Winning Hearts and Minds to Make a Difference in Society
Why giving back should be a core part of doing business & how you can start building sustainable value through CSR.
CA Technologies introduced Create Tomorrow in 2015 – it’s the company’s Europe-wide programme designed to inspire young people, especially girls, to consider future careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Since it launched, the programme has reached more than 38,000 young people through various interactive initiatives – all led by CA STEM Ambassadors.
Deploy Your Talents has become a flagship initiative of Create Tomorrow – having started in Italy and then strategically deployed to Spain, Germany and France and delivered in partnership by CA, CSR Europe and local skills-focused non-profits. The initiative follows a process of engaging with secondary school students to give them an interactive experience of how a STEM company operates and the skills needed to perform in today’s business environment – before allowing them to take what they’ve learned and share it with employees in their own words and actions.
What makes Deploy Your Talents a game-changer in typical industry and school collaboration, is its engaging format that brings students and employees together so youngsters can learn about the value of STEM careers and how they play a critical role solving some of society’s greatest challenges.
In Italy, Deploy Your Talents was CA’s debut skills initiative. Together with CA Italy’s CSR partner Fondazione Sodalitas, Deploy Your Talents was introduced to Italy in 2014 – a collaborative effort with global businesses and local secondary schools. The first Italian edition involved 200 students, and I clearly remember the kick-off event in a crowded auditorium with over 300 students, teachers, business execs and local government representatives.
From there our efforts to engage school students in STEM careers through Deploy Your Talents evolved and by the start of 2018 we had developed multiple partnerships with high-impact influencers – helping to significantly enhance student reach and impact. Today, Deploy Your Talents has reached more than 5,000 students across Europe. In Italy, it continues to gain momentum and is a great example of how multistakeholder relationships between industry, government and education can help to address the STEM skills gap in Europe.
Playing a key role in driving the success of this initiative across Europe has been a tremendously rewarding experience. To pay it forward so other organisations can benefit from my insights learned along the way, here are my four key steps to help develop and run a sustainable corporate social responsibility initiative that achieves positive outcomes and brings stakeholder value:
1. Set a clear vision and goal
Define a clear vision and goal and align it to the company’s strategy. Consider how your initiative will change behaviours, perceptions and help achieve business and societal value. Outline the connection to the Sustainable Development Goals, a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
2. Targeted multistakeholder engagement
Multistakeholder partnerships are at the core of successful CSR initiatives. For CA, our key partners include schools, established and accredited non-profit organisations and government partners – at country and European levels.
Employee volunteers and the company’s leadership team must be fully engaged. Leadership engagement has a tremendous impact on the employee experience as it shows the company’s real commitment to CSR.
3. Prepare to overcome barriers
One of the main barriers I’ve had to overcome to achieve results was to align internal and external stakeholder expectations to ensure successful outcomes. Businesses, education, governments and non-profit organisations operate at different paces and have varying objectives and visions.
At each step in developing and delivering CSR initiatives, I had to find a common ground between stakeholders to bring them together to the shared vision and goal. This requires all stakeholders to listen, understand, be flexible and willing to overcome challenges to reach the best solution that will ultimately benefit our number one audience – students.
4. Consistently show value
Consistently and clearly communicate the value the CSR initiative can bring – or continues to bring – to your key stakeholders. Measure results and gather regular feedback to improve, build trust and strengthen partnerships.
Engage with employees so they understand and experience the impact they can make by being involved. Always highlight the personal and professional value to be gained.
Demonstrate to business leaders how their participation enhances their leadership position and further builds their personal brand. In my experience, leadership commitment is critical as it gives employees approval to be involved. This increases their sense of company loyalty – boosting attitudes and improving performance.
Reflecting on the last few years of managing various CSR initiatives, a personal goal has been to make employee volunteering contagious – and to bring multiple stakeholders with disparate backgrounds and objectives together and inspire them to go the extra mile for a good common purpose. Ultimately, every conversation, every interaction and every step has been a personal reward – because it’s allowed me the opportunity to play a part in orchestrating actions. Actions that may contribute to positively shape and impact our next generation.