Home Top Stories Now, companies are paying employees to do charity work | India News

Now, companies are paying employees to do charity work | India News


On most days, Abhijeet Anam’s day involves planning the production for an anaesthetic product, monitoring demand, ensuring raw materials are in place, procuring bottle labels. But on a recent Friday afternoon, the 32-year-old supply planner from Piramal Critical Care, was mentoring the daughter of a rickshaw driver, gently coaxing her to take pen and paper and draw out a career road map.
Anam is one of a growing tribe of corporate volunteers who are devoting their time and skills to those less privileged. What’s different about executives like Anam is that their volunteer work is not outside of work but while on duty and with the blessings of department heads. Over the last five years, he and his co-workers have packed hundreds of school bags, painted the walls of a dilapidated school, and advised a group of villagers on how to scale their business. Last year, his target was 1,700 volunteer hours. “The most satisfying for me was helping sixth to eighth grade municipal school children build their public speaking skills and seeing one of the girls go on to win a competition against kids from a private school,” says the 32-year-old Mumbai resident, who has an engineering and business management degree.
A growing number of companies are realising that when they encourage their management to participate in a world beyond their corporate cubicles, it becomes a two-way street. “They learn as much as they give,” says Aarti Madhusudan who works with iVolunteer, a social organisation which connects volunteers to NGOs. “For example, they have to communicate with diverse groups and achieve goals within budget constraints.” In fact, there is an aspirational element to it as well. Last year, Nestlé started a programme in which 10 employees had to apply for a programme where they got a month of paid leave to volunteer. The Tata Group and Godrej both have had programmes in place for years. Earlier this year, Google launched a new program that will pay its employees to do pro bono work for nonprofit groups for up to six months.
There are three types of volunteering, says Shalabh Sahai, co-founder of iVolunteer. The first is one-off activities like beach cleaning and tree planting. These are fairly common initiatives; the second is the project-based initiative, where there is no regular commitment, but people offer their skills — technology, website creation, management, writing or accounting. This has been gradually picking up. The third is where senior professionals offer strategic advice on governance issues in the development sector. “Some companies are even using volunteering as a leadership and development tool,” says Sahai.
A few years ago, iVolunteer set up a whiteboard programme, mimicking a corporate board, which connected senior professionals with diverse skill sets with NGOs who were trying to scale up or bring in strategy and skill into what may have started as a passionate cause. “We invited companies to nominate their high-potential managers to volunteer their time and practice a different kind of leadership,” says Harish Devarajan, a Bangalore-based leadership coach, who used to head human resources at Hindustan Unilever and is now a member of the whiteboard programme. Titan and Bosch signed up and sent their senior professionals. They worked with a children’s after-school learning programme which was trying to scale up its operations, as well as a group which tries to unite runaway children with their families. “Everyone benefited,” says Devarajan. “The social workers gained management insight and the managers were impacted by their simplicity and passion. The results were so rewarding that both companies signed up to send a new set of managers for the next whiteboard round.”
Maniti Modi of ConnectFor says that the real beneficiaries of volunteers are the very small, under-funded organisations. She gives the examples of Healing Dove Foundation that is dedicated to rehabilitating marginalised youth. “They literally built their entire organisation on the back of volunteers, right from creating the website to managing social media,” she says.
A survey recently conducted by People Matters and Goodera on the Indian volunteering landscape suggests that while 88% employers support the idea, only 26% have a formal volunteering policy in place. But those who do are reaping benefits such as motivated employees. “Our belief is that an engaged volunteer becomes an engaged employee and eventually an engaged citizen,” says Madhusudan.

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