Guest column – The Hollywood Reporter

As American businesses continue to migrate to the office after an unimaginable two-plus-year stay at home, many companies are now hyper-focused on how to keep employees engaged. Corporate citizenship has long been an important area of ​​activity, but we are at a pivotal time when people are reassessing their path in life and their careers. Employees want to have a stronger personal impact in society and are increasingly looking to their employers to support them in this mission.

Many of us are fortunate to work for companies that provide meaningful opportunities for good corporate citizenship. But it’s time to take charitable giving and volunteering to a new level, one that puts employees at the center of a corporate social responsibility strategy. By doing so, we can maintain employee engagement and support sustainable careers in our companies.

This is something that NBCUniversal recognized several years ago as we focused on how to get our charitable dollars to go further for our nonprofit partners and employees who want to get involved in deeper way. The result is a reimagined volunteer program and giving strategy that gives new meaning to the phrase “corporate benefits.”

Here are some of our lessons:

First, put the power to give in the hands of employees. Taking time out of your workday to mentor or pack supplies for community members are important experiences employees like to spend time on, but what’s missing in some of these initiatives is context. Workers need a more intimate understanding of the communities they serve. This experience helps create a great sense of empathy among volunteers and makes community service even more rewarding.

Over the past few years, NBCU has created an educational component of community service, providing training that shares in-depth knowledge of our nonprofit partners, the people they serve, and the needs of those communities. It’s also important to make volunteering more immersive, allowing employees to dedicate several days of the work week to in-depth projects on a yearly basis, instead of doing an hour of mentoring in the office conference room.

For example, in partnership with buildOn — a nonprofit that helps break the cycle of poverty and empower low-income students through service work — a group of NBCUniversal employees were matched with students of underfunded high schools, jointly participating in impactful leadership building and multi-day service-learning opportunities. Then, employees are expected to spend longer periods in communities like the South Bronx doing side-by-side service work with low-income students in their neighborhoods.

We also offer skills-based opportunities – through organizations such as Taproot and Pyxera Global – where employees serve as consultants in areas such as legal, human resources, finance, marketing and public relations. to help meet the specific needs of non-profit organizations. These assignments allow employees to leverage their expertise and skills to make valuable and strategic impact during short- and long-term projects. This pro bono work is performed in tandem with NBCU’s training and development program, in which employees participate in workshops on inclusive leadership, empathy and teamwork, preparing them to work in cross-functional teams. and to meet the needs of not-for-profit organizations in our communities.

Second, employees must also feel that their charities and personal causes matter. They want to work for a company that recognizes this they or they are the most passionate, not just the causes and organizations that senior management embraces. Matching gift programs continue to be a great way to help personal employee contributions go further; however, today’s workforce wants a seat at the strategic table of corporate philanthropy. Employers must create ways for their staff to play a greater role in deciding how charitable funds are used. For example, some companies hold contests for employees to submit their favorite nonprofits for grants.

NBCUniversal created a community impact fund that gave each of the company’s employee resource groups and diversity councils a grant to donate to up to two 501(c) charities (3 ), and the response to this program has been overwhelming, as these groups have been able to share their favorite charities with their colleagues and financially support nonprofits they are collectively passionate about.

Through this fund, NBCUniversal has awarded 172 nonprofit grants in 19 locations around the world. Eighty-one percent of grants awarded were to organizations that had never received corporate funding, allowing us to expand our philanthropic footprint in the communities where we live and work and recognize the causes and organizations that matter to our employees.

Third, employees also want to develop leadership skills, an essential part of advancing their careers, and one of the most important and meaningful ways to support this goal is to provide opportunities for employees to serve on boards. non-profit administration. NBCUniversal has secured board seats with each of our nonprofit corporate partners, as well as with other nonprofits, through Boardlead (an outside organization that connects members non-profit boards of directors).

Rather than simply placing interested employees on these boards, we offer a long-term nonprofit board service course that provides essential information about each of our partner organizations, do’s and don’ts. not doing board service, a tutorial on how to read nonprofit boards. balance sheets and what it takes to be an influential board member. Upon completion of the training, we help employees match nonprofit boards that match their interests.

It is a financial investment in our employees as future leaders as well as in our communities, which has been an incredibly successful program.

Finally, we must make the social objective a priority for the company. Our recent cultural shifts and new ways people want to work moving forward have given us a different perspective. A fulfilling and motivating job is not only having the perfect role, it is working for a company whose values ​​match yours; a company that allows you to make a positive difference and be an active agent of change. There has never been a more important time to reinvent the employee experience and make it an integral part of social impact.

Hilary Smith is Executive Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for NBCUniversal. She is responsible for leading NBCUniversal’s global social impact strategy, philanthropic investments and employee volunteer programs. In this role, she also works closely with business leaders across the company on important CSR initiatives in each division. Additionally, Smith oversees NBCUniversal’s award-winning public service announcement campaign, The more you know.

A version of this story first appeared in the June 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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