The first decent car I ever purchased, albeit used, was a Volvo 240. It was a fantastic car, but typical of me, I extended the time between oil changes, tune-ups, and scheduled maintenance beyond what was recommended. I got yelled at by a Swedish Mechanic one time for my procrastination. “Don’t you know this car will run for 300,000 miles if you take care of it?”
He added, “Sir, you should not own a Volvo.”
At the time, I didn’t agree. It was running just fine and I was under the impression that you should take your car to a mechanic when something was wrong. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Needless to say, the mechanic was right. I should not own a Volvo, and it ended up breaking down before its time.
The CSR/employee engagement space could take a page from the Volvo Mechanic’s playbook, thinking more diligent about developing a maintenance schedule for their programs. What exactly do we mean by this? It’s rather simple, actually.
Google any company name and “Corporate Social Responsibility,” “Sustainability”, or “Employee Engagement”, and you’ll see how much value organizations place on these areas. They care about the community, their employees, and causes. It’s front and center in their brand strategy and external communications — often greater than the products and services they create and the customers they serve. This is a really good thing.
In our economy — where healthy competition can result in better products, pricing, and service — self-analysis and vendor selection becomes the key to consistently improving on your desired results. Yet, in the social responsibility marketplace, this is often overlooked. Proper maintenance is ignored, and we keep doing things the same way for too long. We’ve got our programs in place, and we'll just keep them running.
“That’s an insane strategy,” I was told by a friend who runs IT for a large financial institute with a robust CSR commitment. “My department and I are not only running and maintaining dozens of hardware and software solutions, but in order to remain competitive and operationally sharp, we’re consistently reviewing our vendors, seeking new opportunities, and asking ourselves if we could improve across the board. We review our vendor solutions constantly.”
The same goes for another friend in the publishing space who welcomes the idea of reviewing printer contracts, “We’re a loyal customer, but we want to make sure that we’re loyal to the right printer who is providing us with the best combination of new high-quality solutions at the best price. Our products and our company’s reputation depend on it.”
So how does this translate for CSR professionals? Simply, they should look to examples from other business lines when it comes to optimizing their strategy, performance, and results. Here are three important steps in proper maintenance:
- Self-Analysis. Do our strategies align well with our core organizational goals? Where could we improve? Are we performing at our best as it relates to changes in the marketplace?
- Understanding the need for proper maintenance or possibly repair. Keep in mind that your brand is leaning heavily on being a good citizen, and well-run programming has so many tangible benefits (Good articles: here, here and here). Do you know where you could improve or what needs fixing?
- Review your vendors. Just because you’re happy with your current programs and vendors, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consistently review them against competitors. You’ll be sharper when it comes to seeing new potential ideas, staying current with the market and competitive on price and quality. (Good article: here)
We all sometimes get caught up in thinking that we’re doing things the right way, or we’re using the right partners — so we just stick with it and keep on going. The combination of loyalty, stubbornness, and market knowledge could be holding you back. Not admitting that you could be better will lead to not reaching your potential. I know this first hand. Looking back on it, I really wish I still had that Volvo.