Leveraging employee expertise to help the community

Champions of Good Alpha Development and SAP went beyond the typical CSR activations to create societal impact.

A company’s values have always been important for its customers, who are more drawn to companies that continue in their effort to do good not just for the betterment of themselves but as a way to recognise and ground themselves in the community that supported them.

Employees also believe in doing good. When a company goes out of its way to make sure that it creates societal impact and engages employees to do the same, they feel more fulfilled according to the 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study.

Companies who do good by committing one of their own to the cause speak volumes about their dedication and perspective of doing good as an entrenched value in their organisation.

Helping the world run better
Social sabbaticals, or social secondment programmes, are a deeper and more personal way to do good. Companies that engage in this type of initiative ‘lend’ employees and their professional skills to various NPOs, charities or social enterprises wholly for an extended duration. Their salaries are paid in full by the employer company even when they are effectively stationed in another organisation.

One great example of this is SAP Asia’s Social Sabbatical, a portfolio of pro bono volunteering programs which aims to assist non-profit organisations and social enterprises in solving business challenges particularly on digital inclusion in different markets across the globe.

The Social Sabbatical is designed to help elevate SAP employees to understand the global consequences of a rapidly digitised world and become role models, as they help social organisations run at their best and support them to maximise their social impact. SAP ensures that their employees are clear on the commitment of their time, which ranges from a minimum of two weeks to four weeks, in a full-time immersion for them to get the best experience and help the social enterprise with the challenges they face.

“To reach these goals, our employees are placed in highly diverse teams to dedicate their skills, expertise, and know-how in unique, short-term assignments focused on driving simplicity and customer success. Whilst doing so, they will strengthen their leadership competencies, cross-industry sector knowledge, and intercultural sensitivity,” SAP explained.

The firm executed a Local Engagement Singapore Social Sabbatical in 2019 where 12 pro-bono SAP consultants are assigned on a 10-day assignment gig to four unique host clients in Singapore. In teams of three, they are expected to address specific business challenges within the perimeters that they have identified for host clients.

One of the host clients was Engineering Good, which SAP consultants worked with to help expand their We Hack Care! workshops into a self-organising and self-sustaining model for scalability. Another team of consultants, matched with Saturday Kids, redesigned and scaled existing digital literacy programmes for easy deployment locally and regionally to maximise their impact on society.

Overcoming challenges
Doing good comes with its own set of challenges, however.

COVID-19 toppled the plans of many, including organisations that were seeking to create social impact. This was the case for financial training company Alpha Development, as they had to adapt to obstacles brought by safe management measures, such as delays and changes to their corporate programme deliveries.

Despite the limitations and having fewer than 10 full-time employees, Alpha Development dug their heels in and persisted, coordinating with internal staff and associates who have previously committed to the programme to continue and adapt their plans.

Alpha Development leveraged its technical expertise to groups like Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), a crisis intervention and suicide prevention group, in digitising their training, converting their volunteer management training and events onto online platforms and other virtual conferences. More recently, the company also worked with non-profit financial education group Aidha to review and refine its Business Accelerator Programme, which allowed Aidha to better capture and attribute the outcomes and impacts to their overall programme and gauge its effectiveness.

Jen Macapagal, programme manager and team lead (APAC) at Alpha Development, notes that the company will continue its social efforts in the new year, as they are planning to launch its Build Your Future Programme 2021, an essential skills training programme for foreign domestic workers (FDWs) focused on their personal and professional development. The firm will also be working closely with non-profit organisation Race2Share for FDWs to adopt a more active lifestyle and promote these sessions through its network and community.

“It is through [our client base] and network of associates that we can really drive corporate giving and build a multiplier effect. We also encourage our clients to consider how they can merge leadership and other development training programmes with doing good, for example developing project management skills through leading a community project,” said Jen.

‘Lending’ employees to a good cause
SAP and Alpha Development’s determination to benefit both the community and their employees through skills-based volunteering helped them to be recognised as Champions of Good this year. Champions of Good, launched in 2017, is a national recognition initiative by Company of Good. It recognises organisations that are exemplary in doing good and have also been a multiplier by engaging their partners and stakeholders on a collaborative journey.

This recognition not only made these two companies see greater purpose and value in their work, but gives them the validation and motivation to continue their efforts for the community.

Alpha Development’s Jen believes that connecting their employees with the community around them ultimately leads to a more centred and motivated workforce. 

“Doing good can and should also be a constant – no matter what technology advancement or other changes that may arrive, businesses will continue to be part of their communities and should build links accordingly,” she notes.

SAP also encourages other businesses to be a multiplier and share about the community efforts they partake in to encourage stronger participation internally and influence more corporates to join in and do good.

“[It’s crucial to get] management support to invest in people sustainability that focuses on employees’ health and well-being. A healthier and cared for employee is happier and feels more empowered to make a difference to the place we live in,” the firm concludes.

The two companies may not have undertaken the same path in their determination to do good, but they both pursue one common goal: to make the world a better place.

Champions of Good recognises organisations that are exemplary in doing good. Check out the full featured highlights of our Champions of Good 2020 at companyofgood.sg/champions.

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