Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Corporate Volunteering

Corporate Volunteering is the buzz word in CSR. Many companies already have an employee volunteer program in place and many other companies are contemplating. As part of my research for this article I found that NASSCOM foundation has come up with a booklet on corporate volunteerism titled: "Volunteer in Action".  This booklet provides the 'do's and don'ts of volunteering as well as testimonials from many volunteers. The booklet only skims the surface of what is a very popular  but underutilized medium of employee motivation.

In fact, world wide there is a shift from traditional volunteering (e.g cleaning up the neighborhood, painting school walls, tree planting etc) to more technical form of volunteering aligned to Company's business vision and objectives. This is called "High Impact Volunteering". This trend to move up the corporate volunteering value chain to High Impact Volunteering include: International Employee Volunteering as well as Skill Based Volunteering.

International employee volunteering is when companies send employees from one country to work in another. This corporate citizenship strategy may be an aspect of a company’s global volunteering program in that employees from one region or market travel internationally to volunteer alongside employees in another region or market. 

Currently, only a few companies have employee volunteer programs that include opportunities to go abroad. The recent report “Global Companies Volunteering Globally” noted five large multinational firms that have publicly committed to expanding their international employee volunteer programs; BD, Dow, GSK, IBM and Pfizer. Besides the five noted in the report, a number of other companies are currently investigating or enlarging their international employee volunteering programs.

Skill based volunteering aligns employee volunteering to the strategic business motivations and leverage the corporate assets and expertise to raise the bar and result in high impact. Employee volunteering that is aligned to corporate strategy like stakeholder relations, customer focus, competitive context and leadership development have more chances of drawing on the workplace skills of employees and the company’s distinct corporate resources.

IBM’s Corporate Social Corps  is another classic example of skill based volunteering. According to Stanley Litow, the VP of  IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs as of February 2011, in just three years  IBM sent a total of 100 teams  to 20 countries around the world. These teams were made up of 1000 employees from 50 countries in which IBM works. Stanley Litow, views these ‘citizen-diplomats’ as something more than a means to making IBM more productive and profitable. These programs work towards a more civil society on a global scale, to the benefit of all. 

To summarize, Corporate Volunteering is seen as a great tool to motivate employees as well as align the Company's goals and employee skills to the needs in the community. 

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