Are your managers making sense of corporate citizenship?
Our surveys have shown there is a significant gap in corporate citizenship knowledge in companies. According to the 2010 Profile of the Practice, only 27 percent of respondents indicated that their middle management is “very informed” about corporate citizenship issues. Why is this so commonly the case?
CSR scholar Sharon Jackson at Cranfield University’s Doughty Centre for Corporate Citizenship suggests that the problem lies with “sensemaking.” In her article titled, “Mind the Gap: Making Sense of Sustainability from a Business Manager’s Perspective,” Jackson describes why managers in companies that publicly espouse corporate citizenship often take no action on their own part to further the company’s corporate citizenship goals and values.
Jackson uses the theory of sensemaking, a process by which people subconsciously notice information (scanning – through words and cues) which they then make meaning of (interpretation – in their own world reality), which subsequently influences their actions. There are several places that corporate citizenship messages are getting lost during the sensemaking process. First, Jackson finds, operational managers are not reading internal corporate citizenship material. Instead, they get their cues from other sources such as external consumer‐focused marketing materials, CEO communications, and from their own day‐to‐day role, where their function is explicitly involved with corporate citizenship‐related activities. Even when managers are getting the cues, they often do not act on their own part to further the company’s corporate citizenship goals. Jackson believes that in many cases managers do not associate corporate citizenship activities with their own roles – everyone thinks it is someone else’s job.
So what can you do to help your managers make sense of corporate citizenship and act on your strategy? You likely need a new approach to internal communication. Jackson suggests trying different engagement methods, such as discussion forums and communities of learning that involve managers early on in the process. Several of our members are trying out “lunch and learn” discussions, where employees gather to learn about and discuss important issues. Or you might try meeting one on one with department heads, or joining in their team meetings to brainstorm how everyone can incorporate corporate citizenship into their daily jobs.
How are you creating ownership and engagement of corporate citizenship in your company? Is it working?