Corporate Social Responsibility And Global Talent Development

Corporate Social Responsibility
While the heightened awareness of corporate social responsibility was originally borne out of business scandals and crisis, it is now here to stay as a business strategy. As Coca-Cola’s Chairman and CEO E. Neville Isdell said in the company 2006 Corporate Responsibility Review (opens PDF), “businesses must be a force for positive global change—one community at a time.”

Isdell believes that committed employees who believe in the company they work for, perform better. It’s that simple. He then goes on to say these employees who believe in the company’s mission often times have higher levels of employee morale, productivity and ultimately this translates favorably into the company’s brand. So for a company’s corporate social responsibility efforts to have real value, they must have a “line of sight” connection to the business goals. If they do not, they are really just philanthropy.

As I was reading about Coca-Cola’s CSR strategy I was thinking how we as learning and talent development professionals provide opportunities for our employees to be engaged in learning & development while also being involved in corporate social responsibility projects on behalf of the company. While it may seem a stretch, I think the next alliance within FORTUNE 500 firms will be between the heads of talent development and the heads of a company’s foundation. Some companies are already headed in this direction—notable is UBS Learning & Development who has begun to build alliances with a number of key philanthropies to build leadership development “moments of learning” into the CSR projects.

Why does this make so much sense? Well, the target audience of Millennial managers has most likely been involved in social responsibility projects for most of their student and working lives. It is a natural extension to combine learning & development with corporate social responsibility. In fact a recent survey conducted by the Aspen Institute Center for Business Education surveyed 1,943 students ages 26-30 years old at 15 business schools to find out about their attitudes towards business and society.

Top line findings included of this Aspen Institute survey include:

  • Business students are thinking more broadly about the primary responsibilities of a company. In addition to citing shareholder maximization and satisfying customer needs, more students are also saying “creating value for the communities in which they operate” should be a primary business responsibility.
  • MBA students are expressing more interest in finding work that offers the potential of making a contribution to society (26% of respondents in 2007 say this is an important factor in their job selection compared with 15% in 2002).

These Millennials do in fact appear to be interested in integrating CSR with broader business goals. As you consider how you can build a bridge between these two initiatives, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What is the current alliance between CSR and Talent Development functions?
  • Is your company’s approach to CSR based upon business priorities and achieving business objectives? This should be the same as its approach to talent management.
  • What specific business outcomes are you working to achieve in your CSR and how are these consistent with your business outcomes needed from leadership programs?
  • What pilot projects can be started as a way to build a partnership between your company’s Foundation and Talent Management?

The champions of CSR and Talent Management really both want the same end result—to make CSR and Talent Management a major part of the core decision-making process at senior levels.

Is your company beginning a dialogue to partner with CSR efforts? What has been your experience? What are lesson learned? How are you reporting these efforts?

I hope you share this with our readers so we can start a conversation.

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About Jeanne Meister

Jeanne C. Meister is a best selling author of three books, internationally recognized consultant and keynote speaker. Jeanne is Partner of Future Workplace, a consulting firm dedicated to assisting organizations in re-thinking, re-imagining and re-inventing the workplace. Jeanne was recently voted by her peers as one of the 20 top influential training professionals in the United States. Jeanne’s name is synonymous with the establishment and institutionalization of global corporate universities. Jeanne is the author of three books, Corporate Quality Universities and Corporate Universities. Jeanne’s latest book is, The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today (Harper Collins, 2010) is in its 10th printing.No information is provided by the author.


  1. Jeanne – I think you’ve brought up some very interesting points. I’ve never looked at the efforts in this similar view, however, you are a absolutely right. Not to mention the fact that I really like the combination. I am personally focused on talent development at work, and am very interested in social responsibility and efforts. I would be very interested to explore this further in the future.

  2. Jeanne – I was encouraged to read your article as I have spent much of my time developing a leadership product which is largely facilitated in a CSR context over the past couple of years. I believe there are a number of natural synergies which can lead to companies having more impacting and measureable leadership outcomes as well as building genuine relationships with grass roots development projects around the world. I’d be interested to see your feedback about the Leadership Journey product which I am in the process of taking to market.

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