Corporate Citizenship

Kiwis creating impact around the world

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Author: Hayley Sullivan, HR Director, IBM New Zealand

In my 15 years of experience working in HR departments in both New Zealand and the UK, across industries ranging from airlines to insurance, I’ve seen and worked on many different corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. However, IBM’s Corporate Services Corps (CSC) programme is unique, leveraging the skills and expertise of 380,000+ employees to solve high-priority humanitarian and environmental problems through pro-bono consulting engagements.

Stephen Lawrence in Cuenca at a march for women's rights on March 8, International Women's Day

Stephen Lawrence in Cuenca at a march for women’s rights on March 8, International Women’s Day

With a ‘triple benefit’, the programme’s value extends not only to the community partners, but also delivers better insights, staff retention, and employee engagement for IBM—and crucially in today’s changing business climate, a challenging and often life-changing immersive leadership experience for participants.

In this era of significant digital transformation for employers and workforces globally, traditional job roles are changing rapidly, and skills need to keep pace. Our 2016 IBM Institute of Business Value study Facing the storm— Navigating the global skills crisis found that while technological capabilities remain at a premium, other types of skills—soft skills—are also increasing in value. Skills like communication, team effectiveness, flexibility and agility are in high demand, and programmes like CSC deliver an exceptional opportunity to stretch emerging leaders, cultivate those key skills, and integrate this knowledge back into their day-to-day work.

CORPORATE SERVICES CORPS

Michael Friedberg and team outside a newly opened Healthcentre in Guediawaye (population 400,000), home of the first elearning programme to be rolled out in this area.

Michael Friedberg and team outside a newly opened Healthcentre in Guediawaye, home of the first elearning programme to be rolled out in this area.

In 2008 IBM redefined its corporate responsibility proposition by launching the CSC programme, which has fostered a profound level of social impact across the globe in the ten years since. Addressing issues of economic development, energy, transportation, education and healthcare, CSC offers employees and communities an opportunity to create shared value by addressing critical issues while having the ability to upskill personally and professionally.

In the programme, IBMers are grouped into multi-cultural, cross-functional teams that deploy for month-long assignments to assist community organisations. The teams — consultants, researchers, marketers and more  — work on projects varying from upgrading educational technology to consulting on the best ways to improve water quality. Participants can offer local communities and organisations their extensive technical skills and abilities from deep experience in analytics, mobile technologies, and cloud computing and social business.

With projects in over 40 countries, 3000 IBMers, including 20 Kiwis, have had the opportunity to develop as global corporate citizens and stimulate critical change in developing communities.

UNIVERSAL APPEAL AND GLOBAL INVOLVEMENT

Josephine Parulian strategising with the Sophia Green project team.

Josephine Parulian strategising with the Sophia Green project team.

The CSC programme has been enthusiastically embraced by employees around the world and each year IBM receives thousands of applications from across 63 countries. Approximately 500 of IBM’s most hardworking and talented employees are chosen annually,  and their involvement spans three months of training and preparation, four weeks working intensively on-site, and post- assignment follow-up.

The training period helps employees connect remotely with new team members, to learn about the communities they will be working in, and to gain a deeper understanding of the problems they will be addressing. In New Zealand, we’ve had three participants in the past two years, working on projects in Ecuador, Bulgaria and Senegal.

BACK IN NEW ZEALAND

Employees are encouraged to blog about their journey and, upon return, to present back to their local team on their experiences. Employees are then welcomed into a worldwide community of CSC alumni. Alumni become mentors for future CSC participants, assisting and guiding them during their training period.

With all of our Kiwi participants having such a positive experience in the programme, its wide-scale impact and benefits for the communities and our employees are highly visible. CSC helps to develop and support social impact for every participating community and creates a shared goal of improving the standard of living and economic prospects in global communities.

TRIPLE BENEFIT

The triple benefit—for the community, for IBM and for IBMers—was introduced to give the programme an authentic and impactful position within the organisation and the global community.

CSC is setting the standards by creating a core model for leadership and development engagement in organisational philanthropy and CSR. With ongoing global pressure to change the way organisations operate and interact with the rest of the world, it is the integration of organisational programmes like CSC that will stimulate a wider social and beneficial impact. And at the same time, we’re helping prepare IBMers for the leadership roles of tomorrow.

This article was originally published in Employment Today. To read it in its entirety, please click this link ET221_17_19(2).

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