#Digital Pro: Take Your CSR Strategy Online!
In the past major advances in manufacturing processes and technology have regularly been hailed as precursors of undesired change and upheaval. When the printing press was invented, when steam engines revolutionised factories and travelling and more recently when the Internet took off. In actual fact each such event has hailed a new period of advancement and progress, but it is always easier to recognise this with hindsight.
We now however have the chance to grasp an opportunity as it evolves by contributing to its evolution and by ensuring that it takes a shape which will benefit us all. The advent of the truly digital age has been predicted for many years, but most companies were hesitant to take the leap and were furthermore inhibited by outdated fiscal legislation and unnecessary red tape. The radical change imposed by the Covid-19 crisis changed everything practically overnight, as companies scrambled to make their teams virtually viable before the lockdown took hold. Several weeks later, it is time to assess the advantages and risks and plan for the new way of working, which can be the only logical consequence of this experience.
The context of a CSR strategy lends itself very well to such an appraisal, as it regroups all aspects of social, economic and ecological strategy whilst also taking strategic components into account. The main aim of any company is to earn money; this will be most effective if the company can count on the long-term loyalty of both its clients and employees. In order to retain the former, it will need to be flexible, innovative and reliable, surprisingly enough these are the same criteria as will ensure employee loyalty. Without a viable business model, no employee will feel able to commit, and similarly without creativity, the competition will rapidly take over the market and squeeze out other providers.
However, employees also need to feel valued and respected, which can be achieved by trusting them to meet deadlines and work independently on attributed tasks. A well-managed digital environment can make a substantial contribution to this, trading increased flexibility in terms of working hours and work place for greater flexibility in delivery and increased productivity. Many studies have shown that remote working increases productivity, this may be due to a reduction in interruptions, employees not being tired by tedious travelling, being able to take a longer break when they need it and return to a task later or simply feeling motivated to go that extra mile in return for being able to stay at home; whatever the reason there is an advantage for both parties.
According to Gallup 53% of employees would change job if another employer offered them the chance to work from home, furthermore when employees are engaged their performance soars: Highly engaged workplaces can claim 41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects, and 21% higher profitability.
The social component is obvious given the gain in flexibility and potentially in work-life balance, a happy employee is usually more dedicated and engaged than his/her disgruntled colleagues. There are of course pitfalls to be avoided, whilst finding a good balance between remote working and social interaction between team members. A regular virtual break obviously provides an excellent platform for a little social chit-chat, but does not compensate for all those chance informal exchanges of information, which can help a colleague move forward on their project of provide a much-needed flash of inspiration. To quote Smartsheet CEO Marc Mader: “Research shows that the key to helping remote workers cope with the current circumstance, and thriving in the longer-term, goes far beyond simply connecting people and teams through video-based technology. To be effective, people need to stay deeply connected to their work and the work of their teams. They also need context, structure, tracking, and visibility into their work. Providing those things is more important now than ever.”
Of course, from an ecological perspective, any reduction in travelling is inevitably good news for environmentalists and will help to make a substantial contribution to meeting climate change goals, also helping to reduce travel time for those who still have to go to their workplace. There may equally be the possibility of making working hours more flexible, allowing employees to start earlier / later to avoid the traffic or even to leave earlier to collect their children from nursery resuming work later in the evening to compensate for time lost. Each company will need to find the most appropriate models to suit their employees, but the combination of these aspects will ensure a better work-life balance and consequently ensure the overall wellbeing of the working population.
From an economic point of view, if a company decides to implement a strategy whereby most of the workforce only needs to come to work on specific days, it can also make considerable savings in energy and natural resources, not to mention the potential for reducing overall office space, thus freeing up expenditure on fixed costs for investment in R&D to generate future revenue. All of these factors will make a major contribution to the company’s long-term future success and economic viability.
Of course, there are also risks which need to be evaluated and taken into account. Employees must accept greater personal responsibility and reward their employer with the expected increase in productivity, otherwise the transition may backfire and result in increased micro-management and dissatisfaction. A carefully balanced approach combining virtual and physical presence should help to prevent a drop in overall team spirit and identification with the company, such as may be observed with entirely remote teams. BusinessWire highlighted this risk following a recent survey:
“Key findings include:
- Three-quarters of the American workforce feels less connected; young workers especially so with 82% of Generation Z and 81% of Millennials reporting this issue.
- Sixty percent of American workers feel less informed about what is going on within their company since they started working from home. Young workers feel it the most, with 74% of Generation Z and 66% of Millennials reporting this, versus 53% of Generation X and 50% of Boomers.”
From a technological point of view, everyone affected must have adequate access to the right hard and software, as well as a viable Internet connection, so that online meetings are not hampered by chopped up conversations and frozen images.
The transition must be well managed, based on a level playing field, with a clear set of guidelines and accepted objectives, this will avoid friction and clarify what is expected of each person. As with any change project, the “why” must be clearly explained, but by co-designing the strategy with the workforce based on the lessons learned from the lockdown period, this should not be an issue.
It should be easy to see that the advantages for all parties exceed any potential disadvantages and in any case the process should be agile and ongoing – open to modification at almost any given time. That said, much of the success of increased digitalisation depends on the clients’ digital and organisational maturity; if they seem on the point of falling back into the old routine of classical face to face meetings, you may have to convince them before you launch your digital image.
It is thus obvious that a CSR and a digital strategy can easily be aligned and explained to a workforce resulting in considerable advantages for both employers and employees. The team as a whole will be able to embark on the new digital adventure ready to meet the challenges ahead and to ensure that the solution works for everyone involved.
To quote John F. Kennedy “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future”.
 Is working remotely effective? Gallup research say yes. Dr Allan Hickman & Jennifer Robison 24.01.2020
 Business Wire 22.04.2020
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