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Social responsibility

April 2, 2010


BUSINESS OPTION

By ROBERTO B. ORTIZ

March 22, 2010, 3:18pm

There aren’t too many companies in the Philippines that can boast of having a corporate social responsibility program for the employees and the community in general. This is so because many companies consider this as a cost that hurts their bottom line. They don’t realize that giving back to the community and to society can actually increase productivity and profitability. Companies often talk about their employees as their greatest asset yet many of them also pay lip service to this important element of the business…and this extends to the community they operate.

What companies sorely miss is the fact that our employees make or break our company, in good times and bad. Consider a manufacturing company located in the province. Majority of the employees have roots, live and have families in the local community. Some of the employees of the company are third generation family members who have worked for the grandfathers of the stockholders. They have already identified with the owners as family and have thought of them as part of the family. Yet the owners failed to recognize this. They were treated as cost.

Anything that happens to them or the company will significantly impact on the performance of the business. Yet, we take our employees for granted. We consider them as a cost.

If we really think hard about it, our employees are our single most sustainable competitive advantage. Our employees are in the frontline interacting directly with our customers during their working hours. They are our ambassadors and how they interact will determine how our business is seen by our customers. Our employees represent the image and well being of the company. This is the main reason why we should give back to our employees and the community.

Social responsibility takes on two targets: Our employees and the community to which the business belongs. They are actually linked together. We can measure social responsibility in many ways. It could be in the form of services or financial resources that we provide. Some companies allocate a certain portion of their profits for programs that support economic and social activities. Examples of these are livelihood, education and skills training, environmental projects, among others. Whatever form it takes, companies whose employees take active involvement in social activities are the ones who are the most loyal employees. People simply like to work for companies who care for them and their community. In the company I used to work for, we had a global community service programs such as providing support services to handicapped children. Employees volunteer to be like second parents to children suffering from leukemia every Saturday for 4 weeks straight. What is interesting to observe is that these employees were the happiest people in the company and they are also the very productive. That is social responsibility to the community.

There is another ingredient to social responsibility and this is our responsibility to our employees. There is a lot more pressure in the work space than it was fifteen years ago. Products have shorter life cycles. Globalization has made the world much smaller. Information technology has made the customers more aware of what the competition can provide and how much faster these can be given. Logistics systems are now much more sophisticated and allow companies to deliver products much faster. Banking systems have provided customers with the ability to transact business across borders. All these have pushed companies to be able to maintain profit margins. In turn, companies have exerted pressures on employees to perform in difficult situations. Stress is now a common phenomenon in all companies and has affected the very core of our competitive edge. It is therefore, important that we recognize this and do something about it.

This is the second element of social responsibility. It is our responsibility to ensure that our employees are given a balanced lifestyle. We cannot ignore the importance of balancing personal and work lives. We should provide them with the avenue to be able to have some time for their families and for the company to provide the facility for them to be able to balance their lives.

No wonder companies like Google and NetApp have loyal employees. At Google it always comes back to the food. Google runs 11 free gourmet cafeterias and offers all its employees free gourmet meals. In addition to its cafés, Google has snack rooms which contain various cereals, candy, nuts, yogurt, carrots, fresh fruit and other snacks, and dozens of different drinks including soda and make-your-own cappuccino. The list goes on. They have the gym and subsidized exercise classes, a massage, among others.

There’s no argument that our employees are our most valuable asset and most important competitive advantage. When they are happy, the company is happy and they are most productive.

Happiness in work is not always a cost. Happiness can be achieved by recognizing our employees, making them feel that they work for an employer that cares for them and providing them with a balanced lifestyle, one that makes them feel that they are an important part of the corporate and the bigger community, called society. Email: rbo811@yahoo.com

http://mb.com.ph/node/248995/

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