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Employee volunteering – for the inner & outer bottom lines

In a day and age where most of us dedicate a major part of our time to our jobs, we are beginning to look for more than financial compensation. As citizens and employees many of us are on the hunt for a greater purpose with our daily efforts. It’s a quest for meaning – and a quest for a meaningful work-life.

Everywhere there are signs of this quest, which coexists with a growing collective interest in handing over a better world to new generations.

Privately, some citizens follow in the footsteps of philanthro-celebs like Bono, Angelina Jolie and Bill Gates and engage actively in good causes and charitable organizations. Others donate money through websites such as DonorsChoose, GlobalGiving or SmallCanBeBig, which enable direct, personal and specific donations. And yet others volunteer their time – some even volunteer their holidays.

‘The 1960s were all about relaxing vacations; in the 80s vacations were all about being active or seeking adventure. Now people are seeking meaningful vacations. People have a very quiet but desperate need to find meaning in their lives,’ explains managing director Ross Wehner from Volunteer Adventures.

But volunteer work is not only for the private citizen. Corporate volunteering programmes that involve employees in community work (employee volunteering) are gaining ground in companies around the world.

Companies typically offer two explanations for engaging their employees in voluntary work: They offer employee volunteer programmes as an immaterial fringe benefit to strengthen their employer branding. Alternatively, the program is part of an overall CSR-strategy, aimed at boosting the corporate brand.

But as IBM, among others, has discovered, employee volunteering has an even greater strategic and financial potential: When integrated into a company’s core business strategy it can boost innovation and benefit the bottom line.


IBM uses its volunteer program – Corporate Service Corps – to realize the company’s vision of creating a “globally integrated enterprise”. Since 2008, IBM has dedicated 1,000 of its top management prospects from over 50 countries to bring professional and social competences to development projects in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Through their voluntary work, IBM’s high performers are exposed to essential learning in fields crucial to any global corporation: markets under development, cultural diversity, global teams, beyond-the-office thinking and public expectations to responsible and sustainable business practices.

There is, in other words, a “triple benefit”: leadership development for the IBMers, a philanthropic contribution to the communities, and greater knowledge and enhanced reputation in the growth markets for IBM.

As IBM’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, Stanley Litow puts it: “It’s not just philanthropy, it’s leadership development and business development, and it helps build economic development in the emerging world.”

More links on corporate/employee volunteering:

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Posted in | CSR, Corporate Volunteering, Education, Globalization, Sustainable business
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