Organizations exist in an environment that is constantly changing. They therefore have to adapt themselves accordingly in order to survive.
One way in which they can achieve this is by changing their culture so that it is relevant to the environment within which they operate. Over the last few decades, many organizations have recognized the need to align their interests with those of the society.
This has been caused by the increased importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS). CRS is a concept that obliges organizations treat all their stakeholders in a manner that is both ethically and socially sound.
Emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility has given European companies a competitive edge over the American multinationals that have for decades dominated the global market (Ariel & Reeves 2002).
In recognition of the impact that society has, many organizations today seek to align their operations with societal demands. However, for this to take place, the organizations need to have knowledge of the social demands that exist.
This paper will explain and give examples of how organizations monitor social demands and manage their social response mechanisms, and therefore guarantee their future success.
How organizations monitor social demands
Organizations exist within a certain environment and their actions are dictated by the internal and external needs of this environment. Albright (2008) declares that organizations should have a good understanding of the environment within which they operate if they want to succeed and achieve their goals.
Without a proper understanding, they are likely to engage in practices that contradict social expectations. Robbins et al. (2009) observes that many organizations have developed external engagement practices that enable them to understand better the social demands they are facing.
With such practices, the organizations are able to gain a better understanding of the risks and opportunities that exist with their social contract and hence properly address both the risks and the opportunities.
One mechanism used by organizations is social auditing which looks at the impacts of the organizations’ operations on the society. This mechanism assesses the impacts of a company on key groups in society (Unerman 2007).
An independent or internal auditor makes the assessments and reports his findings to the organization’s leaders. This report forms the basis for the stakeholder dialogue that aims at addressing problems that may have been highlighted.
This mechanism encourages engagement with stakeholders and they are inclined to view the organization as a valued member of the society. It also facilitates the development of social information systems that act as valuable means of organizational learning (Bartol et al., 2008).
The reason for this are the perspectives of the stakeholders that are acquired through the social information systems which can influence the organizational decision-making process.
Organizations can also assess the level of pressure being exerted by the stakeholders. This pressure or advocacy will point the management to the relevant issues that the society is anxious about.
Maurizio (2006) declares that pressure from external stakeholders increases the chances of having the organization align its operations with societal demands since the pressure stimulates managers to confer with stakeholders in order to discuss their expectations and reach an understanding of how the organization will respond.
Employees’ feedback can also serve as a means through which the organization can monitor social demands. Davidson et al (2006) documents that regular evaluations of employees’ opinion on the organizational practices are also used to monitor society demands.
This is because while the employees are a part of the organization, they are also a part of the community. Their opinion about the social responsiveness of the organization will therefore reflect that of the community. Employees’ surveys can be used to assess the internal climate of an organization.
Surveys may also help to change employees’ attitudes towards the job and the policies adopted by the organization (Bartol et al., 2008). This data-collection technique can help evaluate organizational practices in various ways.
An organization may want to make its employees adopt socially responsible policies that have been incorporated into the organizations operations. Periodic measurements will show changes in attitudes of the employees. Feedback obtained from the surveys can also be used to change attitudes in areas where improvement is needed.
Employees can also put forth social expectations for the organization. By doing this, they will be a source of influence for the company to identify and measure various elements of social performance. Employees who believe in the policies adopted by their organization are more likely to support the company and demonstrate loyalty to it.
Maurizio (2006) notes that the rate of an employee turnover is low when employees believe that their company is maintaining certain standards of social performance.
How Organizations manage their social response mechanisms
After monitoring the social demands, it is important for an organization to react appropriately. Williams (2006) defines social responsiveness: “As the strategy that the company chooses to respond to the stakeholders’ economic, legal, and ethical expectations concerning social reasonability”.
The manners in which the organization will respond to its social demands will be different since various stakeholders (shareholders, employees, customers, and the community) have different expectations of the organization.
Maurizio (2006) confirms that many businesses have a problem recognizing the societal demands since they receive signals from a large number of different stakeholders who may have different needs.
Making use of the monitoring process will provide the organization with valid concerns that should be addressed. Williams (2006) warns that when organizations fail to make use of monitors and instead try to infer the social demands upon them, it leads to the gap between what the society requires and company’s reaction.
This gap will negatively impact the organization since the stakeholders’ needs will not be effectively addressed. The organization is also likely to commit significant resources to find solutions that will not assist it to address the societal demands that it currently faces.
