Employees are part of the CSR equation – but not in the way you think

July 04, 2014

Megan DeYoung says that companies who fail to hire diverse employees are missing a critical part of the corporate responsibility equation.


How many corporate responsibility reports have you read that say something along the lines of “employees are our most important asset?”  If this is true then why do so many companies maintain a friendly, yet distant, relationship between employees and corporate responsibility?

Many large companies have programs to train employees in certain skills to perform the task for which they were hired, or to provide them with work-life balance.  Many companies also have corporate responsibility strategies and targets, which usually incorporate employees primarily on the basis of volunteering.  Yet often when companies do make the connection externally with employee programs it is merely a reporting of activities. Internally there is often a big hesitation by the Corporate Responsibility and Human Resources departments to really form a team to marry employee issues with corporate responsibility. Companies are missing a critical part of the corporate responsibility equation with this limited view of how employees fit in.

Employees are often hired on the basis of their skills and expertise.  But they also have opinions, perspectives, and ideas which are equally, if not more, important yet are often overlooked or even used to screen out employees.  By approaching the same questions through different lenses, diverse teams of employees can together find more effective solutions to problems.  One study looking at scientific researchers found that teams with members from different geographical areas – even different cities in the same country – achieved better results.  Companies that actively seek and cultivate employees with diverse attributes truly understand that they are better for it.

Effective corporate responsibility means looking at business objectives in light of an array of external and long-term factors.  Companies that are successful over a long period of time operate without blinders and with an eagerness to explore issues and consider ideas that may not immediately seem relevant to hitting the quarterly earnings target.  One of the critical factors to being able to operate with this approach is having a cadre of employees who think differently and who push each other to think non-linearly.   Companies made up of people who are all the same will end up walking down the same path together – a path that leads to decreasing success.

Thus, companies need to make stronger connections between employees and corporate responsibility.  Be bold and say that employees are a corporate responsibility issue and it’s more than just having child care on site and a volunteer day.

Research shows that people tend to hire people who are like them. One study of hiring practices in investment banks, law practices and management consultancies found that interviewers often prioritised candidates whose interests, such as sports or movie tastes, matched their own: “in many respects [interviewers] hired in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners,” reads the study.

It makes sense that employers want to hire people who they think they’ll get along with. But remember the adage “if you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.”  Now wouldn’t that be boring?


Megan DeYoung is a Director at Corporate Citizenship.