By Helen Morris-Brown
Business in the Community (BITC) has organised events, meetings and online debates this week to raise awareness of corporate social responsibility (CSR) trends across the UK. They have declared that 15-19 April 2013 is Responsible Business Week. Hooray!
Responsible Business Week aims to become the UK’s largest celebration of responsible business. It has been designed to raise awareness of the depth and breadth of responsible business; its transformational impact on communities; individuals and businesses; and of those pioneering companies, innovators and thinkers who are integrating responsible behaviour into all they do. Business in the Community aims to inspire businesses across the UK to help tackle some of the UK’s most pressing social and environmental issues.
At Really Responsible, we love the idea. Responsible Business Week will shine a spotlight on the powerful, positive role of business in society and those organisations and leaders who are truly transforming their companies for the benefit of their communities, employees and the environment. Really Responsible Training is supporting the week and we, like BITC, hope it will inspire many more businesses to put responsible behaviour at the heart of the way they do business.
For three years, we have been arguing for and implementing a programme which links skilled people from the commercial sector with small charities. These partnerships present an opportunity for charities to get the support they need to complete vital projects and allow the person in charge of the project to develop new skills in a meaningful way. They are not just volunteering their time to a worthy cause, they are being coached and mentored through the process. Unlike conventional volunteering programmes, the development needs of the volunteer are also taken into consideration and addressed.
When I devised the Really Responsible Leadership programme the people who held the purse strings needed convincing that this approach would improve the skills of their staff. I have had too many awkward conversations with HR professionals and directors who, despite needing innovative training solutions, resisted the idea of letting their staff work with charities on a part-time basis. Without any real evidence of how the programme would improve their staff’s skills and performance, they were resistant to making an initial investment.
However, I am delighted to say that a few loyal clients have taken a leap of faith and allocated staff to the Really Responsible Leadership programme. And we have hard evidence that it works. We now know that when you combine learning and development with CSR initiatives your staff acquire improved communication, delegation and feedback skills. And they are better at organising and planning their workload. Most importantly, these improvements last – and not just for a week or a month, as is the case with traditional training courses. Because they are supported throughout, new behaviours become habits and participants change the way they do things forever.
Based on our experience, the lessons we’ve learnt are these:
1) You’ll reap the rewards if you invite HR and CSR to work together. Training & development and CSR initiatives need not be mutually exclusive.
2) Your staff will thank you – and perform better – if you give them the opportunity to work with a charity which would benefit from their knowledge and expertise.
3) When people are given meaningful projects to complete while they are developing new skills, the learning sticks for longer.
I’m committed to the principle of sharing knowledge and skills with others and expecting nothing in return. I believe we have a moral duty to engage with our environment and community, to be responsible citizens. The truth is that you when you are involved in responsible business, the rewards are huge. In my experience you always receive more than you give. As Winston Churchill once said:
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our clients who have taken a leap of faith and, as we reach the end of the inaugural Responsible Business Week, shine a spotlight on them and their responsible business practice.
JP Boden & Co Ltd, Vanquis Bank, Sandaire – Thank you!
Let’s make every week Responsible Business Week.
Helen is the founder and Director of Really Responsible Training. She is a facilitator, trainer and learning and development specialist with over twenty years’ experience. She holds an MSc in Occupational Psychology and is accredited to deliver management and leadership qualifications for ILM and CMI. Helen is an expert in designing breakthrough interventions for business leaders with the aim of inspiring positive change.