– Stevens, the English butler, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day
Creative Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaigns and co-creation are just some of the innovations internal communications professionals are using to drive employee engagement. But how, and why?
Co-creation is the practice of collaborative product, service or process design. It promises us an egalitarian future where stakeholders – an engaged community of people who love a brand – shape the design and development of new products and services.
Recently, Ikea caught the media’s attention with their refreshed take on their annual Soft Toys for Education campaign. The furniture giant invited children to create imaginative designs for plush animals, ten of which became a cuddly reality. Ikea then donated 1 euro from the sale of each toy to UNICEF and Save the Children to promote global education.
The Ikea story was picked up by Upworthy and Buzzfeed and was a hit on Twitter and Facebook, bolstering the company’s reputation. The proliferation of the story in the digital space shows how co-creation can fully engage the wider community of brand stakeholders, and lead to innovative product design.
Ikea’s inspiring take on co-creation also taps into the consumer desire to have a clear understanding of a brand’s social purpose when making decisions on spending. There is a clear expectation that brands will think about social communities when growing their business.
Social media has also given consumers the ability to share information about a brand’s activities and a platform to speak their minds if they don’t like what they hear. There is no longer anywhere to hide.
Ways of thinking about what makes a ‘dream job’ are changing thanks to demographic shifts in the workplace with Millennials due to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. A decent salary and appealing benefits are still important, but for Millennials, the values of their employer matter. A lot.
In a poll conducted by the Atlantic, 64% of older Americans said that making as much money as possible or learning new skills were their top workplace priorities. In contrast, 57% of younger American Millennials said that they wanted to find fulfillment in the workplace and make a contribution to society. Hence one of the reasons why CSR is becoming an increasingly significant to modern internal communications.
Traditionally, commentary on society’s shortcomings has been left to the writers and thinkers – think Dickensian parables about Victorian London or Banksy’s short film about the Syrian conflict – with the responsibility of making progressive change left to the philanthropists and social workers.
Of course, companies have long engaged in activities to fulfill their CSR objectives. CSR was born on the back of an increasing need for companies to recognise wider societal vision beyond shareholder and market value alone.
However, this was in response to external pressures from NGOs, pressure groups, and the media. With such scrutiny on what companies did and do, doing business in a responsible and just manner offered strategic and competitive advantage.
Today, businesses are uniquely placed to play a key role in coming up with solutions to society’s problems. According to a Forbes article, around 60% of the world’s 150 most significant economic entities are companies, not countries. These companies have the power to go far beyond the scope of CSR and employee engagement.
Smart, driven, tech-loving employees want to see some genuine convergence between their values and those of their employer. They want to feel free to shape the moral and ethical direction of the company. They have a voice and want to be heard.
Previously, these voices have been used co-creatively to drive growth, innovation and deliver improvements for customers. But they could also be contributing ideas to make companies operate more ethically and sustainably, and even comes up with smart solutions to social issues.
Today’s colleagues are more than just the 9-5 face they present. They are people with a wealth of experience and knowledge – gained from hobbies, interests and voluntary activities outside of work – that could be drawn on to improve everything from ethical procurement; to products; to hiring processes.
The future of co-creation gives employers the unique opportunity to tap in to the Millennial drive to make a difference and more importantly, retain top talent. By working collaboratively with colleagues across departments and borders, companies can develop products and services that add value and give back to society.