As the importance of CSR has grown, many organizations are starting to focus on their internal change initiatives instead of waiting for external forces to demand the changes. Because of this, companies have started to focus on developing internal change capabilities that are aimed at influencing the environment positively.
This social consciousness means that managers and employees do not have to wait for stakeholder advocacy in order for them to take up the action (Bartol et al., 2008). Socially sensitive organizations can establish a culture of social responsibility by integrating CSR principles in their strategy.
When CSR principles form a core part of the business operations of the company, all the aspects of the organization will be geared towards meeting the social demands faced by the organization (Robbins et al 2009).
For example, a mining company that makes use of CSR to make its decisions will assess the social impact of its waste disposal practices. If the results of this assessment show that the current practices are harming the ecosystem, the company can search for alternatives that do not cause damage.
An advantage of integrating CSR in business operations is that it will lead to a greater understanding of the key interests and priorities of the external stakeholders. The company will proceed to do more than expected to address the problem.
Such actions will conciliate the organization to the society since it will come off as being considerate of the social welfare. Williams (2006) notes that a company that uses a reactive strategy will do less than society expects, and this might decrease its success.
Communication with the relevant external stakeholders also ensures that the measures taken by the organization are the most effective ones. Without communication, the organization will not be able to assess the effectiveness of its responses.
Campling et al (2008) reveals that from engagement with external stakeholders, the organization is able to fine-tune its social response mechanisms so that they are most beneficial both for the organization and the society. Open communication also demonstrates to the society that the organization appreciates their input and is committed to fulfilling its social obligations.
As it was noted, organizations can categorize the social demands based on the amount of pressure being applied by the stakeholders. If the activism demonstrated by stakeholders is minimal and is coming from a small number of members, then the organization does not have to respond to the demands.
However, if the level of external pressure is high, then the management needs to respond fast since the pressure might have major impacts on the organization.
Maurizio (2006) corroborates this by noting that the power and urgency with which the stakeholders make their claims has a direct bearing on the social risk that the company faces from social actors. Failing to respond to high pressure from the society might cause the company to be beaten by its competitors and this might threaten its future survivability.
The organization can also make changes to reflect the current societal trends. For example, the police force has demonstrated significant culture changes in recognition to its changing role in society.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the police force focused on maintaining law and order through controlling the society. There was an emphasis on the use of physical force to obtain compliance from suspects.
Kinnaird (2007) declares that the role of police has changed, and today the law enforcement agencies hope to enlist the cooperation of the community in order to do their job. Police officers make use of social skills to relate with the community and police training aims to increase the social competence of the officers.
Organizations also develop a culture where the leaders and managers consider the impacts of their decisions and actions on the society as a whole.
Sims (2003) reveals that such an approach leads to the organization’s management assuming responsibility for their actions and acting as stewards of the needs of society. Such a culture results in social awareness of all the organization’s staff and therefore reduces the societal demands of the society.
Discussion and Conclusion
Social responsibility is a complex issue since it does not guarantee economic performance of the organization. However, failure to engage in it increases the chances of a company experiencing a backlash from the community.
Because of this, response to social demands is no longer one of the frill considerations of organizations. Instead, many companies have come to adopt continuing commitments to ethical behaviour and positive contributions to the quality of life of their staff and the society at large.
Today’s organizations must learn how to satisfy societal demand and at the same time optimize its economic success. Only by doing this can the survival and future productivity of the company be assured. Willingness to respond to social demands reduces the risks and exposure to lawsuits that an organization faces.
If an organization fails to consider social demands, social activists may highlight the failures of organizations to demonstrate social responsibility and even use this to defame corporations.
Today’s organizations are faced with many expectations not only from their employees but also from the society. They must therefore respond to the issues raised by these two classes if they want to succeed.
This paper set out to review the manner in which organizations monitor social demands and manage their social response mechanisms. The paper has underscored the fact that it is only by identifying, monitoring, and responding to the social demands of the stakeholder and society, the companies are able to succeed as responsible players in the market.
Organizations should encourage socially responsible practices among their managers and employees in order for them to reap the benefits that come from CSR strategies. The paper has noted that organizations’ leaders and managers should understand the specific demands of the various stakeholders and respond appropriately to them.
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