How corporate social responsibility and diversity in the modern workplace builds better businesses

In today's episode, how corporate social responsibility and diversity can build better workplaces and businesses. We discuss how they compliment each other, starting a DEI program as a CSR pro and what the future holds for each.

This is part 3 of our 3 part series on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Watch Part 1: What is diversity, equity and inclusion: Key differences and impacts to business today

Watch Part 2: Modern strategies to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace

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Karl Yeh:

So today I'm joined by Janelle St. Omer, Regional Vice President with Benevity. And we're going to talk about DE&I and CSR.

So Janelle, how would, I guess companies marry the differences between diversity, equity, inclusion and corporate social responsibility?

Because for some people I would imagine they would fit under the same group or under the same person, right?

Differences between diversity, equity and inclusion and corporate social responsibility

Janelle St. Omer:

They can. I think historically they have been two [00:01:00] completely separate functions.

Usually diversity, equity and inclusion is sitting in your HR or your people in culture team and corporate social responsibility, either sitting in a team in and of itself or being a part of your corporate communications or marketing more from that external standpoint.

And I think that that's okay, but there is definitely alignment between the two functions.

If you think about diversity, equity and inclusion, and some of the goals that a company might have around attracting and retaining talent from diverse populations, [00:01:30] the community partnerships that you might have in your CSR program can actually serve as a support mechanism for you in that.

So as an example, if you want to be known as a company that is very diverse for a particular ethnicity.


Let's just say, so if you want to be known as a company that is the company for Hispanic individuals, then perhaps what you can do from a CSR or an employee giving, granting and volunteering standpoint is have strategic corporate partnerships with organizations that are [00:02:00] Latin serving, so individuals from that community start to recognize your brand as a company that actually supports their community.

So there definitely can be connections between CSR and DE&I.

Another example, employee resource groups, which are typically supported by your DE&I team, which typically lives within your HR or your people functions, those employee resource groups will often have a community focus or a community pillar.

So, a part of their mandate might be to bring together their employees within the context [00:02:30] of their company to continue to help to build out a diverse pipeline, to support and provide mentorship to your employees who are of that particular employee resource group.

But another area can be to mentor individuals who are of that particular group.

So let's just talk about LGBT2Q+.

Those individuals as part of your pride group, because we are in pride month, perhaps they want to offer mentorship to individuals or to young people, who are LGBTQ2+ or [00:03:00] perhaps they want to then have an employee grant fund that goes towards an organization that they're also supporting as an ERG.

So, this is something that is part of your HR function, but there are community elements to it.

And I think if you think that the purpose or the goals of both your DE&I programs and your CSR programs, ultimately both programs serve to have impact.

Whether that be internal impact in terms of employee engagement and really encouraging and fostering that sense of inclusion and belonging for your people, which fosters [00:03:30] employee engagement overall and seeks to increase it.

Helping with retention, or doing that from the external standpoint where you're involving your employees in the community, which also fosters employee engagement and helps with talent acquisition and retention [00:04:00] .

Employees want to know that the company that they work for lives and aligns to their values, lives the passions that they have, it aligns to their purpose, or it helps them to drive their personal passions within the community and within the world.

So, working for a company and being a part of an employee resource group that then allows me to give back to my community specifically from a CSR standpoint is a great brand story for any company.

It's a great employee engagement story for any company.

As a black employee, I chair our black employee network at Benevity, and the ability to come together with my black colleagues, for us to then mentor and do speed interviews for historical black colleges, that's allowing me under [00:04:30] our employee resource group program here at Benevity, to then give back to my black community.

And that's something that's meaningful to me.

So, oftentimes there are these silos and perhaps there can be that tension. I've heard the question around does one cannibalize on the efforts of the other.

But we used to, at Benevity, talk a lot about the sweet spot of the power of and. And we talked about that in terms of employee giving and company areas of focus versus employee passions.

And I think that what we're seeing right now is the power [00:05:00] of and also exists in diversity, equity and inclusion, and CSR.

There doesn't need to be that tension or that fight for resourcing or for budget, but they really can serve to compliment one another and to drive the goals that each of those particular areas or teams has in a very strategic way by your time, talent and resources that you have available.


Karl Yeh:

So, as a CSR professional, it's probably easier if you have your DE&I counterpart, but what if you're a CSR [00:05:30] professional in an organization that doesn't have a formalized diversity, equity and inclusion program or group?

How would you go about getting some of those things started?

