Corporate Social Responsibility in Uncertain Times

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<p><strong>Purchase, N.Y. &mdash; Nov. 7</strong><br />During uncertain economic times, when workforce reductions and other cutbacks may be necessary, employers that proactively reach out to their multiple constituencies &mdash; including their employees, communities in which they do business, suppliers and opinion leaders &mdash; emerge better from such situations than organizations that do not, according to Sirota Survey Intelligence, specialists in attitude research.<br /><br />Organizations that adopt a true partnership culture &mdash; where relationships between the employer and its multiple constituencies are based on mutual trust and benefit &mdash; endure over time, according to Douglas Klein, president of Sirota Survey Intelligence.<br /><br />Organizations are never separate from the communities in which they are based; aside from the labor pool from which organizations draw employees, each company has an impact on the community in many ways, according to Klein. &ldquo;That impact &mdash; beneficial or negative &mdash; is quickly understood and communicated to other places these days, via the Internet and media. Wise organizations understand this &lsquo;partnership&rsquo; and the reciprocal nature of the relationship,&rdquo; Klein added.<br /><br />Employers should not forget that employees&rsquo; job security, and the degree to which workers perceive that their employers have a genuine interest in the welfare of the communities in which they do business, have a direct impact on employees&rsquo; overall satisfaction with their employer, according to Sirota&rsquo;s research.<br /><br />&bull;    83 percent of employees who feel secure about their jobs are also satisfied overall with their employer<br /><br />&bull;    Only 50 percent of employees who feel insecure about their jobs are satisfied overall with their employer<br /><br />&bull;    82 percent of employees who feel that their employers have a genuine interest in their communities are satisfied overall with their employer<br /><br />&bull;    Only 49 percent of employees who do not perceive their employers to be good &ldquo;corporate citizens&rdquo; are satisfied overall with their employer<br /><br />&ldquo;The true manifestation of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in practice is attending to the needs of each constituency so there is alignment and consistency between the way the organization behaves and all of those affected by its actions,&rdquo; said Klein. &ldquo;During uncertain times, decisions about the workforce and how these actions affect communities should mutually reinforce one another, rather than be adversarial,&rdquo; Klein added.<br /><br />&ldquo;An employer that treats its employees as true partners makes every effort to avoid layoffs. When it becomes necessary to reduce costs, many steps can probably be taken as an alternative to involuntary layoffs. These are known as &lsquo;rings of defense,&rsquo; or defense against involuntary terminations,&rdquo; Klein said.<br /><br />Alternatives to layoffs include:<br /><br />&bull;    Normal workforce attrition<br />&bull;    Hiring freezes<br />&bull;    Reduction in temporary employees and overtime<br />&bull;    Cutbacks in expenses<br />&bull;    Improved process efficiencies<br />&bull;    Bringing subcontracted work back in-house<br />&bull;    Across-the-board pay cuts<br />&bull;    Shortened work weeks<br />&bull;    Voluntary unpaid leaves of absence<br /><br />If these steps are not enough to avoid involuntary layoffs, the input of employees, surrounding communities and other constituencies needs to be measured before, during and after taking action, according to Klein.<br /><br />&ldquo;Surveying employees to assess their views provides important information to assist in managing through the process, and their involvement is an excellent example of partnership in action. Employees themselves can be a source of many useful suggestions about how to best handle the situation, and they are one of the best monitors of the effectiveness of steps taken,&rdquo; Klein said.<br /><br />According to Sirota&rsquo;s research, an organization&rsquo;s relationship with its communities is as important in uncertain times as is the relationship with its employees. &ldquo;Involving key community members to seek their views about proposed changes, such as cutbacks in charitable contributions, can alert companies to any unintended consequences. Input can come from opinion leaders, community organizations and the general public. The key is to make needed changes in alignment with the needs of the community, rather than trying to decide what&rsquo;s best for them. Then, measuring again after the changes have been made provides feedback as to whether these changes are actually having the desired impact,&rdquo; Klein said. <br /><br />Changes and plans that affect one constituency must be communicated to all other stakeholders as well. &ldquo;It is vital that the organization is viewed as engaging in even-handed, participative efforts that minimize any negative impact,&rdquo; Klein said. </p>

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