On a global level, companies find themselves at an inflexion point. The fourth industrial revolution is, perhaps, the biggest revolution of all when it comes to the professional world. Technological development and the emergence of new business models are bringing about, and will continue to bring about, changes of such a magnitude that they have forced us to rethink the relationship between companies and society from an ethical point of view. This new era has great emancipatory power, but only if we can find the right language and policies for everyone.
Although the general belief is that the industrial revolution will mean diminishing importance of people in favor of automation and robotization, an analysis that looks to the past, present and future clarifies two things: that work is one of the essential pillars of our lives, and that people, a.k.a. talent, play a fundamental role in organizations.
However the future turns out, people will be necessary, and however robots might feel about it, the only way to attract and retain human talent will be through a strong social and human side of companies.
“The world will always need human brilliance, human ingenuity and human skills”. Brad Keywell, Co-founder and CEO, Uptake.
What does this entail? It means that without a doubt, and for reasons we will explore later in this article, the companies that will thrive in the future will be those whose fundamental purpose responds to social demands and connects employee expectations to achieving a greater goal.
Diversity and transparency as a responsible business strategy
The process companies are undergoing regarding diversity reflects the paradigm shift taking place in Corporate Social Responsibility (including a revision of its name) and its undeniable impact on all critical aspects of business life and health, with a special emphasis on talent. CSR has ceased being a simple initialism, instead becoming part of the fundamental purpose at the very heart of organizations. In recent years, we have seen it go from being a department with NGO-like airs, often with barely one professional, to a fundamental part of business strategy and stakeholder relations. This will only increase with time.
“The future is the dream of those who invent it”
Today, we see an encouraging phenomenon in which CSR is undergoing a transformation similar to that of transparency, moving from “accessory” to “essential.” It has gone from being a single department to being part of an organization’s purpose, occupying a position at the core of its activity.
The talent perspective
With respect to employees, corporate social responsibility is one of the decisive factors when it comes to communicating company values, mission and vision. Sharing this fundamental purpose makes it easier for employees to feel fulfilled in their day-to-day work, helping them understand how their work makes the world a better place.
A total of 84 percent of young people say they would not work for a company whose values they did not share. Since millennials will represent 75 percent of the labor force by 2025, it is evident that the intangible aspect of companies is crucial when it comes to attracting the necessary talent to survive.
This implies that people should not put aside their passions, interests, tastes and feelings when they walk through the front door; On the contrary, they should be able to channel all their humanity in the workplace. Ultimately, bringing your whole self to work truly implies bringing all our passions, interests, ideals and thoughts to the table—everything that definitively makes us human.
Purpose and engagement
Today’s professionals, and especially young professionals, need something more than a paycheck at the end of the month. They need to feel proud of what they are doing and know their efforts contribute meaningfully to a company whose values they share.
With this in mind, it is not particularly surprising to hear that 80 percent of people ages 13 to 25 want to work for a company concerned about its impact on and contribution to society. This data does, however, constitute an alarm bell for companies who still see CSR as a simple resource, or even a necessary evil. The best talent, capable of committing to leading a company and achieving great things, requires its efforts serve a purpose greater than business objectives—a nonfinancial purpose.
How to integrate CSR in the core of the company
As we have discussed throughout the text, in a future with increased digitalization and robotization, it is the human side of talent that will make the difference. Companies will have to work to attract and retain committed talent that, increasingly, seek positions where employees can bring their whole selves to work. In this context, CSR must be integrated into the very heart of the company. Without attempting to provide a magic formula, we would like to mention some key aspects of this process.
1) Defining company purpose
Integrating CSR into company strategy and purpose must begin with an honest analysis of corporate impact. Ask yourself, “What is my role as a company in the social structure?” All businesses generate goods and services that impact the environments and people around them, generating changes in how we relate to the world.
Dove, for example, was able to see how access to its products has a major impact, going beyond greenwashing, aesthetic or environmental questions to launch a daring campaign seeking to improve the self-esteem of women around the world.
2) Building a narrative
It is fundamental to build a powerful narrative around the proposal, one that permeates company discourse with all interest groups. CSR should be integrated into this narrative as one of the pillars for building confidence, reputation and employee engagement.
CSR communications must, therefore, form part of the corporate narrative, with a special emphasis on addressing both existing and prospective talent. It must also be part of the company’s expansion strategy.
3) A new leadership model
To bring CSR to your company’s strategic center, it is key to be able to rely on the support and drive of senior management. Leadership style is evolving away from authoritarian to a transformative, collaborative one oriented toward generating excellence and talent. CSR is weighted increasingly high in this model, as seen in the 2015 Harvard Business Review, which included ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) criteria for the first time in its “Best-Performing CEOs in the World” ranking.
To drive a sense of responsibility in an organization, the leader must make use of their leadership skills, understood as their capacity to influence others to reach an objective or complete a shared project
4) Involving talent in the transformation
The role talent must play allows staff to articulate their personal passions and expectations through their work. As such, it is important to develop a CSR strategy that offers employees opportunities to feel company values directly.
Traditionally, companies have responded to this need through voluntary corporate activities with little or nothing to do with employees’ day-to-day work. But today, the trend is to integrate responsibility and purpose into the routine, creating a culture and business organization in which employees “feel inspired to make responsible decisions, share knowledge and act in accordance with social values and collective company interest.”
5) Transforming the organization
Organizational transformation can contribute to facilitating responsible behavior models and linking talent to corporate purpose. Mechanisms such as codes of ethics and regular evaluation, promotion and remuneration in a framework that includes CSR criteria have proven to be efficient in this goal. In Spain, 82 percent of companies already link variable remuneration to these principles for senior-level management.
Bringing talent closer to the heart of the company
In the Corporate Register, there are currently over 89,000 CSR reports from over 14,000 companies. Although necessary, this shows the importance of exploring new ways to communicate sustainability. Companies are increasingly generating dialogue around their activities, taking advantage of new platforms, such as social media, for example.
CSR is not a fad or a trend. It is the way companies choose to perform, and the best talent is committed to it. Attracting and retaining it largely depends on whether they can share in it, so companies must step up.
This report counted with the collaboration of Alba Herrero, Consultant at the CSR and Corporate Foundations at LLORENTE & CUENCA; and Alejandro Cerqueira, Consultant at Organizations and Persons Area at LLORENTE & CUENCA.