What is one thing that the Kenyan Red Cross and Microsoft have common? A lack of access to the expertise and skills needed to grow and make a bigger impact.
In both cases, this "talent gap" is slowing progress. Research proves that major companies, like Microsoft, have a lack of quality, globally-minded leaders AND that they recognize this as one of their biggest challenges. In the case of the Kenyan Red Cross, and other social impact organizations working to address last mile challenges around the world, the impact is more severe: nothing happens. This is especially alarming as these local organizations have the greatest potential to make an impact and create jobs, up to 80% in some economies. In fact, organizations like the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs and the World Economic Forum share that this "talent gap" is one of the leading barriers to progress.
Social impact organizations suffer from a lack of access to skills. Here are just a few examples of common needs:
- An accounting system before applying for investment capital or grants
- An improved operations and supply chain plan to lower costs
- A go-to-market launch plan for new products and startups
- Photography, videography, design, and messaging to develop new business development collateral
- An improved IT system to track healthcare data and trends of patients in remote areas
- An information distribution system to provide relevant data to rural farmers
While the challenges facing Microsoft and Kenyan Red Cross seem almost impossible to link, there is actually a powerful connection that can greatly benefit both parties: When employees from multinational corporations volunteer their skills with social impact organizations, they develop skills and learn new insights that can benefit their company. In the process, they help tackle major challenges that help smaller organizations get ahead.
Microsoft Volunteers supporting The Kenyan Red Cross in Nairobi
International Corporate Volunteering (ICV) programs that do this continue to demonstrate a positive impact for all parties. People grow as global leaders, corporations benefit by developing higher performing people, and field organizations grow faster. In a previous article on Huffington Post, Alice Korngold shared that these programs can actually deliver bottom-line benefits to multinational companies.
These types of "World-Positive Leadership Development Programs" are just gaining traction. We're helping people engage on these on their own and through established corporate volunteering programs. To help people that want to pilot programs like this at their own company, we've released a free checklist to help guide you.
Surprisingly, it's not that difficult to launch an international volunteer program. One program we support was started by two passionate individuals with just two years of work experience. Here are some simple steps you can follow to implement a program at your company:
1. Research Your Business Priorities
Look for bright spots within your organization that might benefit from international volunteering. Business units like leadership development, recruiting, marketing, employee engagement, product and innovation teams are a great place to start as they are looking to create outcomes that programs like this can support.
2. Network and Find Support
Look for a partner and/or team to join you in launching a program. Search within volunteer and travel-based networks at your company. Schedule regular meeting to discuss how you can best design a program within the walls of your company.
3. Create a Business Plan
For a program like this to grow at your company, it has to make an impact for the world and for the company. Clearly document how it will help the company achieve its goals, while also improving conditions around the globe. Tools like this free "business case in a box" can help.
4. Find a Senior Champion
Use your network and business plan to find an internal champion who can provide budget and/or share your plan to senior leaders. The right person at the right level can help get the idea in front of other decision makers to help influence adoption.
5. Sell, sell, sell
Even with a compelling business case it still takes time. Don't give up, and keep selling until your company has adopted a program. This can be done by continuing to grow grassroots support from your peers, while also continuing to pitch to senior leaders.
6. Start small
If you can't convince your company to start a big pilot, that's OK. You can still independently by asking your boss for time off to volunteer, and then use that to start building the case for a more formal program.
With all the buzz around the benefits of volunteering and the well-documented needs of organizations that need skilled volunteers, the time is ripe to launch a program at your company that builds better leaders, while building a better world.