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RAYMOND Tai works at an MNC that is known for its eponymous software product. But the central marketing lead, Microsoft Singapore, does more than clock in the hours at the office.The company is big on serving the community, especially the underserved, and has organised numerous corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes such as Give Month, where employees can choose any non-profit organisation - such as Red Cross Singapore and Special Olympics - that they feel passionate about to collaborate with them.
Mr Tai said: "There is so much potential waiting to be unlocked in the communities we belong to, and I feel extremely fortunate to be working for Microsoft - an employer that empowers its employees to do good. While I personally volunteer my time and donate to non-profits, the opportunity to give as a team helps reinforce both our corporate mission as well as personal values."
Mr Tai's sentiment is reflective of most millennials. In studies conducted, millennials mostly indicated that they want to work for organisations that are driven by purpose. In the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, more than six in 10 millennials (62 per cent) consider business leaders as those committed to helping improve society.
The survey also stated that business involvement in social issues and good causes goes beyond the tangible impact, and employees who feel that their jobs have meaning or are able to make a difference exhibit greater levels of loyalty.
Antonia Ong, communications and philanthropies lead of Microsoft Singapore, said: "We know what truly motivates our employees to give is the impact they make on communities where they work, live and play. As an employer, we want to bring out the best in our people, support our goals, and allow them to find deep meaning in their work - both in the workplace and community."
Renu Vasanth Kumar, head of citizenship in Asia Pacific, Barclays, agreed and said: "We focus our Citizenship efforts on the areas we know about best as a business - financing, digital and financial empowerment, and employment because this means we can use our skills, resources and commitment to deliver the best results for all our stakeholders.
"Unreasonable Impact is our flagship global programme and is the world's first international network of accelerators focused on scaling entrepreneurial solutions that will employ thousands of people, while solving some of the world's most pressing societal and environmental challenges.
"The programme resonates with our colleagues who invest their time, skills and expertise in the programme. For these firms, size does not matter when it comes to acknowledging and encouraging employees to volunteer, and such actions are rewarded by the companies as appreciation for the work done."
Peggy Ong, CEO of Pro-Teach Education Group, said: "A conducive climate in giving back to society is first created in the workplace. This is done through management setting the example in promoting . . . the company's various CSRs to the employees. These would encourage contributions from the employees to initiate social projects and programmes."
Pro-Teach Education Group has been organising several islandwide donation drives for the needy in the community as well as overseas all year round. These include fund raising for the hospital and local self-help groups. "As our company works with children, our social projects reflect the spirit of kindness we seek to inculcate in our children," said Ms Ong.
To encourage its employees to take part in CSR projects, the company is implementing a PT Time Bank for staff to clock in their hours for voluntary work. Pro-Teach is looking into converting these hours to lifestyle benefits that employees can redeem. "By rewarding them for their efforts, we hope to achieve a cycle of giving," added Ms Ong.
Deutsche Bank's staff volunteer, Roger Lee, said: "Through such CSR events, the values of generosity, compassion and humility are manifested and nurtured."
Annie Yeo, Deutsche Bank's director/ head, corporate social responsibility Asia, added that strong CSR commitment in an organisation can help companies foster goodwill and confidence among stakeholders, strengthen brand equity and be an employer of choice.
"The activities are inclusive, and they are a great way to bond colleagues together," she said.
Companies have also been recognising employees for the time and effort put in to give back to the community. Hogan Lovells Lee & Lee, an international legal practice, considers involvement in pro bono and citizenship activities as part of all staff annual performance evaluations and the promotion process. The company also recognises outstanding contributions to good citizenship, as well as the achievement of the firm's citizenship expectation through awards.
Stephanie Keen, Singapore managing partner, Hogan Lovells Lee & Lee, said: "Over the years, Hogan Lovells employees have donated their time, skills, experience and funds to individuals, charities, non-profits and social enterprises alike, working with both local communities and global organisations to influence change."
She added that in the last five years, some projects that the company has embarked on include helping more than 40 children navigate the US immigration system and devoting almost 600,000 hours worldwide to pro bono activity, assisting more than 5,500 pro bono clients and community organisations.
Buckman Laboratories (Asia), acknowledges their associates' CSR efforts and has a Buckman Cares day annually on March 23.
