CSRinsights: You Can’t Make Everyone Happy

But you can try your hardest! It may not (technically) be in your job description, but corporate social responsibility creates employee passion and happiness. Learn the obstacles that prevent mass happiness and turn them into solutions.

As much as we continuously seek to make everybody happy in the workplace, it ends up feeling next to impossible. Sound familiar? However challenging the feat may be, it‟s something every corporate culture aims to achieve. Some may even say that employee happiness is a corporate responsibility. Therefore, a lot of the happiness hype falls upon the shoulders of you – within CSR and the employee engagement sector.

Happiness increases with philanthropy and volunteerism, making CSR a key player in enabling employees to feel valued, have a higher sense of self-perception and life happiness in general. In addition, CSR participation contributes to psychological and emotional links between the employee and their employer and organizational commitment. The advantage to all this (happiness and the challenge of making it widespread) is that positive employees outperform negative employees in terms of productivity, sales, energy levels, turnover rates and healthcare costs.

That being said, the stakes are high in ensuring that we make as many people happy, as often as possible. Perhaps difficult, or even impossible, but we‟ve identified four obstacles that make the happiness feat challenging.

Here’s how you can turn these obstacles into motivating factors that lead to opportunities and solutions:

1. Obstacle One: Diversity

Diversity, as its name suggests, brings a variety of opinions, expectations and cultural norms in the workplace, which naturally create differences and added difficulty to making the masses happy. What makes one person happy could very well be unacceptable for others. What is important for one group may be irrelevant for the rest. It‟s hard to meet the individual requirements and needs of each person when they could be polar opposites and conflicting.

Therefore, diversity requires multi-dimensional decision-making that factors and accounts for many angles, requirements, and perspectives that will inevitably be faced while crafting solutions, messaging, and execution of programs. The most important note to take away from diversity is that just giving an employee some space to educate or express their differences can be a solution. If they know that management understands the importance of their differences and respects them, it will not only make them happy but more comfortable in the workplace.

Today, enterprises are expanding the focus on Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to address diversity needs and unique, specific interests. Corporations seek additional methods whereby individuals are able to freely discuss and participate in activities unique to their culture, heritage, and background – and by doing so – strive to deliver additional organizational inclusion and overall support.

Within ERGs, program administrators, planners, and organizers can utilize the insights and perspectives from the associated diverse audiences to both understand and educate. Benefit from the ERGs existing communication circles to relay the companies CSR goals, program objectives, and other related organizational efforts. Likewise, make it known to ERG leads that they have a green light to vocalize their opinions and ideas and share them for future program decisions. Allowing them to contribute (no matter how unique it is) will boost their individual motivation and overall happiness.

2. Obstacle Two: Expectations

With the ongoing growth in capabilities spurred by new technologies, devices, and services, individual expectations have never been greater or more diverse. It‟s only going to continue this path for the foreseeable future — a fact that should be accepted and embraced. Therefore, the real challenge lays in how our programs best meet (or even exceed) the expectations of our audience. More importantly, how can we keep up with the ongoing expectations, whereby satisfaction is inevitably changing as well?

To begin answering that question, we need to clearly communicate capabilities and expectations between all parties involved. CSR program managers must clearly define all program guidelines and couple those with as much reasoning and explanation as to why each are in place. Avoid the “I didn‟t know” scenario from your employees as much as possible – as those are clear signs that you have failed to properly get your message out there.

For example, if your company only wants to support nonprofits who work with K-12 education, then explain why the company chooses to support it and what the impact has been. Inevitably, not everyone will agree. There will be people who prefer to support higher collegiate education instead. Thus, provide inspiring content that can motivate employees to care about the company‟s education initiatives and feel a sense of belonging to the cause. Ensure that you have opened up a clear line of communication with the rest of the company that allows others to properly educate you to what their expectations are. Often times, some of the best ideas come from those whom you would least expect it from. Give that channel, and remain open to hearing what others may have to say, using it to craft and mold the future of your programs. At the end of the day, an employee‟s strong expectations can be swayed if they fully comprehend.

3. Obstacle Three: Passion

The entire concept of YourCause was started on passion – passion to help a little boy from Uganda who was subjected to conditions that were simply unimaginable. An individual‟s passion can be a very powerful thing, and if harnessed correctly, can go a long ways to positively impact, inspire, and influence others in doing good. However, passion, which typically manifests itself individualistically, will inherently mean that an employee is truly only interested in how your programs do if you directly support the cause/effort for which they are most passionate about. Other‟s interest quickly becomes a non-priority. Effectively leveraging such „passionate energy,‟ is key to formulate programs that are, by design, geared toward universal support despite any one specific interest.

Ensure (and as mentioned above) that the capabilities, limitations, and overall expectations are clearly communicated – steering passionate employees in a direction where they are encouraged to dispense their energy and excite others toward engagement. Even if pleasing those with utmost passion may be few and far between, utilize the energy from such employees so that it can be used as a genuine asset to the ongoing expansion and growth of your programs. It‟s safe to say that most employees have a passion to be part of a company that provides vibrant, successful, do-good CSR programs. Achieve that and you will find happiness at the end of the road. After all, they say passion and happiness are just two sides of the same coin.

4. Obstacle Four: Limitations

Despite what some may believe, or want to believe, every program/tool has its limitations. Financially, technologically, strategically, or even socially, limitations are unavoidable and definitive. Often times, limitations are the primary contributor towards an employee‟s overall displeasure – even if such limitations are out of our control.

Many times, an individual will accept the companies and/or program limitations once they are clearly understood. This means the need to effectively communicate, educate, and understand (a frequent theme of our CSRinsights) the limitations in place. Spend the time to document and communicate the parameters for which you execute your programs. Then, broadcast the limitations that must be known by all participants. Although others may not love the „limitations,‟ with understanding and clarity, you can reduce the level of displeasure and unhappiness.

Kim, Hae-Ryong, Moonkyu Lee, Hyoung-Tark Lee, and Na-Min Kim. “Corporate Social
Responsibility and Employee-Company Identification.” Journal of Business Ethics 95 (2010):557-69. Springer.


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