Starting a DEI program with no formal resources

Janelle St. Omer:

Well, I think it's really looking at the culture of your organization, looking at your population, looking at the groups of employees who work at your company, and really recognizing that perhaps there is a need or a desire, getting feedback from your employees to recognize where do they see any gaps [00:06:00] in terms of their employee experience.

And then thinking about your talent acquisition strategy, and are there gaps within that strategy as well.

And bringing all of those together to then identify, are there areas of focus that you should have from a CSR standpoint with that DE&I lens.

And you absolutely can be a CSR professional who is driving DE&I, and you can be driving that from a community standpoint.

You can also be driving that from an employee engagement standpoint, or even from a brand standpoint internally.

So I think when you think about your [00:06:30] company overall, your values, your culture, and what you stand for.

I think there's a real opportunity to encourage and foster that sense of inclusion and belonging within your company in how you give, the decisions that you make in terms of charities that you include in your employee giving campaigns, as an example.

Even things like not having minimums for employee giving.

A lot of companies historically have had a threshold where perhaps they have a minimum donation an employee needs to make before it's matched, [00:07:00] or they have a threshold around the number of hours an employee needs to complete before they can get a volunteer reward.

If you think of that from a diversity, equity and inclusion lens, recognizing that not all employees sit at the same point along the spectrum.

An employee might not have the time to volunteer 40 hours in the course of a year to get $500. Maybe what they can do is do 10 hours of volunteering and perhaps you're then going to reward them from an hourly perspective.

So, it doesn't need to be as blatant as having a formalized [00:07:30] DE&I program to think of inclusion and what that means in terms of all of your policies, procedures, and practices, and how you are casting as wide a net as possible to involve all of your employees and really being inclusive, as opposed to things that you might have set up within your programs that are actually exclusive.


Karl Yeh:

So Janelle, where do you see CSR and DE&I, I guess, moving together in the future?

Because I know these roles are probably either new, maybe not so much for CSR, for DE&I, maybe there's new people in those roles.

How do you see both these roles working together? And [00:08:30] what do you see some of the trends that we're seeing in 2021 and beyond?

How will DEI and CSR work together in businesses going forward?

Janelle St. Omer:

I think we're going to continue to see them evolve together.

I think we're going to continue to see companies who are focused on de-siloing their functions.

They're looking at employee engagement and employee experience from a holistic standpoint.

So they're actually thinking about the intersections between their diversity, equity and inclusion programs and their CSR programs [00:09:00] .

I think that we're going to see companies double down on this era of corporate social justice and corporate social activism, really turning some of these moments into movements and allowing and harnessing the power and passion of their employees as it relates to getting involved in the things that they're passionate about.

I think that we're going to continue to see more diverse hiring and really companies thinking about their population and their workforce and what that means as to how they show up for the rest of their employees and how they show up from a public standpoint, in terms of their external stakeholders and their community.

I think we're going [00:09:30] to continue to see fostering this open culture of conversations and of transparency and companies really thinking about their goals as it relates to some of these pieces.

I actually saw a company that published a diversity, equity and inclusion report for the very first time.

Historically we've only seen corporate social responsibility reports at the end of the year.

So I do think we're going to continue to see those two parallel tracks happen, where companies are setting ambitious goals for themselves, and then reporting on their progress and how they're tracking towards those goals year over [00:10:00] year.

I also think that we'll probably continue to see unconscious bias and how perhaps getting involved in community under the lens of CSR will actually help to break down those silos and build that education and awareness for employees.

Where those biases can then be challenged and hopefully eliminated, and where things like microaggressions in the workplace start to become eliminated as well.

And I think the last piece is just on employee mental health and wellbeing.

I think that there's a very [00:10:30] strong connection between CSR, DE&I and employee mental health.

And I do feel like practitioners in both of these teams and in both areas of focus will really start to look at things, not just looking at CSR from a DE&I perspective, but then overlaying employee mental health and wellbeing to that as well.

What does it mean in terms of employee who feels excluded at the workplace to their mental health and their wellbeing?

Karl Yeh:

If you want to watch our previous discussion on diversity, equity and [00:11:00] inclusion, you've got to check out this playlist here, where we talk about what it is and how to promote and address it in the workplace, as well as this playlist for other corporate social responsibility tips and strategies.

Thanks for watching, and we'll catch you next episode.

Question of the day

Are you in an organization that has both a DE&I and CSR role? And how have those two groups worked with each other? And if you are in one of those roles, how have you reached out and worked with your counterpart?