Feature Article - May/June 2018

Motivation With Purpose

Corporate Social Responsibility in Rewards & Recognition

By Brian Summerfield

Putting It All Together

For companies that are on board with CSR incentives and are ready to get started, there are a few points to keep in mind. First, don't try to do it all at once. The main thing at the beginning is to focus your efforts primarily on a cause that's a natural fit for your company's purpose and culture.

"It's perfectly fine to start small," Zurek said. "What's most important is that it feels genuine for the organization. It should never just be about checking a box or getting photo ops to highlight on your website."

Another critical element for CSR rewards early on is communication, both for redemption and branding efforts.

"The communication piece is key for making it work," Valenti said. "It's really important to have it positioned well so that people can learn about it, and it doesn't get lost in a sea of other items. It's not just another thing in the catalog. It actually has meaning and affects people's lives. I think all of us could do a better job in putting that story together."

Though corporate social responsibility, or CSR, by no means dominates the awards landscape, it has slowly and steadily built up a presence in this space.

"Make sure you're promoting the story of impact to your employees, because they are your best brand advocates," Manning said. "If you're spreading the good news of how your company is impacting the world, they will tell the world."

Also, support from leadership early on can help these programs get off the ground, Zurek said. Ideally, executives will not only be advocates for these awards, but also serve as a model by participating in some way.

"Leadership involvement is so critical," she explained. "The executives at your company need to support this as well. They set a really strong example of both the organization's commitment and showing that it's okay to take time away from your day-to-day jobs to give back in a more meaningful way. It enhances the level of acceptance and adoption."

It's even better if leadership has organizational ownership of these and other incentives, Manning added.

"The companies that say, 'The way we motivate our people is a leadership issue'—I find those are the ones that are doing it right," she said. "They're actually asking the question, 'How do we allow our people to be rewarded and incentivized to give back?'"

Over time, as interest builds and these awards become accepted, you should add more options like them to your incentive programs. Fortunately, there's no shortage of ways to do this. You can find platforms that allow your employees to donate points to hundreds of established charities in a variety of areas, across the country and around the world, as they see fit. Beyond that, there's a range of opportunities, ranging from traveling to exotic destinations for volunteer work to purchasing merchandise that's made of sustainable materials.

One of the newer approaches to CSR in the incentives space is "responsive" awards, which allow employees, teams and organizations to donate points and cash to disaster relief efforts and other timely forms of assistance, right when help is needed the most.

"Some of the ways we've seen [those incentives] used is when a national disaster happens, like the hurricanes we had last year, team members were able to contribute points toward those recovery efforts," Zurek said. "That's always a great option to have."

"These are things that impact your employees," Manning said. "If you have a platform or program or anything that enables you to respond in real time and allow your employees to give back to charitable initiatives around those things, that's a powerful approach to CSR."