Rain Zhang, general manager, operations, said: "In recognition of our associates' dedication to volunteer activities, associates will receive awards . . . on that day."
Certificates are given at 10, 20, 30 and 50 hours increments. The associate will receive a personalised nameplate that will be mounted on the service plaque located at each Buckman operating company headquarters.
"For every 50 hour increment, the associates are granted S$150 to donate to their preferred charity/non-profit organisation. For Singaporean/PR employees, they are able to claim the tax deduction based on the amount donated in the year," said Ms Zhang.
Chin Soo Fang, head of corporate communications & CSR at Singapore Press Holdings, said: "Volunteering helps us to develop our teamwork, organisational skills and social outreach. Besides bringing joy and warmth to many beneficiaries, our efforts also enrich our working lives and enable us to bond over a common and higher purpose of doing good."
Chief human resource officer Ng Seng Huwi of SP Group said that the company is involved in a monthly outreach programme at Touch Senior Activity Centre (Geylang Bahru) where volunteers befriend the elderly through morning exercise. SP Group also partnered AMKFSC to reach out to needy elderly and children aged 6-12 where activities to teach the children how to save energy and cost through sharing energy-efficiency tips are conducted.
Twice a month, the company also sponsors a fruit distribution named Pilih-Pilih to give 100 beneficiaries from 25 familiesaccess to fresh produce for a healthier diet.
Mr Ng said: "We focus on creating sustained relationships with social service organisations and their beneficiaries. This enables us to get to know them better, understand their needs and meet their needs more effectively. As they become more acquainted with us, they feel more comfortable with us and this helps to build trust and create a deeper and more lasting impact on their lives. Our initiatives are also related to what we stand for as a business. For example, we promote energy efficient practices to help the public save energy and costs, and gas safety awareness in many of our activities."
Many a little makes a mickle - and once the company's CSR initiatives take off, they can serve as an inspiration for others to emulate.
Cognizant, a multinational corporation that provides IT services, operates on a bottom-up approach to its volunteering programmes. With its volunteer programme that was launched in 2007, named Outreach, a platform for employees to volunteer for causes they are passionate about was created.
What started as a grassroots initiative in India is now a global movement within the company and every month, employees are recognised with the Heart of Gold title for outstanding volunteerism, and honoured as Changemakers on a quarterly basis in recognition of their sustained volunteering efforts.
When asked about how other firms - maybe those with a leaner workforce - should encourage staff to take part in CSR activities, Jayajyoti Sengupta, head, APAC, Cognizant, said: "We believe that a lean workforce should not be a constraint in contributing to a larger cause to make a positive societal difference. There are many examples today of smaller and leaner firms that have woven CSR into the fabric of their strategy so that giving becomes an integral part of their operations."
He added that some ways to promote participation include encouraging employees to participate in their pet causes by matching grants, conducting volunteering marathons on dedicated days, amplifying impact by partnering with customers and vendors on areas of common concerns.
Ng Tian Beng, senior vice-president and general manager, Channels, APJ, Dell EMC, said: "Giving back not only drives change within the community, but also within the organisation. Participation in philanthropic initiatives helps inculcate a sense of belonging and connectedness in employees to the company, and this in turn also helps build a strong reputation of the organisation externally. Regardless of company size, investing in the community which supported the business is a great way for businesses to operate sustainably in the long run. At Dell, we see technology as the key to unlocking regenerative solutions so we're driven to apply our expertise to fund and volunteer towards helping the communities overcome challenges and thrive together."
Li Guoquan, assistant director of SP Group's business audit, is testament to the concept that CSR inculcates a sense of loyalty and ownership among staff.
"The SP Heart Workers staff volunteer movement opened my eyes to the needs of the community," he said. "My colleagues and I befriend vulnerable seniors through activities such as grocery shopping. Every year, we contribute to the annual SP Power Pack charity drive, sponsoring, assembling and delivering bags of essential food items to underprivileged seniors and families. I have seen how simple gestures such as listening and being there for seniors in need can make their day. While the amount of time I can offer is limited, I hope every minute I contribute makes a positive and lasting impact. Volunteering not only benefits the beneficiaries but also brings enriching experiences for volunteers."