How to Build a Corporate Community Program That Will Survive the Next
Pandemic – And Unite Your Remote Workforce
By Sabrina El-Chibini, Founding CEO, The Collaboration Vector Inc.
Our team at The Collaboration Vector Inc. is witnessing firsthand that sustainable corporate community programs are those directed at solving social problems. These programs have been robust during COVID-19 because by design, they continue to generate both business and social value. Companies looking to put new corporate community programs in place during COVID-19, or who are rethinking existing programs as a result of COVID-19, may wish to consider engaging employees in long-term partnerships with culturally aligned non-profits, focussed on achieving social objectives.
We witnessed that our clients that had long-term partnerships with agile non-profit partners pre-COVID-19 did not start from scratch when the pandemic hit. They did not have to decide which communities to help or how to help. With partnerships already in place and employees being able to easily identify who is in “our community”, it became a matter of communication, agility, and quick action. We experienced the following important efficiencies of this long-term approach, that resulted in simple, creative, and pragmatic actions. These in turn met some of the most pressing needs of employees and communities.
Leaders mobilized action
In our long-term partnership model, leaders were already in place, both on the part of the company and on the part of the non-profit. Each of them had an established track record of working together to mobilize action, and in reaching and rallying their respective teams.
Volunteers continued volunteering
Historically, a lot of corporate volunteering was done in person, either individually or as part of a team, often organized as an event that created a team experience. During COVID-19, the world of volunteering was rocked. According to one study conducted during the month of March 2020, 93% of non-profit organizations saw heavy volunteer cancellations, with some losing 100% of their volunteer force. (1)
In our model, employees are part of a long-term solution, versus part of an experience. Volunteering is longitudinal, fluctuating from physical to virtual, depending on what is needed and what is possible, and taps into a wide arsenal of tactics that can be deployed towards solving a specific problem.
“New” team building opportunities arose naturally
In the case of one corporate team, volunteers were busy adapting to working from home, some were home-schooling children, and some ensuring the safety of elderly parents. The team could not give time to their community as they normally do but felt an overwhelming need to help.
Many families known to the employees and served by their long-term non-profit partner, now had at least one member who was out of work. A sizeable number were at risk of not being able to afford food.
The employees problem solved together. They agreed to give generous personal donations, over and above funding provided by their company, to enable free food to be delivered to these families. The non-profit partner adapted its service delivery model to procure and provide the food.
Employees felt able to do this because their household spending had gone down (for example, on gas) while their jobs were secured by their company. Once the food security issue is addressed, and the work situation stabilizes, the volunteers will get back on track in helping achieve longer-term goals.
According to Gallup, employee engagement elements that increase in importance during tough times include the indicator “mission or purpose makes me feel my job is important”. It is probably safe to predict that purpose and community will accelerate in importance as a result of our experience with COVID-19, as perhaps more work is permanently conducted virtually, and companies depend on their people who are now literally, “in their communities”.
We are grateful to have had the opportunity to build a foundation with our clients, that is permitting them to continue to engage their employees during these trying times, and allowing them to keep making a difference in their communities, at a time when every small action is having a huge impact.
For more information on our evidence-based framework for leadership development, non-profit partner selection, and long-term multi-sector partnership building that maximizes business and social impact, contact firstname.lastname@example.org at The Collaboration Vector Inc.