Insight & Analysis
CSR Training: Seven strategies to make it work for participants
29 September, 2015
Executive training programs can be boring, dull and virtually useless. Or they can be dynamic, career altering, fun and productive.
Here are some thoughts on how we can make CSR Training work better for participants.
How do we learn to do CSR Better?
What do we mean by ‘doing CSR Better’?
Different people have different answers to these questions. I’ll share mine with you, but encourage you to seek other answers and opinions too. In CSR, diversity rocks!
Let’s take the second question first. What is ‘doing CSR Better’?
For me it is all about value, always, every time. CSR is about creating and aligning value; value for shareholders and value for stakeholders. In ways that is not zero sum. It is done through the integration of resources, strategy, time, etc.
With this perspective we do CSR better by creating more value for any given level of inputs and by optimizing value created against inputs like time, money, opportunity cost, etc.
So, how do we learn to do that?
Notice that I said how do we learn to that and not how do we do that. You can see numerous posts on how to do CSR here.
This post will discuss what I know about teaching and learning CSR; knowledge built over decades of doing CSR and several years of developing and delivering CSR training to executives and leaders worldwide.
- Diversity is key. By its very nature CSR is about working with diverse interests and developing common ground and value-alignment. Successful CSR programs involve internal and external stakeholders with a ‘what’s in it for them’ approach.
Having different industries as well as diverse sectors (private, public, NGO, community, government, international organization, etc.) and geographic diversity adds a lot of value to CSR programs. So too does having a range of functions and positions at the learning table.
Participants have the chance to learn and understand the viewpoints and perspectives of others. For example a case study on stakeholder engagement is much richer when you have project field staff, corporate executives, community representatives, government officials, multi-lateral institutions and others at the same table. They learn from and with each other.
This can be invaluable as people go back to their own organizations to design, manage and implement CSR programs
Exception – when training is integrated with organizational and project level CSR strategy it can be beneficial to have a more homogenous internal group involved. But, even in that type of situation there are advantages to bringing in others for some components.
- Blend of theory and practice. All theory makes for a boring learning experience and people dis-engage. All practical doesn’t provide the theoretical framework that can help participants know material and concepts in a way that makes it easy to apply them.
Ideally a session will involve a lecture that discusses theory, frameworks and big picture perspectives and looks at how they are applied in real-world situations.
This is then followed with a group exercise and/or role-playing scenario where participants get to learn from and with each other and apply the theory and frameworks to a realistic simulation.
- Faculty Diversity – learning from the same person day after day after day gets boring. And it limits the perspectives that participants are exposed to.
I’ve found that participants learn more and retain more when they are taught by a diverse faculty that includes practitioners, private and public sector executives, NGO leaders and others. While this isn’t always practical, especially for shorter programs, it is important to bring as much diversity as possible to the Faculty Team.
- Certified Training Conferences – traditional executive programs provide a structured learning across a range of tightly managed subject areas. They promote personal development and, often, theoretical understanding of issues and concepts.
Industry conferences are more dynamic, have a range of speakers and facilitate dynamic networking and a state of the industry knowledge.
Over dozens of CSR training events I’ve found that a blend of executive training and industry conferences produces the most meaningful learning and is the best way to equip participants to hit the ground running right after the program.
We have developed a methodology we call Certified Training Conferences – that integrates the structured learning and personal development of traditional Executive Programs with the dynamic networking, variety of presenters, industry knowledge and diversity of international conferences.
- Certified Training Conferencesbring together a global group of executives and managers from industry, NGOs, development agencies and international organizations to learn with and from each other in a dynamic, interactive and highly social setting.
- Testing ideas and driving the CSR bus – Participants are much better able to apply the learnings from a CSR training program when they have a chance to engage in testing ideas and driving the CSR bus through group-work sessions and scenario/role playing activities.
These provide them with the opportunity to put theory into practice in a non-threating, risk-free and supportive environment. When coupled with broad group diversity these practical and hands-on components can be one of the most valuable aspects of a high-level CSR training program.
- Follow-up support – nobody can retain everything from a training session. Invariably a few weeks or months later a situation will arise and the participant will remember that something similar was covered in the program but either cannot recall the specifics, or simply wants to get feedback and guidance on it.
It is important that participants are encouraged to network with each other after the program and also that they have access to faculty and/or program leaders for a period of time after the session has ended.
It is also helpful to have an online forum or vehicle for sharing of ideas and asking questions.
These are some of the elements that I’ve found can help turn a CSR training program into a life and career changing event. By using these methods the CSR Training Institute has been able to achieve very high participant satisfaction ratings with over 80% of participants rating our programs as one of the top three training programs they have ever taken. You can see what our participants have to say in their own words here.