Saturday, March 13, 2010

13 ways to show you love your employees in CSR reports

I have written about CSR-report-speak in the past. There is no doubt that the lingo of CSR Reporting is an art all of its own. One who reads many CSR Reports, as I do, develops the ability to discern the connection between the language and the performance. The high-level declarations need to be supported by substantive actions and data.

One of the areas in which CSR Reports are often the most slushy is when referring to employees. Whenever I read that "employees are our most important asset", frankly, I cringe. It's not true, and usually Companies who say this do not behave as though they believe it to be true. Should it be true? Are employees assets? Or are they partners? Stakeholders? People? Are they resources to be compared with the latest packing machine the Company purchased, or are they individuals which make the choice every single day to show up for work, and the degree to which they will contribute ? And believe me, after 8 years serving as a Human Resources VP, I can tell you that not ALL employees are best assets, and some are even significant liabilities. A definition of assets in the business world is: Any item of economic value owned by an individual or corporation, especially that which could be converted to cash.  Employees are not something you own. They are people you partner with. IMHO.

In reporting, which often, but not always, is a reflection of corporate culture and corporate language (depends how many copywriters were involved, I guess), there are also many ways to refer to employees: they may be personnel, or human resources, employees or simply, our people. They may be our team, or they may be our associates, our partners or our colleagues.  One banking report even refers to employees as the Bank's Men and Women. Guess they don't employ giraffes, huh?

Here are some of the ways Companies express their commitment to employees in their CSR and Sustainability Reports. If you are writing a report,  you can use this as a crib sheet. There are only so many ways you can declare your love for your employees. What is more important though, is what you do and say after you have selected the words.

Outkumpu Annual Report 2009
Outokumpu's success is based on the company's most important asset, our personnel. The Group's renewed People strategy aims to attract, retain and develop Outokumpu people globally, enhancing both their motivation and their ability to support the Group in its vision of becoming the undisputed number one in stainless steel.
Merck Sustainability 2008
Merck's ability to deliver on our strategy is dependent upon our employees — they are our single greatest asset.
H&M 2008
We provide our colleagues with the opportunity to grow and develop within H&M, providing training wherever possible.
Henkel Sustainability Report  2009
Our global team is our most important asset for a successful future.
Thomas Cook Sustainability Report 2009
The sustainability of our business depends on our employees: they are the people who turn a trip into a dream holiday for our customers. Therefore we aim to recruit the best and to keep them with us.
Marks and Spencer 2009
To encourage a successful business we need to develop and reward our people, retaining our reputation as an employer of choice.
Novartis Corporate Citizenship Report 2008
Novartis endeavors to promote the livelihoods of its associates and to be a good neighbor in the communities where it operates. Through our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, we foster equality of opportunity, fairness and mutual respect. We strive to give our associates opportunities to grow and realize their full potential, and create an environment of continuous performance improvement and personal development.
Wainwright Bank 2009
As the bank has expanded we have consciously created an environment that provides all our employees freedom to be themselves.
Lindstrom Sustainability Report 2008
Lindstrom is an employer that looks after the well-being of its personnel.
TNT Annual Report 2009
TNT's employees are key to delivering TNT's results which is why TNT invests significant efforts to ensure that it provides a safe and attractive working environment. 
Banco Populare Di Milano Group 2008
Given the importance attached to the individual and in the awareness that happy, motivated men and women represent a major competitive advantage for the Bank, we have always invested in initiatives that enhance the level of internal wellness.
Gap Inc 2009
When asked where they work, more than 134,000 people around the world can say, “Gap Inc.” We want them to say it with pride. It’s our intent to create a workplace culture that encourages every individual to: “ Wear your passion.”
British American Tobacco Report 2008
Attracting, developing and retaining talent is key to our ambition to be a winning organisation. Given the nature of our industry, having a strong and clearly differentiated reputation as an employer is critical to our long-term business sustainability.

Having said this, any Company who says "our employees are our greatest asset" AND provides Chunky Monkey as a basic employee benefit, would be forgiven.

elaine cohen is the joint CEO of BeyondBusiness, a leading reporting and social-environmental consulting firm. Visit our website at: 

1 comment:

Derrick Mains said...

Great article!

So very true, companies that claim to love their employees are many times the culprits of mistreating and mishandling their human resources.

The Human Sigma study by Gallup is really eye opening in that not all employees are even assets (actually very few are) many are detriments. Here is an article I recently wrote on the topic of Human Sigma

Maybe Jack Welch had it right when he eliminated all under performers at his whim.

But then again a wise retail man once said - if you have a problem on aisle 5 today - you have an employee issue, if you have that same problem tomorrow, you have a management issue, if the next day you still have that issue then you're the problem!

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