HEART of giving V
Volunteering programmes are helping companies reach out to society and aiding staff development
ijashankar, head of Intel’s corporate communications division in Bengaluru, often takes two to three days off from work to volunteer at the Institute of Applied Dermatology that has developed a unique integrated treatment protocol for elephantiasis in the remote village of Kasargod, 300 km from Bengaluru. The 12-hour overnight journey by bus rejuvenates him. He helps out the hospital as part of his company’s skill-based volunteering initiative that involves preparing content for their website, helping them make presentations for domestic and international fora. “Besides allowing me to take leave, my company allows for workload flexibility. I can work, clock hours, sitting at Kasargod while helping with the hospital staff,” he says.
Many organisations, both Indian and MNCs, take interest in CSR ( corporate social responsibility) initiatives and allocate a certain yearly budget for the same. “Some companies are even hiring in-house experts to ensure that the money is being spent in the desired way,” says Vishal Chibber, director, HR, Kelly Services India.
Many companies encourage employees to volunteer and par- ticipate in the organsiations’ initiatives, causes or even start on their own outside the organisation in their respective communities. Since these activities are purely voluntary and for the common good, it is not seen as a means to grade or attach monetary/non-monetary incentives to it to promote employees involvement, adds Chibber.
How employees benefit
How do these initiatives help employees? On the personal development front, employees gain critical skills working with communities, develop the ability to relate to others and get better at communication, collaborative working and using their skills in new and often challenging contexts that stretches their creativity and resourcefulness and fosters innovation. “It also leads to teambuilding and leads to a sense of achievement and pride. A lot of these positive impacts are brought back to the workplace. Around 60-65% of our employees participate throughout the year in such activities. In some cases, for every hour that an individual does voluntary work with an organisation, a matching contribution of $20 is given by Intel,” says Ashutosh Chadha, director, corporate affairs group, Intel South Asia.
Dell employees are recog- nised for their volunteer time through a global employee recognition programme. For every 10 volunteer hours per quarter, team members are awarded a cause card of $150, which can be gifted to a charity through the company’s online volunteering platform, Make a Difference. In 2011, more than 1,500 people from Target India volunteered in more than 50 events, reaching more than 2,500 children, says Molly Gellerman, HR director.
The driving force
Mohini Daljeet Singh, head, Max India Foundation, which is the driver of the volunteering campaign, points out that keeping with the company’s health mission, the aim is to involve employees in healthcare-related volunteering activities. Initiatives include preventive health for children, immunisation for children, free high- end surgeries and treatments in hospitals and organising health camps.
IT, consulting and BPO major Cognizant promotes the cause of education for underprivileged children through its programme called Outreach. Since 2007, more than 20,000 employees have contributed to the Outreach initiatives. In 2011, they clocked over 100,000 hours of volunteering efforts.
Cognizant’s volunteers span across hierarchies, ranging from trainees to vice presidents. While the organisation actively recognises the voluntary contributions of employees, volunteering is not a part of the appraisal system. Contributions, however, are recognised. In 2010, two of the volunteers were invited by the CEO to ring the NASDAQ opening bell in New York, in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the community. Some are even given prize money to execute an educational project of their choice.
The company also conducted a social audit of its key initiatives of 2010 across various stakeholders, whose findings were: 57% volunteers reported improved work performance due to volunteering, 82.4% volunteers felt volunteering increase their awareness of social issues and desire to help society. The founders of five of the six grassroots groups at Cognizant started their own social initiatives after joining the company and getting inspired by Outreach activities, says Archana Raghuram, director, Cognizant Outreach.
Employees at Zoho support children in need of quality education. Such children are assisted with school fees, books/notebooks and uniforms. Recently, a group of Zoho employees volunteered to clean up a neighbourhood in Velachery, Chennai.