PARTNERSHIPS - 7 February 2023

Meaningful employee engagement

From developing a business model for a medical centre in Chad to mentoring young people to improve their employability, hundreds of corporate volunteers each year donate their time and skills to support the work of SOS Children’s Villages.

At SOS Children’s Villages, we are deeply proud that our collaboration with the corporate sector goes way beyond asking for philanthropic donations. Meaningful employee engagement through skills-based corporate volunteering offers the opportunity to leverage the specialized skills and talents of corporate employees in order to strengthen and support SOS Children’s Villages, helping us to successfully achieve our mission to support for children and young people.

Partnerships that involve corporate volunteering at an international and national level have been ongoing at SOS Children’s Villages for many years. The concept of corporate volunteering has spread rapidly throughout the world and is a standard part of corporate social responsibility program in many companies. And rightfully it is. Corporate volunteering can be a way of getting support from companies to fulfil core organizational needs whilst being an excellent fundraising and relationship management tool.

A successful volunteering program can help the company develop a stronger, more satisfied workforce and build their image as a socially responsible employer. This has been confirmed by employees volunteering at SOS Children’s Villages in the framework of YouthCan! - the global partnership for youth employability that aims promote decent work for young people without parental care or at risk of losing it. Internationally, five global partners take an active role in shaping and supporting YouthCan!: AkzoNobel, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Johnson & Johnson, Siegwerk and TK Elevator. In a joint effort between SOS Children’s Villages and private sector partners, corporate volunteers support young people during their first work experience as well as offer employability training and mentorship. The 2021 YouthCan! Facts & Figures report demonstrates that corporate volunteers are keen to participate in YouthCan! and would recommend it to their colleagues (97%). When asked why, 88% of the volunteers report that YouthCan! improves their interactions and collaboration at work. In addition, 94% say they gained new skills relevant to their daily work, and report improved job satisfaction.

Another example of meaningful employee engagement is the valuable Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Global Secondment Program, a skill-based corporate volunteering program that empowers Johnson & Johnson Managers and Senior Leaders to support and empower global partner organizations to raise public health standards in communities around the world. We are very grateful that for nearly ten years, Johnson & Johnson has been ‘lending’ us their expertise in the form of employees.

In 2022, Florian Krüger-Herbert and Caius Unterberg, two J&J technology and digital health enthusiasts that love to do things differently, signed up for an assignment to support of SOS Children’s Villages in Chad. Their early weeks were a complete shift from the daily routine they have within J&J. Studying relevant documents, learning about Chad – the history, culture and current context, but also overcoming language barriers were both quite overwhelming and enriching. The time and energy they put into the project led to an ambitious 5-year business plan for SOS Children’s Villages’ Medical Centre in Chad, which is planned to become a self-reliant and financially sustainable hospital by 2030. Their enthusiasm was infectious and created a good atmosphere in the project team, which is now on the verge of getting a new secondee on board.

"The secondment program is a great opportunity for every employee because it sets you aside from your daily business and you get the chance to demonstrate your knowledge and skills in a completely different environment. At the same time, you can provide guidance and support where it is most needed.” – Caius Unterberg

“Being pushed out of your comfort zone and navigating through uncertain areas and challenges accelerates every employee to develop or strengthen their leadership/managerial skills. By that every employee prepares himself/herself for future leadership roles in different regions (culture, country etc). But it also positively enriches your private life when connecting with other all-around excellent people while exploring different countries and cultures – although it was virtually. It definitely influenced me in leaving Germany behind and moving my entire family to the Middle East” – Florian Krüger-Herbert

While a wide variety of our needs can be fulfilled through corporate volunteering, also companies as well as their employees can benefit from it. It is a fantastic HR measure to build a stronger workforce of committed and motivated employees as corporate volunteering increases job satisfaction and company pride.

In 2021, Jennifer Turgiss joined SOS Children’s Villages’ Global Emergency Response department for six months to support the development of a monitoring and evaluation framework for our Emergency Preparedness processes (EPREP) and was tasked to provide a list of recommendations to improve our EPREP interventions. It exceeded Jennifer’s expectations as to how much she would enjoy the collaboration and partnership with her primary contact at SOS Children’s Villages, Irma Hajro, Program Manager Ukraine Response. “The dedication and professionalism of the team at SOS Children’s Villages were so impressive that it genuinely warmed my heart,” Jennifer says. The feeling was mutual. Irma Hajro comments: “From day one it was clear how knowledgeable and determined Jennifer was. She quickly understood the way our organization functions in humanitarian settings and she professionally led discussions on the monitoring and evaluation framework for EPREP in exactly the right direction.”

When Jennifer looks back over the time she had with SOS Children’s Villages, she can see how much progress was made in a relatively short time. The guided process from the start of the secondment determined a clear definition of success, including specific criteria and processes. So, according to Jennifer, it was not at all surprising that they jointly achieved what they set out to do. “At the beginning of this experience I expected that I would learn how to apply a new technical skill, that I would gain personal satisfaction from doing something that is helpful for a non-profit organization, and that I would grow my leadership skills by working in a different context from the one I typically do. In those respects, mission accomplished.”

To date, more than 20 Johnson & Johnson employees have been seconded to SOS Children’s Villages as strategic advisors or to strengthen specific projects within our organization, with overwhelmingly positive results. Meanwhile, YouthCan! is on the verge of reaching 20,000 young people by 2024. Hundreds of corporate volunteers so far provided crucial support to one of the most at-risk groups across the globe and the results show that it is the right type of investment for young people, society and generations to come.

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