17 Nov 2022  •  News  •  6min read By  • Lesley Turner

Using CSR to tackle the recruitment and retention crisis

Medenta Business Development Manager, Lesley Turner talks to CSR expert and coach, Mark Topley about how CSR can help practices beat the recruitment and retention crisis. 

LT: CSR has changed over the years, hasn’t it, Mark? Can you explain what people mean by CSR these days?

MT: CSR used to be Corporate Social Responsibility nowadays it means Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility. So, although there is still a charity element to it which is probably what people used to think of when they heard CSR, now it’s more about how a business behaves and the need to act responsibly and in a sustainable way.

CSR informs the choices you make about how you source your supplies and the sorts of companies you spend your money with. It’s more about how you run your business on a day-to-day basis than adding on lots of extra activity. Often when you mention CSR, people’s reaction is, “I have enough to do already so I don’t have time for charity fundraising.” But most things that relate to CSR are about how you choose to operate rather than doing additional things. CSR is more of a tool to help you apply a values-based approach to the way you run your business than an optional extra.

A big advantage of CSR is it’s not self-serving. Businesses can’t afford to be about profit at any cost because customers now have different expectations from the past.  Profit is not a dirty word, but your profit needs to be made in an ethical and sustainable way. So, using the principles of CSR to make your profits, because they’re not greedy and self-serving, you build trust with your employees and the people you are trying to attract as patients.

I’ve seen so many practices benefit from using these principles because it represents a win, win, win. CSR brings benefits to people, planet, and profit.

LT: Why is CSR so important in recruitment and retention right now?

MT:  The main reason is because what people want from work has changed. This is especially true of the last 15 -20 years, and even more so since the pandemic. In years gone by the expectation was that you started a job with a company, and you spent your whole career with them. A job for life. And when you retired, you collected your pension and a clock, and you were happy with that. However, things have now changed. Partly because of the gig economy, which means people can change job and employer quite frequently and partly because of the disruption there’s been to employment in general.

For a lot of people now, work is a means to facilitate the things they want to do rather than their main purpose. Which means, people’s expectations of work are now different. Many people I come across don’t want to accept this as it’s more to think about. But if we face the reality of things as they are now, rather than ignoring them we’ll be better able to respond to the changes that need to be made. The current recruitment and retention crisis has shown us that people want different things from their work life.

Because of the difficulty of recruiting people, pay is often an issue at the moment. Couple that with the rising cost of living, it’s a subject that can’t be ignored and people are now asking for higher salaries. However, pay is not the be all and end all according to recent research into CSR.

Before the pandemic, Glassdoor published a study in Harvard Business Review where they found pay was not the key indicator of workplace happiness and the reason why people stayed with an employer. The number one thing that determined workplace happiness and why people stayed in their job was the culture of the organisation. And this was true across all income groups. So, people wanted to enjoy coming to work and to be part of a positive culture.

Next most important was the leadership at the company. Employees want to work for somebody they respect and who they believe cares about them. And the third factor was about opportunities for development and progression. This is a trend that can be seen in other areas as well, that people want to get better at what they do. And if they can’t see a clear development path where they work, they will move on.

An effect of the pandemic that I have noticed is that it made us more aware of the fragility of life and our own mortality. It’s important for us to make good use of the time we have. Texas A&M University professor Anthony Klotz whose specialism is why people resign from jobs, found this in his research. He said, “There’s a lower tolerance for jobs that don’t bring people, meaning. People’s time is limited and valuable and they want meaningful work.” We spend so much time at work, that it needs to add value to our lives, not just a salary.

Marcus Buckingham, who wrote the book, ‘Strengths Finder 2.0’ about identifying your strengths, published the results of a 55,000-person survey earlier this year which found that pay was not the most significant predictor of performance, engagement, employee retention, and feeling included. It was still important but to be able to say they were happy where they worked and wanted to they needed to feel excited to come to work, they were being given a chance to work to their strengths and that they were doing something they were good at and enjoyed.

CSR is important because it plays a part in those things. People want something different from their work these days. Where they work has to have a positive culture, they need to enjoy what they do, they need to feel valued by leaders, be given opportunities to develop and feel that their work has meaning. These all relate to the people aspect of CSR, which is why it’s important.

About Mark

Mark Topley was the CEO of Bridge2Aid and was part of the founding team that grew it to become the UK’s foremost dental charity. In 2017 Mark made the decision to take his experience and passion into a new role, inspiring businesses to maximise the benefits to be gained from CSR, and work productively and meaningfully with charities. He has wide experience of designing, implementing and developing CSR programmes and partnering with companies from single-handed dental practices to global corporates and everything in between.

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