CSR for small business

I have realised – over the past decade – how fast the concerns over the impact of business on our society and planet has emerge as a topic for every type of business. Big or small, leaders are now required to « care » more than ever.
From Child labor to #equalpay, from recycling to education for all, companies can have an amazing role in contributing while improving their balance sheet. This is a quick guide on how to kick start your initiative.

Combining this with the emerging capacity to check on companies promises vs their engagements and values; it is becoming more and more difficult to present a strait face and propose nothing.

  • It does not look good to future clients,
  • it does not look good for future employees,
  • it does not look good as a business leader in its field.

What is CSR ?

Corporate Social Responsibility = is a self regulation that aims to contribute to a better relation between a private business and its environment (physical or social) : it gives room for business to take an active part into societal, environmental and philanthropic projects as landmark of their engagement.

Keep in mind that CSR is not a cost line, it is an approach that can change some company set ups. It would actually lead to savings, lower employees’ turn over and greater business prospects (studies shows)

Why is CSR good?

Because any longe term planner knows that to keep a business floating, it needs a healthy working environment. And green washing is not a fix. Large businesses are looking into their partners to offer some of their own CSR relief (see guide below) so small businesses have to come equipped with solutions on their field of activity. it won’t be a competitive advantage, but it could soon be a form of obligation. 

Once out of the pack thanks to CSR, your business can leverage it with its clients and new businesses

But where to start ?

Let’s build up a simple step-by-step guide on the low hanging fruits towards building a no-nonsense CSR plan that can also gives you an edge in terms of business:

  1. Review your internal processes
    • Do you consume intrant material? water? chemicals? power? Can this consumption be reduced?
    • Do you generate waste? what is done with it?
    • Where is your office, how employees come to work? where do they eat?
  2. Review your external partnerships
    • What are your providers certification and environmental labels ?
    • Do they have their own CSR plan?
    • Have you set up requirements for them?
  3. Engage your employees
    • Are your employees feeling concerned by CSR?
    • Is your appraisal process including CSR questions ?
    • Does any of your employees already leading an initiative or willing to participate into developing one?
  4. Choose your engagements
    • Which of your company values resonate with environmental issue?
    • Does your industry struggle with a particular societal problem?
    • Does your office / business is located in an area which could benefit from local support?

Building this analysis can lead to clear first steps to improve the company impact, your providers relationships and the employees engagement. Maybe nothing clear emerges straightaway? Then we can suggest to help with a workshop session aiming to define long term company goals around positive issues based on the analysis. We believe that one day of focus can unleash a great set of empowering propositions to place your business in the right universe of work for good.

Do not hesitate to be in touch.

Building employer’s image

Companies can spend a lot on their human resources without major results or improvement as they do not always align their recruitment strategy and corporate culture to the type of employees they wish to recruit and keep.

Two sets of benefits are usually considered:
Financial benefits and incentives
– Pay
– Bonus
– Health insurance
– Stocks or shares
– Pension funds
Non financial benefits
– Working culture : flexible hours and or work space, horizontal, collaboration, rewards
– Employee development plan: training development program, etc.
– Offices, infrastructures and working material
– Diversity of missions and tasks
– Perks : gym membership, transportation cards or credits

Companies believed in the right combination of financial and perks to build the right market traction to the desired talents. Developing an employment branding requires to establish the HR strategy that will define the pillars of the communications.

This HR strategy includes to work on the following aspect before being able to move forward on establishing this communication strategy.

  1. Understanding the Company current working culture and habits, image to candidates and employees.
  2. Assess their needs and opportunities to improve -> can something be changed, improved or stopped within the current process.
  3. Defining the type of profile the company wishes to attract and retain on the short and long term
  4. Understanding the type of benefits and perks these ideal talents are attracted by.
  5. Assessing the market and competition to define the right packages.

Historically, employees used to focus on long term objectives appreciating good pension fund or health, clear career steps and loyalty from employers, accepting lower revenues or other benefits in exchange of security and visibility.

Now Millennials are constantly on the look up for better opportunities, the most talented are not risk averse. Their loyalty is not only based on the money making potential of a job, but also the pride and attractiveness of the company name in the eyes of their community.

With the emergence of crowdsourced content management on social media and web platforms, any candidates can check the credentials of companies as potential employers – how their business behave on the market, with its employees and clients and what is their general footprint on the market.

