Times are Crazy. Innovate Your CSR.

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Amidst this time of political tumult, emotions are running high and companies are caught in the crossfire. Protests are begetting boycotts, employees and customers are wondering where CEOs stand, and company leaders are scrambling to say and do the right thing without alienating core parts of their communities.

When did value systems become so radioactive?

Politics has always been the third rail of Corporate America, an area many believe is better left untouched. And I’m sure that most corporate leaders would love nothing more than to keep their hands to themselves. But now their hands are being forced.

Today, the reach and speed by which political and cultural issues explode from flame into roaring brush fire are breathtaking to behold. Passive observers are becoming activists, people are taking sides, and everyone’s looking to hold people and entities accountable. Social media may not be the match that’s lighting up highly charged emotions, but it’s sure as heck the kerosene fueling the fire.

For CSR and HR managers, it can be difficult to understand how to leverage volunteer and giving programs in ways that respond to current events without being overly reactive to them.

In a recent article for Fast Company, writer Michael Grothaus posed this dilemma to crisis management and company image experts. Here were some of the reactions that Grothaus uncovered:

  • Companies (and their CEOs) must stand on principle, not politics. “Any response that a company or executive makes relating to current events should be grounded in the values that a company provides to society, and should be used as an opportunity to communicate those values to employees and customers,” Micho Spring, chair of Weber Shandwick’s Global Corporate Practice, told Grothaus. Company leaders should only respond if their values are directly related. But when they are, they must act fast, as 85% of global consumers say that how a company responds to issues and crises is an important factor in their opinion of the organization overall.

  • Think about your employees. Employees expect CEOs to look out for them, they want to work for values-based companies, and they expect their leaders to stand up for them based on principle. “Culture has become central to the ability of an organization to attract and retain employees and customers,” Spring noted. “Companies that are seen as being on the wrong side of social issues today run the risk more than ever of losing the war for talent and facing significant consumer backlash. Particularly in today’s environment, companies must put culture and values at the center of their risk mitigation strategies.”  

  • Prepare to get ahead of the curve. During these particularly contentious times, company leaders must expect the unexpected and plan accordingly. Don Baer, worldwide chair and CEO of Burson-Marsteller, told Grothaus that it all comes down to thinking ahead and having plans in place. “Early interaction combined with accurate and effective messages and smart uses of various communications channels can often diffuse a situation before it becomes a problem,” Baer notes.   

A strong, values-based culture doesn’t completely shield companies from political headwinds, but it helps. Now more than ever, companies can’t afford to be anything but completely thoughtful and deliberate about how they’re giving back to the world at large.  

But defensive strategy isn’t the only reason why your company should be building and nurturing a rich culture of giving back, of course. Your corporate culture is the springboard for your power to change the world, as well as your calling card to attract the best employees who will do anything to support you if they believe in your vision and sense of purpose. And innovation is an essential part of the appeal.

That’s why Causecast is preparing for the next in our ongoing series of +IMPACT conferences, to be held in Washington DC on May 15th and 16th, 2017. The +IMPACT East Conference combines the flavor and community spirit of +IMPACT with hands-on, practical elements that will help workplace giving and volunteering program leaders and nonprofit leaders come together in new ways, both big and small, to create strategic impact during changing times.

Click here for tickets and more information about +IMPACT East

Our focus for this conference is Innovating in Times of Change. We hope to support program managers and their teams with a fresh approach to managing programs in this new period filled with transitions and unique challenges and opportunities.

+IMPACT East will bring together a hundred leaders in HR, CSR, Employee Engagement, Corporate Volunteering and Giving, and Social Impact to innovate side-by-side for the future of business. Now in its second year, the +IMPACT Conference series by Causecast helps workplace giving and volunteering leaders expand their support networks and transform the way they think and operate, so that they may deliver cutting-edge employee engagement programs and irresistible workplace cultures powered by transformative social impact.

The key differentiators of this event include:

  • Best practice sharing around workplace giving from leading Fortune 500 and Fortune “Best Place to Work” companies

  • Interactive and productive team-based learning experiences that engage non-profit and for-profit organizations in collaborative problem-solving

  • Insights into creating CSR programs to help attract, retain and engage top Millennial and Founder (Gen Z) talent

  • Innovative methods and technologies to help companies and nonprofits increase employee participation in workplace giving and volunteering programs

+IMPACT East is designed to give workplace giving and volunteering professionals the skills to overcome these challenges and make a lasting difference by supporting them to:

  • Identify and make sense of global trends

  • Solicit employee voice and harness authentic storytelling

  • Build an agile program strategy

  • Secure stakeholder buy-in and budgetary support

  • Measure ongoing program results

  • Make informed decisions that drive process and program improvements

The conference includes inspirational keynote speakers, powerful breakout workshops and expert best practice sharing and networking.

We hope you can join us at +IMPACT East and that together we can explore the best ways to innovate amidst challenging times.

Ryan Scott