Engaging Employees Around Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programs

By Susan Tinnish Advisory Group Chair, Vistage | August 31, 2014

Since Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) emerged in the 1950s (De Bakker, Groenewegen & Den Hond, 2005), it has moved from an ideology to voluntary and relatively uncoordinated practices to a reality in today's contemporary business practices. Corporate programs cover a wide range of issues including employee relations, human rights, corporate ethics, human trafficking, community relations and environmental concerns. For the purpose of this article, the author chose to define CSR as a framework which integrates economic, social and environmental issues into the strategic direction, decisions, goals, and operations of an organization.

Maon, Lindgreen and Swaen's (2009) integrative framework for designing and implementing CSR includes the following steps:

Step 1: Raising CSR awareness inside the organization;

Step 2: Assessing corporate purpose in its societal context;

Step 3: Establishing a vision and a working definition for CSR;

Step 4: Assessing CSR status;

Step 5: Developing a CSR-integrated strategic plan;

Step 6: Implementing a CSR integrated strategic plan;

Step 7: Communicating about CSR commitments and performance;

Step 8: Evaluating CSR integrated strategies and communication; and

Step 9: Institutionalizing CSR.

One challenge for hotels is to gain real traction for programs throughout their hotel base. That challenge exists for a variety of reasons including: the ownership structure of hotel properties, communication among the many brands and properties, integration with unit-level strategy, and employee engagement. This article addresses the topic of engaging employees in CSR programs. Employee engagement is a concept with limited research and empirically-demonstrated evidence (Macey & Schneider, 2008, p. 3-4). They note that the components of engagement, as well as the potential precursors (antecedents) and consequences of engagement have not been rigorously conceptualized or studied. Their framework attempted to remedy this gap in the literature. Using the Macey and Schneider framework as a basis, this article delves into employee engagement for CSR programs. Before providing employee engagement suggestions, the next section outlines Macey and Schneider's framework.

Employee Engagement

Macey and Schneider (2008, p. 4) present a conceptual framework for engagement which includes three components: (1) psychological state engagement; (2) behavioral engagement; and (3) trait engagement. (See Figure 1.) When people are engaged psychologically they are absorbed, attached and enthusiastic. From an organizational perspective, engaged employees display job satisfaction, organizational commitment, empowerment, and job involvement (p. -6-7). Engagement behaviors include behaving innovatively, demonstrating initiative, proactively seeking opportunities to contribute, and going beyond what is expected or required. Trait engagement comprises conscientiousness, a proactive personality, and working for the good of the organization. Thus employees with these traits work in positive, active, adaptive and energetic ways to meet organizational needs (Macey & Schneider, 2008, p. 6-7).

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.