Ambitious companies – whatever their size – cannot afford anymore to overlook their HR strategy if they wish to ease and save money on their recruitment processes.

That is to say, companies now have to « walk the talk » to convince their young talent to engage with them and participate into the process, as well as present a leverage to increase loyalty hence reducing turnover.

Then the strategy team can move forward on work the communication brief to address HR related topics starting with :

  • Get adoption from the management for the needs and reasons to implement a company employment branding
  • Define the relevant environments and subjects that resonate with your desired recruits and market.
  • Build an internal messaging and benefit for current employees which includes their participation into the strategy – internal engagement is the most powerful recruitment tool.
  • Set up the company external communications channels
  • Develop a dashboard presenting the relevant KPIs of the business for HR communication to pilot the strategy.

We are happy to provide you more guidance on the preparation and the implementation of your employment branding. Contact me anytime.

Finding the right team members

“We need to hire someone more senior for this role” is a phrase I have heard my whole agency life. But what means “being senior” in a business,

“We need to hire someone more senior for this role” is a phrase I have heard my whole agency life. Often, the choice is right and the person fulfil her role with professionalism. Still, we sometimes end up with a deceptive and ill-adapted solution where the person is not equipped to fill it mission, however senior s.he is.

This can have a devastating on the level of service on the short term and quality of the business relationship on the long run, I have experienced it first hand lately and it took me to reflect on the roots of the problem we faced.

Why recruitment does not always work and how to address it?

Analysing the internal issues we faced, I realised that this seniority definition is divided into the following pillars:

  • Expertise/ Skillset: based on the pure technical know how and specificities of an industry or a solution. Someone who is certified or accredited in a particular area of work. The more senior one’s get the deeper one’s knowledge is.
  • Experience: based on the length of someone’s acquaintance with a sector, a role or a situational environment which makes one’s knowledge about the potential outcome and necessities of the future role.
  • Values: based on the capacity to take ownership of a role and resolve to address any issues coming with it, including potentially managing team members.

I gather that each role does not require to reach the same level in each of these pillars. But the company needs have to be clear what the job requires.

How do you get the assessment right ? I read a lot of HR and Coaching blog to address this and the actual best advice I found is the following: Use your team members to confirm and clarify the role needs and values as the doers are the best persons to understand the role needed and the mistakes not to be made (again).

That includes :

  • Build a precise role description
  • Advertise it properly: internally and externally
  • Assess the applicant on those necessary pillars:
    • Expertise : check it skills with a test – does he have to master excel ? web based and/or collaborative tools ?
    • Experience: check with its old employer and work history
    • Persona : how does he cope with stress ? with other team members ? with stakeholders at all levels of the hierarchy ?
  • Do not underestimate practicalities : other job offers ? does he have to move in town ? where is his.her family?

As a manager, it is essential to clarify if your HR process is covering these 4 elements or needs to be cover by you. at the end of the day, the manager can sometimes « inherit » a team member he has not selected and end up not being able to keep its standard of service and productivity because of an ill prepared recruitment process.

When recruiting for your company is difficult, it can also emerge from the external outlook of your company as a good place to work.

Large businesses address this as part of their corporate communications strategy to support recruitment effort of qualified personnel.

If you are facing recruitment issues, and need support in building a recruitment strategy, do not hesitate to share your questions with us. we are always happy to help.

Stopping micro-management

Lately I tried micro management, and it was not a major success.

I experience some flaws in a colleagues work, mistake and oversights, on matters wich concerned my unit. I asked around to find out if that was common in his work for other teams and it appears that it was. The lad was overworked, overstressed and in a few weeks from his holidays. Everyone was hoping of a quick recovery after this break. I then chose to micromanage him until the break. This entailed:

  • Checking various times a day that he has done what he promised, to guarantee on time delivery,
  • Booking time slot reminder in his diary for missions he was supposed to execute with my team, to guarantee fulfillments,
  • Reading the correspondance he sent in my teams name, to ensure clarity and exactness,
  • Pulling him off any non priority projects, to release some pressure on his shoulder;

Despite my efforts, I missed a major misunderstanding of my colleague, leading to larger problem that the client did not appreciate. We could resolve the problem before anything major occurred. I had the feeling I wasted a lot of time in supervising to avoid the unavoidable. I face criticisms despite my every efforts which had a taste of injustice but they were actually right in a sense.

