrix allows evaluation of the effectiveness of skills development through community involvement. Then conventional cost/benefit analysis techniques can be used to justify in commercial terms the investment of resources. The cost of community options can be compared with traditional training methods, as follows:
external ‘bought-in’ training – direct cost of course alone;
internal training – direct cost of course, plus indirect costs/share of overhead costs of the whole training programme and HR departments;
community assignment – normally little or no direct costs, plus indirect cost / share of overhead cost of community affairs department.
Any lost production time, differing between the options, then needs to be added before cost effectiveness is compared.
Skills development through community involvement should not be seen as better than, nor a replacement to, traditional training methods. It is simply an additional tool which is available for use by those people who will benefit. It should be costed and evaluated as rigourously as other training methods.
Impact on staff motivation
Good employee morale, fostered by a sense of involvement in the company, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for business success. Corporate community involvement, especially through employees, is just one way to build a sense of identification with the values and goals of the company and foster team spirit and individual commitment. Other, normally stronger, factors include remuneration, job security, working environment and satisfaction with immediate management.
Morale and motivation can be tracked through staff attitude surveys and explored in detail through techniques such as group discussion. A multi-stage approach is necessary to identify staff attitudes to community involvement. The first stage is monitoring knowledge of the community involvement programme. The second is discovering how important that programme really is for the individual member of staff. An optional third stage is to question how effective the programme is thought to be.
An aggregated weighted index of morale can then be calculated to provide a figure which can be:
tracked over time, noting variations between surveys,
compared between sites, and
Isolating the contribution from community to overall satisfaction remains difficult, given the likelihood of other factors changing at the same time. As with all staff attitude questions, a large measure of judgement is required, informed by valid and statistically reliable data.
Cost / benefit analysis, using parallel indicators such as staff turnover and absenteeism, can be used to demonstrate the business benefits from improved morale and motivation.
Beyond the bottom line
Conventional short term financial indicators have severe limitations, since they are backward looking and do not measure all the critical elements making up sustainable business success. So alternative, more balanced, methods are being developed which better allow the community involvement contribution to be measured. An analytical framework is presented in the report to enable community affairs managers to structure their activity so as to help meet the specific human resources needs of the corporate goal. It offers a strategic business planning process into which community involvement can contribute. To apply it effectively, the company needs:
a statement of corporate goals;
a strategic plan to achieve those goals;
a sub-plan for each of the key business areas – human resources, finance, marketing, etc – setting out what must be achieved if the objectives of the overall plan are to be met;
a balanced system of measurement to monitor whether these objectives are being met;
a feed-back loop to review and revise.
The sub-plan relating to human resources will vary according to the precise business needs of the whole organisation, but in summary might typically contain:
the needs in order to develop the existing work-force, especially career development to yield the required management succession;
the needs in order to recruit suitably qualified new personnel, for expansion or to fill natural wastage;
the need for operational improvements, such as lower error rates, higher productivity, fewer labour stoppages and a lower staff turnover rate.
Community affairs managers and personnel departments can use a matrix and a simple scoring system to record the contribution which the elements of the community involvement programme are making to the strategic plan. Involving a large measure of judgement, it nonetheless offers a tool to help structure and manage the programme for human resource benefit.
As companies develop more balanced measuring systems, identifying the wider factors which determine long term business success beyond short-term bottom line profitability, the contribution of community involvement will become increasingly apparent.
The report, ‘Employees and the Community: how successful companies meet human resource needs through community involvement’ was written by Mike Tuffrey and copies are available from 0171 287 6676 along with details of the second, implementation, phase of the project.
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 23 – August, 1995