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Up Close and Personal: CSR Talk with Board Member Dave Nanderam, Part II August 19th, 2012

Written by Banu Raghuraman

The opinions/views expressed by the author is theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or position of Endeavour.

In keeping with last month’s popular theme of Building Relations between Corporate and Non-Profit Organizations, we are providing you with even more CSR insights from Dave Nanderam, an Endeavour Board Member and President of Tapestry Builder, a human capital consulting firm. Enjoy, and let us know what you think!

A recent Economist article illustrated that typically we think the major benefactor in a corporate and non-profit partnership is the non-profit, where they benefit through donations, staffing resources and/or brand association. However, the article called for a paradigm shift and showed how corporations can learn from non-profits in terms of flat management structure, employees motivated by passion instead of profit, and new employees quickly given real responsibility. Do you agree with this paradigm shift? Will this trend continue into the future? 

I do agree and believe this trend will continue. I think partnerships with non-profits are a natural evolution in alliance relationships, as private sector firms realize they can tap into expertise, potentially access new markets and, at minimum, build a broader level of operational environmental awareness from a risk management perspective as well as strengthen their community profile.

In terms of expertise, the private sector can learn a lot from non-profits, specifically related to employee engagement. Non-profits are a prime example of how employees can coalesce, on an emotional level, around a common cause and purpose. Also, by virtue of their flatter organizational structures, non-profits empower employees to build a broader array of skill sets and competencies than tend to exist in private sector firms. Learning and development opportunities are a key determinant of employee engagement. On a related note, flatter organization structures enable a higher level of responsiveness to the end-users of their programs/services. Overall, the private sector can learn a lot around employee engagement and customer service from non-profit partnerships.

We tend to think about CSR employee engagement initiatives as a management driven decision to implement across an organization. For those of us working in more junior roles, how can we help to ignite CSR initiatives within our workplace?

This is a great question that I get asked often.

The pitch about getting into these partnerships for altruistic reasons is not likely to gain shareholder or leadership support.

It is important to answer the “what’s in it for me?” question on behalf of the employer in order to gain their interest in developing a partnership with a non-profit organization. For example, as an employee, you can present your request as a cost-effective skills development opportunity which can benefit your employer. You can also highlight the benefits of the volunteer experience in terms of further enhancing their corporate citizenship profile or as a competitive advantage for attracting top talent.

I think it would be a mistake for a company to implement a CSR strategy just because their competitors are doing it. I think corporate momentum to include CSR thinking in business activities will continue to grow, so it probably makes sense to use it as a management tool for improving shareholder value. That’s a great platform for igniting your CSR initiatives.

It’s not too difficult to build a business case for launching skills-based volunteer programs or any CSR initiative for that matter. The key is to tie program dimensions to your unique organization circumstances to make your request meaningful to your manager. Also, to shift management thinking from viewing such partnerships as a liability (i.e. another form of paid time-off from work) towards seeing them as an asset based on the points noted above.

Interviewee Biography:

Dave NanderamDave Nanderam is President of Tapestry Builder, a human capital consulting firm which focuses on managing risks associated with human capital assets. Dave assists clients with leveraging their corporate citizenship initiatives to address talent management and employee engagement priorities. Prior to founding Tapestry Builder, Dave worked as a senior consultant with two international human capital consulting firms.

Additionally, he has held various management and leadership roles in three ofCanada’s largest financial institutions and one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organization. Dave has more than 15 years of consulting experience delivering human capital solutions for varied private sector industries, including finance, pharmaceutical, retail, telecommunications and manufacturing, as well as public and non-profit organizations across Canada.

Dave holds a Ph.D in Organization and Management from Capella University in Minneapolis where his research focused on the relationship between corporate social responsibility and employee engagement. Dave is a member of theAcademyofManagementand is affiliated with their Human Resources, Social Issues in Management, and Public and Non-Profits divisional interest groups.

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