I was completely mislead – as we sat in the same briefing and received the same next steps – to believe we both understood the outcome. Micromanaging made me believe I was on top of things, where I was not as the problem was already there before I started. No one can rewrite the past, so i took on the lesson and make sure I understand the most important parameters before managing the execution.

Now, I am working on my method, involving a step by step approach :

  • Preparation first to ensure deep understanding,
  • Assessing the knowledge necessary to execute the task,
  • Brief the team to get them to comprehend the whole picture,
  • Assign an owner to deepen
  • Make sure the team has the elements to move forwards owing their mission,
  • Be present for the team to help with decisions when experience is needed
  • Support workload to guarantee timely delivery.

Changing is hard, even for an adaptable person. I am keen on efficiency and I do hope people will crave understanding which would force me into explaining every single details, but they don’t always have this level of natural engagement. I need to ground myself to be meticulously sharing details and cues for my team to feed on. At the same time I am afraid of information overload which could lead them to more confusion, hence my habit of not giving too much at a time.

I would love to have your experience on how you manage the project setting in a complex environment with limited ressources, I am sure some around have useful tricks and solutions which would apply to all. Do not hesitate to share.

Time Management

As a kid, my dad always says : “we all have 24 hours in a day, you cannot say you did not HAVE the time to do this. You are the one to choose your priorities”

Being repeated this often anchored it into my heart and soul: we choose what we do of our time!

Time is the only commodity we cannot trade, save for the future, or buy back.

So what is the link with priorities? Now that we acknowledge that time runs and can’t be influenced, how come Bill Gates is him and I am me and not the contrary?

Focus vs multi-tasking

The more task you do simultaneously, the more time they take. Be conservative in estimating the time you need to do each action then add a good 30% when you try to do it at the same time as another time. Is that worth it? Only multi-task actions that require none of your attention.

For instance, I set « offline time » during which I do not refresh emails while producing content, this avoids loosing focus. I allow distractions while replying to communications which require little attention.

Procrastinating vs deep thinking

My sister always says that you are faster and more efficient when you know you have built a clear vision of the outcome. Then she says that one can use time to think through what needs to be done before starting.

I believe that – instead of dwelling in front of a blank sheet – it is a better use of your time to do any brainless tasks while thinking about your next mission: many studies says that repetitive tasks free mental space and relax the brain… You won’t feel like procrastinating anymore – and forget the guilt that goes with it – as you are moving the work to a new dimension.

Be careful though, this does not work for taxes.

Money vs time

How much is your time worth ? I really mean money wise… Do you feel that you could make more money out of this time than do your current task, maybe you should delegate it then.

What one doesn’t buy with money, one pays with your own time.

Some moments are priceless, these are the ones you wish to keep most of the rest can go. Your definition of priceless is unique : maybe that is organising a party for your family or be the key speaker at TED, what is important is your conscious choice of investing in these moments.

For instance, accounting is not my thing, I would hire someone just to sort my invoices and keep track of payments. This blog is also my priceless moment, I do it for me to create space for others as well.

Obviously, that list can go on ! Do not hesitate to comment on your way to build priorities.

Asking questions

Man should rather spend an hour with a wise man than ten years in books.

A Chinese proverb

As an unexperienced adult, I was not afraid to ask questions as I did not have much to loose. It was easy to ask but it did not always mean that young people have the right questions just yet. When one grows old, one may have the right questions but not always the will to risk anything to obtain an answer.

Everyone should believe in its own right to become a better person by learning something new everyday – the easy way to do this is actually to ask questions.

By asking questions, I realised that the majority of my surroundings were happy to share answers, experiences, information and even personal wisdom. This can create a virtuous circle that give again more will to ask, but also accept when there is not a positive feedback. I am grateful everyday for the chance I have to be so well supported and equipped with others knowledge to move forwards.

Spanish are pragmatic, they have a proverb which reads “el no ja lo tienes “: the “no” you already have. I have to admit that it came in my life as a revelation of something I know deep in my heart but had not yet put words on.

Go ahead – ask – nothing is to be lost anyway.

If you need one extra reason for asking questions, remember that it keeps the conversation going between you and your network.

