Add it to the list! Should CSR include educating the world?

What do you do when you forecast a skill gap in your workforce?  You could tempt employed folks with the right skills to come work for you by offering something their organization doesn’t currently offer.  You could turn to hiring immigrants, should that talent pool provide the required skill set.  You could rehire women who left the workforce to care for their children and provide in-house childcare.  In these scenarios, you’re investing your corporate dollars to get in those who already have the skill set. 

So what if you’ve tapped the well dry; how about an alternate scenario where you train for skills? 

According to the 2009 Global CEO Survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, CEOs said that they don’t feel that governments are creating effective education systems to create a skilled workforce.  Perhaps there is a glut of fine art experts but you need chimney sweepers and not many are choosing chimney sweeping as a major.  Perhaps you have a lot of would-be chimney sweepers who cannot afford to go to chimney sweeper school.  Either way, you’ve got a skill gap problem and the education system isn’t working for you.Help Wanted

Here’s an idea:  reinvent Corporate Social Responsibility.  CSR is where organizations self-regulate their “adherence to law, ethical standards, and international norms”.  The popularity of CSR started out of the desire to do good and save the planet but let’s be honest – it’s truly snowballed as an idea because of its impact on recruiting and retaining both customers and employees.  Environmentalists win, organizations win and government wins because the market is replacing the need for them to create rules and laws.

Where issues of skill gaps are concerned, market forces aren’t helping you here – people are not choosing to learn the skills you need, education costs will almost always be going up and the government is not intervening on your behalf.  Why don’t you turn the tables and include education as part of your organization’s CSR offering?  What if your organization provided:

  • scholarships to students who may have a bright future with your organization
  • corporate sponsorship deals to schools to provide the training at a subsidized cost
  • active recruitment and paid retraining of those affected by a layoff or those who are marginalized by society
  • tuition reimbursement galore for current employees and their kids along with paid time off to learn, or
  • recruitment fairs that begin in elementary school via fun classroom activities (hey Billy Joe, let’s play the chimney sweep game!  How would you want to be a chimney sweeper when you group up?). 

Okay, so I’ll admit that the last point is farfetched and maybe even a little twisted.  But while the other ideas require work and investment, they can be done.  Imagine generating the skills your organization needs and otherwise wouldn’t get but also doing a service to our fellow human beings (Heellooo! Less unemployment!).  Now which person wouldn’t love the company who helps folks earn a living?  I’ll bet the organization’s name will be on the tip of every tongue.

True enough, it’s not like the economy is floating with money for such programs.  And CSR is not all about doing good – there needs to be an ROI.  What do you think:  is it cheaper to create your own skill set or to spend money recruiting an existing skill set?

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