Integrating CSR into people management

Incorporating CSR principles into human resource policy is not an easy task if these do not form an integral part of the company’s vision statement and are in line with its business strategy. In order for these values to permeate through the decision-making chain, they must be incorporated into the mission and vision statements of the company and be transparent. If, on the other hand, these principles are incorporated into the business objectives themselves, it is interesting to verify how these translate into specific actions which improve the working environment and how the company improves its performance.

Focusing on the most important aspects of people management policy, particularly relevant aspects are the recruitment or selection processes; the processes of training and professional development; rewards and benefits; promotions; job negotiation, etc.  These improvements in human resources are aimed at obtaining an increase in social and economic efficiency, through the greater enrichment of tasks; improvements in general working conditions; encouraging of creativity and initiative; working in a team; progression in social aspects; in the professional development of staff; etc.

Programs aimed at motivation, for the atmosphere and culture within the company play a leading role, and are given much more attention than ever before. Where previously a formal style of order and authority prevailed, the emphasis has become more focused on concepts of leadership, responsibility, delegation, innovation, etc.

In this regard, it is not necessary for businesses to change the tools with which they manage their human resources, but to ensure that their performance methods are transparent and just as efficient on a social level as an economic one. In other words, that they are based on fair and rational decisions while also socially responsible ones.

It goes without saying that all of this does not have to mean no longer defending the interests of other stakeholders in the company such as shareholders. But, it does mean finding the right balance between both efficiencies (social and economic). This adjustment in interests can be achieved by applying a policy that is coherent with these principles, and implementing balanced performance programs.

Therefore, in terms of people management, the most powerful tool that we are referring to, in order to achieve this balance is Human Resource Planning (HRP). New social responsibility concepts need to be added to the general objective of HRP, which come under the category of social efficiency. The new HRP is defined from a perspective of anticipating the future evolution of human resources in companies, and by implementing socially responsible processes, obtaining an optimum adaptation to existing needs at any given time. In this way, it intends to respond to the main issues that people management presents, both in a quantitative and a qualitative way, from a perspective of economic efficiency, but without forgetting the aspects of social balance in the company.

HRP offers different types of action plans: for personnel (optimization), employee needs, recruitment or downsizing, staff promotion, training requirements, cost of personnel, salaries, etc. Just as Eugenio Recio explains in his work on HRP, for each decision to be made on any of the processes, we must ask ourselves the following questions: How many? Which ones? When, where and for whom? And then for each answer, ask ourselves whether it is socially responsible or not, as a type of filter. By doing this, the result we are looking for, according to Recio himself, will be true to the slogan “the right person, for the right job at the right time”, and I will be able to add “in a socially responsible model”. Ultimately, making socially fair decisions in order to provide the company -within a determined time horizon- with the right people, who have the required skills, which enable the company to maintain and develop business processes in accordance with the mission and values, while respecting the social principles.

Not all companies take advantage of this opportunity to position themselves as organizations which are concerned about the needs of their staff and their environment in a 21st Century society. Although these may be in minority, there are organizations in which there is not always a big enough degree of coherence between what is said and what is actually done. So on one hand, they carry out and publicize their positive actions taken in different fields, but on the other, we see how some of the most basic principles are not respected, such as using child labour to decrease salaries, or relocation and undercapitalization. There are cases in which staff suffer from downsizing programs, with high levels of temporary contracts, high percentages of staff not included in collective agreements, high staff rotation, insufficient safety and health programs in the workplace, unequal opportunities, gender discrimination, neglect of waste management, etc.

In situations of recession or slow recovery, such as the current situation, certain decisions are necessary, but we have even seen how in the same companies, a few months later, the opposite decisions are taken. So, for more delicate issues such as staff downsizing, through appropriate human resource planning in the short to medium term, sometimes results can be improved quite a lot, and then social efficiency can also be increased.

Not all big well-known companies can be included in the category of fair trade companies, and some of them have two different product lines for coffee, one which is fair trade and one that is not. One distributed on a large scale and the other for specialist shops for consumers who are more sensitive to CSR.

Leaving aside the argument on whether there should be a specialist department with somebody responsible for applying CSR in the organization, the concept of “social responsibility” should form an intrinsic part of the strategic plan and of company values.  It would not be essential to rely on a specific department to implement these principles, if it wasn’t because sometimes they are not so integrated into the organization.

However, it would be a good idea that this specialist department existed if it acted to ensure that “social responsibility” is fulfilled, whether or not this is through an “ad hoc” indicator system, and reported on factors which allow the company to be identified as socially responsible. That is, it would report on the fulfilment of ethical principles and company values (“Code of conduct”, Practices of good governance”, etc) on national and international regulations (United Nations Global Compact, Regulation SA 8000, SGE 21, ISO 26000, Law for social integration for disabled people, Law for equal opportunities, discrimination and universal accessibility for the disabled, etc). Although, if this department did exist, if it was not positioned near to senior management or did not have any influence over them, it could end up as simple embellishment of the company’s organizational chart.

And finally, it should be emphasized that strengthening CSR within an organization is one of the most important tasks undertaken in the area of people management. Therefore applying CSR by designing socially responsible HR policies, is an investment in the medium to long term, which will result in the generation of competitive advantages in the market. In which directors and middle management will be responsible for playing a central role in this strategy by giving the best of themselves. Their leadership should be drenched in this morale so that social responsibility flows through example and through communication, and transmits the vision statement of their own commitment to these values.

In this context, CSR can achieve a whole new dimension, and turn itself into a tool to generate innovation, the employer gains a good reputation and generates trust in the brand. The internal and external value created with CRS is unquestionable, firstly, in the selection and attraction of optimum talent, essential for competitiveness. The most responsible and successful companies are those which attract the best human capital, and when talent is crucial, this aspect becomes an essential value for the company.

Tomàs Rubió, Director of the Master in Human Resource Management

The voice of an expert in Human Resources