« What to ask? » one might say.

In a professional context, there are 4 simple starting points:

  • Example: when explained a theory, one can believe it is clear, but examples are never useless to picture clearly.
  • Context: when describe a situation or told an experience, the teller do not always provide context and usually have one angle of view. Do not hesitate to question context to understand better where the story comes from.
  • Outcome: what happen after the end of the story ? What were the consequences or learning to take out of the story.
  • Resource: if the topics interests you, do not hesitate to request extra material and ressources to get a deeper understanding of it.

In a personal context or during networking events or ice-breaking exercise, you may need to include other types of questions.

Check the following lists as fun to read as it can be awkward to use, but it gives you some good examples.

Receiving feedback

If you wish to develop your business and select the right new products to put on the market it is usual to know how to read the trends and listen to your customers, every good business books would tell you that.
We are now more than ever requested to provide feedback on about everything we are using, reading, hearing, tasting or living. Why some are better than other to leverage clients experience? Obtaining useful feedback from clients current or past is not always as easy as it looks.

Transparency is key in building trust.

Here are a few tricks to get you started on the right path:

  • Ask the questions you plan to act on but be open to suggestions:

If you do not plan on updating your advertising campaign, do not question your clients about it. Be clear about the objective of the questionnaire, for interviewee to have full visibility and understanding on what they are expected to talk about and do not deviate from it. Leave an open field for extra comment.

  • Define clear order to avoid bias in writing the questions:

As in Journalism, if you survey your client asking them first what are the worst experience they had with your brand they may end up use it as the thread to your whole questionnaire. Build your questionnaire from generic to specific.

  • Find a format that is comfortable for the interviewee not for you:

Clear questions alternating open and closed options with no space for interpretation helps the interviewee to feel useful in it feedback. it is also important to provide an easy to fill format – for example an online questionnaire which work on mobile, over the phone or a face to face interview where the interviewer record the answers to avoid time wasted waiting for him to write.

  • Offer a real space to give honest / negative feedback:

Anonymising a questionnaire, orchestrate it by a person with no relations with the interviewee or reward any feedback with a donation to your charity of choice is the best way to improve honesty. No-one wants to hurt a relationship by being brutally honest to a known face or leaving its name behind that could damage business relations.

As customers we are always more willing to share along negative comments, less when we are satisfied, it is essential to encourage feedback at all time, and a good way to start is to clearly state how long it will take the interviewee.

And as always, you may offer to provide the person with general information on how this is going to be used.

Please do not hesitate to share your feedback in the comment space below, anonymously or not. It is useful, appreciated even when critics are offered when are they constructive, and will be acted upon!

Thanks 🙂

Writing for corporate

I created a piece of corporate comms eight years ago – for a former employer – to promote well the doers in our field in a qualitative format: a well designed magazine sent to our database (5000 people) was chosen. This was a success so it was maintained as an annual rendez-vous of the sector. Eight years later this format is too crowded and cluttered.

They lately asked me how to improve it, It made me realised how easy a successful editorial rendez-vous can loose its impact with time.

Corporate editorial here is about what the company wishes to convey not advertising to the masses. There are three basic tricks in this areas that can quickly make the difference to set something up and successfully sell it to the board:

  • Assess purpose within context

Keep track of the objectives behind any piece of communication that goes to the public – when the universe involves the tools to communicate should evolve with it in the flow when you do not wish to disrupt or disruptively when you wish to.

  • Define relevant audience and how to attract them

One should ask oneself : Who should read it? What should expect to get out of it? vs. who reads me and what do they want to read or see?

  • Structure content in the relevant format to ease memorisation

How do you read best a data heavy piece of content? or a visual representation? Are the key messages analytical or deductive? What is the way your desired audience is used to receive this type of information? do not hesitate to split on different formats.

Assessing the impact of a format has become easy with the development of feedback app and web-based survey software to obtain unbiased and useful feedback that would serve your purpose. It is paramount to act on, not only consult. If one spend time in advising you, you must at least let one know what you plan on doing with it.

The magazine format is very efficient, but the content have to be purposed to have its traction with people who wish long and deep reading. It is a matter of working out whether it make sense for what the company wants to convey, and be established it back where it belongs.

If you feel your corporate communications tools needs a revamp, do not hesitate to get in touch, we can help.