Head of Sales, Zoe Close, speaks to Business Coach and CSR specialist, Mark Topley, who puts the case for the importance of CSR in the recruitment and retention of team members.
ZC: Mark, as CSR is becoming so important now in practice, what does it do for the team? What does it bring out within the team members?
MT: It brings out a number of things. What I find with CSR is that it gives a framework to hang things on such as welfare policies, development and community engagement. So, when it comes to appreciation, getting involved, development, those sorts of things, it forms a set of principles for your leadership which all those things plug into.
So, one big part of CSR is the people side, which is about strong leadership and positive culture. This is about making sure that people fit, are appreciated, are properly remunerated and developed and all those elements. So, it gives people a lot of those things. However, I think it also gives people a sense of pride in the practice.
Certainly, from the clients that I’ve worked with, some of whom now have a waiting list of people wanting to join them, having a strong CSR policy in place means that people love the fact that they do a beach clean once a year. They love that they recycle all of their plastics, that they offset every Invisalign® case, and they love being involved in that and being a part of it.
They also really enjoy the community element because it means they can get out of the practice for an hour to go to the local food bank to deliver the food they’ve collected. They get to engage with the local charity, they do fundraising events, they learn about the difference that it’s making for them. And I think that gives people a genuine sense of pride. It’s a real manifestation of the cultural values and principles that you hold to say, “We don’t just do this and we’re not just a self-serving system looking after us. We’re open to our community and we’re very much part of our community. We’re people you can be proud to work for.”
ZC: It sounds like it can create quite a bit of a buzz around the practice as well which is what we’re wanting to do. And it’s all about the team. The more things you do together as a team, the more it will create that sense of being part of something. But, Mark, I get challenged with, “Oh, I don’t know where to start, I’m short on time and I’m running the day-to-day business in the practice as well as the operational side of it and I wouldn’t know where to start. It sounds like a lot of work.” So, what would your advice be on that?
MT: My advice is to start small. I have a free PDF on my website which you can download to start with which is called The 60 minutes CSR Plan. The most important thing, and what that guide will talk you through, is that you start with why you’re doing it. So, if you want your team to engage, if you want your patients to understand, then there needs to be a clear rationale for why you’re doing this.
So, because we are this kind of practice and because these are our values, we’re committed to our local community, or we’re committed to these charities. So, I think a lot of businesses understand what it is that they do, but very few understand why they do it and why it matters. Why the work matters which goes back to the importance of having a mission and vision for the business. What is it that we’re actually doing here together? And so, with CSR, it gives you that opportunity to dig into that ‘why’ a little bit and say, “Well, we’re about creating confidence. Therefore, we’re going to partner with this charity and we’re going to do this in the community.” Find that ‘why’ first because that really helps you to connect with your people.
The next stage that you go through is you make some commitments. So, once you’ve established why you want to do something, you list out three things you’re going to do to achieve it. One focused on the people side of things, one on the environment and one around the community. Then, and only then, do you get to the ‘what’. Because often people come to me and say, “We’ve got loads of ideas for what we can do for CSR.” But the ideas and things to do will not last unless there’s a strong enough reason behind them, and a strong enough purpose that people are connected to.
So, when you start out, choose manageable activities. Plan how you’re going to put them into action and then make sure that you connect them and communicate them to everybody in and around the business. Because one of the reasons that CSR can fall down, is because people don’t really understand why you’re doing, what you’re doing.
Make sure you then follow through with the stories of what you’re achieving and the difference that you’re making. Then use your social media channels to pick up local organisations, local charities, and talk about the things that you’re doing.
So, start really simple. The guide takes 10 or 15 minutes to read through, and then just pick off something manageable. Because it’s much better to make small and steady incremental progress than it is to try and bite off everything and then get disappointed because you just get too busy.
ZC: Exactly. I think that helps with the question I get asked about creating a positive culture. People say, “What does that mean? What do I have to do?” And it’s things like you’ve just mentioned. People think they have to do things in one go. But you’ve just explained that’s not the case.
When I am in practices now, people are talking about CSR and I can see practices are starting to make moves to do certain things to help develop their culture and purpose. And that’s a brilliant thing to have when you’re looking to attract people to the practice to come and work there. It’s something great you can show people and helps your practice stand out.
Mark Topley has wide experience designing, implementing and developing CSR programmes and partnering with companies, from single-handed dental practices to global corporates and everything in between. Over the past 23 years, he has worked with charities and businesses on four continents.
Mark 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.