Working from home during Covid-19 Pandemic

Ask Madison: CSR During a Crisis

May 19, 2020
| ByDan Davenport

Ask Madison: As a business, we have an established corporate social responsibility policy to help us make a positive mark on society; we also like to recognize our employees for their accomplishments. What is the best use of our resources to be able to do both during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In today’s workforce, while salary is still the number one reason for accepting a position somewhere, how a company addresses corporate social responsibility (CSR) is one of the top 5 reasons for why employees choose to work there. Corporate social responsibility by definition is how an organization contributes to society to make a positive impact. It’s important to employees that their workplace’s contributions demonstrate a similar value system; it’s now important to the rest of the world as well, as we all watch how a company interacts with its employees, its community and those in need in the face of the life-changing COVID-19 pandemic.

CSR is multi-faceted and during this crisis, everywhere that companies aim to have positive results has been affected, from safety procedures and fair worker treatment, to giving to those in need and volunteerism. With that said, adhering to corporate social responsibility programs is a top priority during this time. However, companies also have an opportunity to realign their CSR focus to address the needs of those in its immediate surroundings as well as where their efforts can make the most impact, using a delivery mechanism like their employee rewards and recognition program (R&R).

Engage Employees and Piggyback Off Their Efforts

For most CSR endeavors, a company will choose a recipient that is reflective of what their leadership supports or something that is related to their business model. For instance, a medical device manufacturer might donate to disease research centers or hospital charity programs. Pet supply stores frequently support animal shelters and humane societies.

But some worthwhile CSR recipients might be right under our noses if we tapped into what employees find value in and spend their time championing. It’s amazing how a crisis brings out the best in those around us. Take a moment to learn from employees and share in their efforts, rewarding them and offering resources for what they do outside of work. As we have witnessed during this crisis, people have stepped up to help others with ordinary tasks that now seem extraordinary, like sharing cleaning essentials or making grocery runs to help the most vulnerable. If you are part of an essential business, what workers are achieving every day has taken on a new meaning: those are no longer simple work-related achievements; those are achievements for humankind – and should be recognized as such.

Companies may consider expanding R&R efforts beyond the employee themselves to include something or someone that is important to them. Recognizing employees’ causes and charities could have a great impact, for both employee morale and the community at large. Consider it “the pay-it-forward” version of an R&R program. By honoring employees for their contribution to society and incorporating those efforts into rewards and recognition programs, companies naturally bolster corporate social responsibility efforts.

Putting Your Employees First to Serve the Greater Good

It’s important to recognize that your employee base may be in need itself. For companies that have an existing rewards and recognition (R&R) program already in place, how, what and who you recognize may alter to address critical needs during a crisis. To be clear, an R&R program is never a substitute for compensation, but it can be another avenue to emit support. While monetary rewards may be decreased due to business downtime, they could be shifted as to what they are applied to; for example, a spa gift certificate might not make much sense right now, but a subscription to a food service or Wi-fi service just might. Incentive trips may not be redeemable now or for the near future, so maybe home improvement rewards could be an alternative. Companies can also consider rewarding employees with time, or banked time, for use at a later date.

If as an organization, you have poured your resources into one or two distinct charities or causes, it’s possible to reconfigure your spend structure and incorporate those funds as transferrable within your R&R program. Companies are finding that many of the events and programs, like runs and drives, that they previously sponsored are on hold or canceled altogether. This could be an opportunity to reallocate what was earmarked to spend on a particular event to a local food drive for employees and the surrounding community.

Check with your employees on what they may be doing to support their communities and determine where as an organization you can help by providing them with any found resources. It’s a tough decision, because right now, everyone needs help and everything needs attention. But if you are using the opportunity to empower your employees to redeem these resources as part of their rewards, there could be enough to go around. If cash-flow has been impacted, organizing through volunteerism is another avenue to explore. Health safety guidelines can make certain volunteer efforts unattainable at the moment, but there are often ways that we can support our employees and what’s important to them if we think out of the box. Remember, small rewards and recognition efforts can make all the difference, especially if employees already trust that you are doing the best you can with what you have.

Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives Encourage Companies to Practice What They Preach

By supporting the causes employees contribute to, two things are accomplished: first, companies subscribe to and perpetuate an overall CSR mentality, which will make them better places to work and better members of their community; and secondly, they engage and empower employees, showing them that there is respect for what they do and their decisions are valued and shared. Those two points are the hallmark of a truly successful employee rewards and recognition program that will help a company survive a crisis.

This idea echoes our previous thoughts on what work life will be like after COVID-10 vs. before, where thinking beyond work for employees will forever change the traditional model of employee rewards and recognition programs. By investing in programs that recognize the whole being, not just the worker, the notions of employee engagement, empowerment and recognition transcends to a new level. And in a world where our actions are often viewed under a microscope, isn’t it that much more important to notice and reward the good?

At Madison, it’s not business as usual, but instead, we are focused on support. Supporting our invaluable customers by maintaining business continuity, sharing advice about new working models and providing an opportunity to connect with others. 

While you adjust to your new working routine – whether it be at home or part of an essential service - please join the conversation. Ask Madison is an opportunity to share ideas, ask questions and help create our ‘new normal’, together. We believe that employee recognition is an essential business function and that, now more than ever, it is our responsibility to celebrate each other, recognize every milestone and collaborate together—even though we may be sitting apart.

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