Inside IBM’s “life-changing” CSR initiative

The firm’s regional head of corporate citizenship offers insight into the global program

Inside IBM’s “life-changing” CSR initiative
One of IBM’s most prominent CSR initiatives is turning 10 this year after contributing to more than 1,000 pro bono projects around the world – however, the program isn’t just about helping communities in need, it also has a major impact on the organisation itself.

“The first goal of the Corporate Service Corps is to help community organisations address their most critical problems by deploying IBM’s expertise, particularly our people,” says David Raper, Asia Pacific lead of corporate citizenship at IBM.

“Secondly, the program is designed to help our employees grow professionally and develop the leadership skills that a global company like ours needs to succeed,” he continues.

“Finally, it also provides benefits for IBM by strengthening relationships with clients and supporting our reputation and contribution to the community – it really is designed to have triple benefit.”

Since it first launched, more than 3,000 employees have participated in a variety of initiatives – from increasing the efficacy of a food banking network in Mexico to facilitating the rapid growth of the Sankara Eye Foundation in India.

“Teams of 12-15 employees are deployed on assignments in an emerging market which is not their own country,” says Raper. “They spent a month working with governments and not-for-profits to bring the consulting and technology skills that IBM has in order to help those organisations achieve their goals.”

Unsurprisingly, the program is a competitive one and successful applicants are usually high performers who are already doing some form of community work. According to Raper, once they’ve completed the deployment, they’ve not only developed new skills and helped needy organisations, they’re also more loyal to IBM and are proud to work for the firm.

“The feedback from participants is really strong,” he tells HRD. “People come back and say this is the highlight of their careers and even say this was the highlight of their life – it really is a program that’s designed to be immersive in a new culture, very intense for a short period of time and it really helps people grow very quickly.”

In fact, one recent survey found that 96 per cent of Corporate Service Corps participants felt the program helped them and their ability to effectively lead a global team and 94 per cent said the initiative offered “important and unique learning and development opportunities” that match their current career goals.

Managers too have noticed the impact of the CSC program – 86 per cent said they would recommend another employee apply for the program, 85 per cent said the employee’s understanding of IBM’s role in society had increased and 75 per cent said the employee showed improved attitude and motivation.

“They’re really important things for any business,” says Raper. “To have employees who are proud and engaged and developing their talent.”

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