A Whole Lot of Good: Making the Case for More Pro Bono and Skills-Based Volunteering in the Workplace

05/02/2017 11:36 am ET

Let's get real: It's fairly easy for us to pull up to our desks each morning, put our heads down, and not look up till it's time to go home in the evening. After all, in our rapidly-changing, quickly-moving, information-overloading world, there’s a lot of work to get done.

But what if that wasn’t the scenario playing out in offices across the globe? What if, instead, it was a “yes, and” scenario, whereby employees focused on their work, yes, and focused on using their skills and expertise to drive change? Just imagine the ripple effects – think of the impact on the employees, the company, and our global society.

Recently, four of my PIMCO colleagues spent one month in Accra, Ghana, as part of the Global Health Corporate Champions (GHCC), an activity of USAID’s Global Health Fellows Program II, implemented by the Public Health Institute and executed by PYXERA Global. GHCC, a multi-company, multi-disciplinary cohort, provides strategic and consultative support to improve the effectiveness of local organizations intent on health system strengthening.

Even more recently, we implemented MicroMentor at PIMCO, and just a few weeks ago, in tandem with Taproot Foundation, we re-launched our PIMCO Pro Bono Corps, a program through which my colleagues build capacity at partner nonprofits in Orange County, CA and New York Metro.

From immersive to ongoing to deep-dive, our firm derives great value from these pro bono and skills-based programs. We offer these programs (and more) to our employees for three big, beautiful reasons:

Reason #1: For engaging.

It’s 2017 and employee engagement is different. It’s no longer transactional, no longer a flash in the proverbial pan. People want to be engaged in the workplace; people want to feel like they have purpose and meaning in their work; people want to feel fulfilled; people want to do. By making space for your employees to take action in a high impact way, you’re allowing their personal and professional skills to merge at work, and you’re allowing your employees to bring their ‘whole selves’ to the office. End result? Employees will care more about their jobs, they’ll be happier, and they’ll be more productive, innovative, and creative.

Reason #2: For learning.

When engaging in pro bono and skills-based volunteer opportunities, our PIMCO colleagues are diving head first into experiential learning. Experience matters; it’s the best way to understand a concept or a situation. A 2015 McKinsey article stated that “experiential learning has a long tradition, having proved itself over time to be the most effective means to acquire skills.” Through experiential learning, our colleagues are building cognitive diversity, empathy, and self-awareness – and gaining entirely new perspectives after working on deeply rooted social issues.

Reason #3: For change-making.

We want to use our corporate assets and expertise to effect real, long-lasting change. We’ve got talented people working at PIMCO, and why should that talent benefit PIMCO and our clients alone? We’re hungry to make a difference, and we know we can by deploying our human capital to nonprofits and causes. We can deliver solutions that help do good. In ways small and big, our people can solve challenges, show care and compassion, and make our communities better places to live and work.

Can We Get to “Yes, And?”

So, what do you think? Can we build empathy and resilience and awareness among our employees by offering experiential learning (read: pro bono and skills-based opportunities)? Can we do some good and develop leaders at the same time? Can we, as companies, lead change and innovate by bringing “yes, and” into our workplaces?

Absolutely, we can. We can shape the future we want by bringing more societal engagement into the workplace, leveraging our companies’ unique resources, and taking action for good. Now let’s get out there and make it happen.

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