Walking the Talk -- Corporate Leaders Can, and Should, Find the Time to Volunteer in Local Communities
Much is said about corporate-sponsored volunteerism programs being good for communities, employees and companies. However, one of the more overlooked beneficiaries in the employee segment are company executives and senior leaders -- CEOs, Presidents, VPs, GMs, Directors and other senior managers. For such individuals, finding the time to volunteer in the midst of managing the day-to-day operations of a corporation can seem daunting. There never seems to be enough time in the day to just meet company and personal commitments, so adding volunteerism can feel insurmountable. But, as a long-time community volunteer and executive myself, I can confirm it is possible and an absolutely rewarding endeavor. Following are some engagement strategies to consider and the benefits senior leaders can reap from volunteering.
Let me be clear, in this case I’m not talking about monetary donations or participation on non-profit boards. While these activities are absolutely important and do require time and emotional investment, in this case I am referring to the roll-up-your-sleeves and get-it-done type of volunteerism. Whether it is helping a non-profit with their financial planning, packing meals at a food bank, rebuilding local foot trails, or delivering an educational program at a local school, these are the volunteer efforts with hands-on engagement at a community site.
As an executive or senior leader, actively participating in such efforts provides:
- Visibility into community needs while helping improve the quality of life locally – By experiencing, first-hand, the challenges of local non-profits while enriching the lives of fellow community members.
- Engagement with employees at a different level than experienced in the office – Working side-by-side with employees across functions in a non-work environment, but still toward a shared passion and goal, provides a new level of connection with your employee base.
- Walking the talk for the company – Not just saying you support corporate-sponsored volunteerism but actually showing up and participating actively demonstrates personal commitment to the policies and programs supported by the company.
- Personal sense of accomplishment – Beyond the accomplishments of meeting business commitments and driving growth at a corporation, volunteerism provides a raw, inner-sense of fulfillment in helping to make the lives of others better.
Easier Said than Done – But Is Possible!
I can attest to the joy of volunteerism, as well as the pain points in finding the time and opportunities to do so. As senior vice president of Corporate Services, I have myriad functions and global requirements in my purview, often travelling internationally and of course on-call 24x7. While everyone’s professional and personal situations are different, volunteerism can be modulated to your availability and, in many cases, flexible to meet ever-changing and demanding schedules. Here are a few strategies I’ve employed to carve out the time to volunteer:
- Pick engagements based on passion and capabilities – First and foremost, consider where your passions lay and be realistic in your activity levels. There are many areas of community needs. Choosing those that are of most interest to you will provide the drive to want to participate. For example: if you like dogs, volunteer at an animal shelter; if you hike regularly, help rebuild local trails; if you aren’t much into physical labor, offer your accounting or consulting services.
- Support and participate in corporate volunteer events – As a company leader, you have the power to support the development of corporate volunteer events. Take the time to encourage such activities, and when they are scheduled, block the time on your calendar to be there with your team members. For example, as sponsor of Keysight’s corporate social responsibility program, I directly support many such efforts, including our headquarters’ annual Day of Caring which engages hundreds of employees, including senior leaders, in a single-day of corporate-sponsored volunteerism. Site leaders at Keysight offices around the world do the same.
- Sign up for regular or ad hoc engagements – Sometimes single events are hard to work your schedule around as you never know when an unexpected company need may send you out of town. Offering your time for flexible or regular (weekly or monthly) volunteerism gets an activity on your calendar while providing the flexibility to attend when you can but not negatively impacting the efforts when you cannot.
- Consider individual events that meet your personal schedule – If a regular engagement or a corporate event doesn’t work for you, consider an individual engagement that directly meets your availability. I’ve known senior leaders that participate in volunteer activities and bring their whole family, enabling them to volunteer while spending quality time with their families.
Make it Happen!
Okay, so I have talked-the-talk here, now let me share the walk-the-talk. I have personally employed all the strategies mentioned above, as have many Keysight leaders. Below are images from some recent volunteer efforts with Keysight senior leaders in attendance. I encourage you -- or better yet challenge you – to consider where you can walk-the-talk in volunteerism. You won’t regret it!
Keysight CEO, Ron Nersesian, goes hands-on with students during a STEM focused Mike Hauser Academy event hosted at Keysight headquarters, sharing a walkthrough of his personal electronic vehicle to showcase the related technologies as part of the student learning experience.
*Keysight Chief Administrative Officer and Chief of Staff, Ingrid Estrada (front left), joins other Keysight volunteers at the Redwood Empire Food Bank, which supports the nutritional needs of children and low-income seniors in the Sonoma County, CA area. *
Ingrid Estrada (second from left) volunteering side-by-side with other Keysight employees bagging carrots for distribution through the Redwood Empire Food Bank.
Keysight Chief Technology Officer, Jay Alexander, volunteering at Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that provides assistance dogs free of charge to enhance the lives of people with disabilities.
That’s me, Hamish Gray (front left), with my Keysight volunteer team working with local non-profit LandPaths on a forestry project at the Ranchero Mark West preserve in Sonoma County, CA.
Keysight’s Vice President of Total Rewards and Human Resource Services, Gloria Estrada (third from right in back row), alongside her Keysight volunteer project team members preparing to pack meals.
Keysight Greater China Human Resources & Corporate Services Director, Xiang-Dong Fu, participates in a STEM education engagement at The Hope School in the Sichuan area of China.
In a different type of hands-on engagement, Keysight President of Ixia Solutions Group, Mark Pierpoint (on right), participates in a Keysight global fundraiser called Tour de Keysight. The event engaged employees from 46 company sites who walked, ran, or biked more than 45,000 kilometers and raised over $42,000 for 30 different charities.