“Scale Is Sexy:" Global Conglomerates and Corporate Social Impact
This post was featured in Forbes.com.
With more than 300,000 employees in over 90 countries, HP is a large company by anyone’s standards. This size and scale allows them to make an impact in a way that smaller organizations cannot.
“Scale is sexy,” says Caroline Barlerin, director of global community involvement in HP’s Office of Global Sustainability & Social Innovation, who points out if all HP employees took advantage of the four hours of paid time off to volunteer the company offers every month, it would equate to more service than the Peace Corps. While she doesn’t believe the company will single-handedly change the world, Barlerin is cognizant of the impact a company as large as HP can make through sheer numbers alone, as well as how it can lead the overall dialogue around shared value.
The numbers are impressive: HP employees volunteered more than 1.4 million hours in 2012 to date, worth $80 million, which is a significant increase from the year before. Yet, despite the high number of volunteer hours, the company is striving for an even greater number of participants in these programs, allowing it to further fine-tune best practices in employee volunteer programs, with a current focus on skills-based pro bono work.
HP seeks increased community engagement through a celebration of its employees making a difference, and then telling those stories about how skills-based pro bono work and other community service activities are changing the world both internally and externally. The benefits of this promotion speak for itself: not only are more employees using their paid volunteer hours than in years past, more are getting involved in the skills-based pro bono programs that HP is so assiduously advocating.
Employee involvement pays off in more ways than just additional volunteer hours clocked or more pro bono projects; it also pays off in stronger partnerships with nonprofits, a powerful tool for creating lasting community impact. In 2011, HP built its infrastructure to support these partnerships through 19 country gateways and now has launched 48 country gateways to enable employees to engage. This more than doubles the number of regions where HP and its employees are able to make an impact in a single year.
HP leaders and employees are proud to speak of the company’s ability to positively affect the communities in which it does business. When surveyed, nearly 90 percent of HP’s nonprofit partners said that HP helped them to offer “higher quality services”, “be more innovative” and most importantly, “serve more people”.
Further, the company has found that employee engagement increases when its people are given chances to volunteer. This engagement is even higher when employees are engaging in pro bono, skills-based opportunities. In fact, HP found that employees who participate in skills-based volunteer events are 59 percent more likely to feel that the company is a “great place to work”. This underscores a core tenet of HP’s community involvement: “We have a shared value approach at HP.” says Barlerin. “Economic interest and social impact are not at odds with one another. We truly believe they should work in tandem.”
Indeed, one of the biggest questions going in the world of shared value is how to balance doing good with doing well. At HP, however, this is a nonsensical question as the two are not considered mutually exclusive. “People are going to volunteer,” says Barlerin. “The challenge is figuring out how to harness that energy in a meaningful way that will make a tangible difference in communities. I want HP to be the example of how to do it. It has a multiplier effect upon the community, allowing us to attract and retain top talent and build a reputation in the marketplace,” Barlerin notes.
So what is HP’s strategy for community engagement? Local knows best. “HP is a global company with global goals. It’s not a simple matter of taking what we do in the United States and exporting it to China,” said Barlerin. And while the company works around the globe, it tailors programs and opportunities to each location’s specific needs. Some examples of how the company is changing communities include:
An employee in Japan helped Doctors Without Borders to improve its IT security. This in turn helped the organization avoid security breaches that would interfere with its work providing medical care to war zones and disaster areas.
Employees in Morocco helped teach high school students in Casablanca how to start their own business through Junior Achievement Morocco’s Entrepreneurship Master Class.
Employees in Mexico are teaching young people how to craft resumes and cover letters that will help them to find gainful employment and provide for their families.
Employees in India organized HP Hackathons that brought together programmers and developers to quickly generate new solutions to old problems. HP employees are providing mentoring services to Global Health Corps (GHC) Fellows, an organization that promotes global health equity by connecting outstanding young leaders around the world with organizations working on the frontlines.
The point is simple: HP employees are engaged in ways that align with the needs of their communities—from healthcare and education to sustainability and disaster response—as well as in ways that help showcase the power of technology to positively change lives. This process effectively engages talented professionals to make a tangible difference in the communities where they live and work and show how HP can provide viable solutions to everyday needs. “I’m shameless about asking people to step up and volunteer, especially when it leverages their skills in a new way,” says Barlerin.
Barlerin sees HP as just one company with a lot of leverage when it comes to the global conversation about volunteering and community impact. To be a part of this conversation, HP is involved with A Billion + Change, a national campaign to mobilize billions of dollars of pro bono and skills-based services from corporate America. HP Vice President and Deputy General Counsel David Bruscino will speak at the “Innovations in Corporate Service” thought leader summit in Palo Alto, a celebration of skills-based, pro bono volunteer programs. Companies pledging to A Billion + Change will come together to learn about the latest and greatest innovations in the world of service, the role of Millennial employees and collaborations between the public and the private sector.
A Billion + Change already has secured nearly $1.8 billion in corporate pledges and 12 million hours of time and talent to pro bono programs. If your company would like to sign on to A Billion + Change, go to www.abillionpluschange.org for more information.
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