THE CHRYSALIS EFFECT - an evolutionary step for CSR, Learning and Development, HR?

By: Iris von Brandstatter 

Observations from the sidelines.

Nature is a great teacher and much of it can be applied in business too. Since I was a child, I have been especially fascinated with the Chrysalis Effect - the stages of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Many shoe-boxes with holes later, there was still the mystery remaining of what actually happens in that cocoon. Complete destruction - that's what happens in there, and it is a good thing.

I did not know the details until I was an adult, and yes, I am going somewhere with this ... The caterpillar becomes pretty much liquid in order to reform itself as a butterfly, but even as a caterpillar it already has all the components necessary to do so. How amazing is that!

So ... after a few months of immersing myself in the latest CSR, L&D research, with a good dose of HR and digital transformation thrown into the mix, I cannot help but notice a distinct need for more 'lived' connectivity of the three - a reinventing of all three models - a metamorphosis so to speak. I feel it is high-time for a next evolutionary step to meet the demands of this fast paced digital economy. How? Well, I have come up with a theory and asked myself some deeper questions.



Is CSR not intrinsically linked to an enterprises' skill pool (L&D/HR) and vice-versa to ensure a workplace flourishes and can be its best; for its people and community? Leading swiftly to ...


Then why are there so many resources and industry gurus pointing at the still gaping division of these departments?


What kind of support would all three need to overcome this silo thinking and leave their comfort zones?

Here is a great example from Harvard Business Review that shows just how synergistic this could run off:

Re-skilling Workers Is a Central Part of Corporate Social Responsibility


Ah, but there are cultural differences to overcome you may say ... and you would be right. But how does one overcome cultural differences? With more Learning and Development to further better understanding and diversity. Looks to me that each one, CSR, L&D and HR have core components the other one is missing and could benefit from.


So I came up with a formula ... CSR + L&D + HR = win win

A kind of chrysalis effect seems to me the next logical step of evolution for CSR & L&D & HR - but it has to be a joint metamorphosis. There are plenty of blogs, reports and other news snippets of this very topic that have been fluttering around on the web for quite a few years. Yet more recent ones highlight the continuous dilemma of CSR and L&D not being in sync (enough). With skills gaps the size of the grand canyon it feels like a dichotomy. The descriptions of obstacles and bemoaning the status quo are plentiful, so are proposed solutions ... revolving around the same action points - yet there is a surprising absence of success stories and measurable impact it seems, so maybe these action points need revisiting - or throwing out all-together ....


But back to the chrysalis effect. Just like a caterpillar, once cocooned in its pupa, turns itself into a 'liquid mess' - giving up its old form in order to morph into a butterfly - so could CSR, L&D and HR benefit from morphing and evolving from once rigid and fragmented frameworks to create a new, symbiotic entity that allows for better, more agile adaptability to its new element - the digital economy - in order to 'take flight' and emerge stronger and ultimately more successful.


Should learning and development not be a given right for every employee and CSR utilised as a core player to actively bridge skills gaps internally as well as externally/globally?

L&D complacency risks UK firms’ competitiveness with global counterparts

(source: )



CSR is linked to L&D and HR also via the issues of mental health as I perceive it. An enterprise needs to show responsibility for the mental health of its employees, many of which fear their skill sets might soon be redundant as technology advances so rapidly and this in turn puts unnecessary existential stress on a workforce and its managers and has proven to lower productivity, motivation and ... loyalty. The solution is simple in theory, not so simple in practice as this graphic below outlines.

Even though the figures below seem rather high and I reserve some scepticism over the actual figures - the message is still loud and clear.

(source: )



Where could CSR, L&D and HR combined truly reap the utmost benefits in our digitaleconomy?

That's the question I want to pose to you ...


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