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CSR Matters: How To Win Your First 100 Days In a New CSR Job

By 3p Contributor

By Ryan Rudominer

Congratulations! You landed the corporate social responsibility (CSR) role you’ve always wanted, and you can’t wait to get started.

Monday morning finally rolls around — it’s your first day. You make the rounds with human resources through the office, meet your new coworkers, and attend orientation meetings. You head to lunch with the boss and set up coffee meetings for that afternoon and the remainder of the week.

You know your first 100 days are critical to making a strong first impression and building a new foundation for CSR at the company, but that afternoon, you’re thrown some curveballs. You learn that your hiring caught many of your new coworkers off guard and that no plans had been made to transition you into the position. In your meetings, colleagues share their concerns about the security of their futures at the company, difficulties communicating between divisions, and uncertainty of how CSR even fits into the business.

What should you do?

To help me answer this question, I reached out to some of America’s leading CSR practitioners to weigh in with their top recommendations (slightly edited for length). Success leaves clues, and their perspectives are worth reading from top to bottom.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also include a few insights of my own.

To win the first 100 days in a new CSR job, understand that you have more than 100 days to win in a new CSR job! Take the time to define success with your boss, establish trust and rapport with colleagues, and identify new ways to add value. Avoid the temptation to rush in and attempt doing too much too soon. Focus instead on learning, listening, and the "low-hanging fruit."

Doug Marshall @DeloitteUS, Corporate Citizenship Managing Director, Deloitte Services LP: “An organization’s ability to do good is increasingly important to its bottom line. It is important to align your social impact strategy to support and amplify the overall business strategy, values, and purpose of your organization. To that end, understand who your key stakeholders are and their expectations from the investments and activities you influence: what are the social and business outcomes that matter? Build your plan around achieving those outcomes, with an initial focus on 3–5 strategic initiatives to drive impact.”

Dave Stangis (@DaveStangis), Vice President, Corporate Responsibility and Chief Sustainability Officer, Campbell Soup Company: “The first 100 days can be the most important in any new role. I always recommend taking on a strong bias of listening, testing hypotheses and completing an inventory of current activities within scope. You want to complete that 100 days with a clear vision of what internal and external stakeholders expect from you and your position. Doing this right not only builds enlistment to the correct strategy, it also helps ensure the work you take on will truly drive results for the enterprise.”

Danielle Tergis (@dtergis), Founder, The Tergis Group: “Immerse yourself in the organization its strategic plan and the goals for all the departments and align your plans to support them. Get to know the key players on your team and the folks you’ll be working with the most. Also, read everything you can get your hands on — including industry trades, blogs, and mainstream media — about the issues your organization cares most about.”

Leon Kaye (@LeonKaye), Director of Social Media and Engagement at 3BL Media: “I think it’s a mistake to go in ‘doing’ and not listening . . . We may feel the issues are burning, but remember the concept of CSR or sustainability still may be new to many of your colleagues. Spend those first 100 days listening to key stakeholders at the company, from the people in the C-suite to the summer intern — and use this time wisely to build alliances and get buy-in for your agenda.”

John Friedman (@JohnFriedman), Sustainability Manager, WGL: “Learn the industry and the specific business first. Find out what matters to the c-suite and look to implement CSR programs that have an impact on those. I like to start with the 5 or 10-year strategy — most companies have one that sets things like financial, sales, operational and cultural objectives. It’s not about showing them how they can support CSR, but rather how CSR can help facilitate the things that they have already identified as priorities. Start helping them achieve those, and they’ll eagerly want to know what else you can do.”

Graham McLaughlin, Managing Director, Social Impact at UnitedHealth Group: “In the first 100 days, I’d work to ensure a clear, aligned strategy with a framework that staff and the company will rally around and executives will value through their words and actions. I’d also locate champions in positions across the organization who feel bought into your strategy because they were part of crafting it, and will be part of the team implementing it. Your power in a CSR program comes from being able to build a movement, so in the first 100 days, establish an infrastructure that allows you to do this effectively.”

Julie Hootkin (@jhootkin), Partner, Global Strategy Group: “First up, listen and learn. Kick off the 100 days with a full audit of all existing assets and communications.

“Identify key metrics, and measure against them.

  • Measure the things that matter, not just the things that are easiest to measure. That could mean visibility, impact, recruitment and retention of talent, social media engagement or more.
  • Be realistic about what you can accomplish and when.
  • Share your progress.

“Don’t do anything drastic. Take the time to get a complete understanding before making decisions about what to keep, cut or create.”

Do you agree or disagree with these suggestions? What would you do differently? What strategies have you found to be the most successful? What should people avoid?

Ryan Rudominer's passion is connecting people to causes that impact the world. I blog about emerging trends & priorities in corporate social responsibility & social impact. Follow him on Twitter.

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