Paying It Forward - No Act of Kindness is ever wasted.
Creating synergy for organizational change begins with the employees within the organization. Projects and plans for new products and services require collaboration and cooperation. Yet, when a corporation adds new employees to the staff, the corporate culture and dynamics may change. Further impacting how an organization functions based upon the targeted mission or tasks requiring completion by each department. Add in cross functional requirements by various departments and a corporation has the potential to have competition, dissention based upon work assignments that may clash with positional requirements, and leadership that may lack structure or authenticity.
Let's face it; some people within the organization are only there to get a paycheck. While others are at a corporation because they are passionate about their careers. Corporations who encourage employees to be more generous with their time and resources tend to build a more cooperative corporate culture. Examples can be found in firms such Novo Nordisk and Salesforce. Both Novo Nordisk and Salesforce provide paid time off to support volunteer efforts when an employee desires to give their time to a charitable project.
Large and small businesses that take the "enlightened" path, understand that
their employees not only want to work to fund
their lifestyle; these employees also want to give back to their communities and others by doing acts of kindness and support for others. In the current workforce, employees want to have a sense of purpose while on the job that impacts their entire life. For many employees, paying it forward provides increased options to give back to the local community while learning new skills that will benefit the corporation or small business.
According to Fortune's annual list of the 100 Best Companies to work for, 55 of the firms offer community service paid time off to volunteer within the community. Some firms have offered up to five full days off per year to employees interested in paying it forward. These employees are able to satisfy their need to pay it forward in the community while the firm benefits from the employees efforts to give back to their community. A satisfied employee will have amazing completed projects, such as a home for a disabled veteran or participating in a board or committee to create societal change in the community. This ability to satisfy a need to participate in society outside the world of work has the potential to positively impact the organizational culture with turn over being reduced and additional skills learned through the volunteerism.
The benefit to employees, beyond the simple fact that giving back feels good, is that new skills are learned during the volunteer activities. For example, when volunteering during an international food, clothing, and shelter drive volunteers learned about the logistical requirements of international aid services. Answering questions such as "What does the aid process require logistically?", "What are the legal standards to obtain donations for the project?", and "What community will this project serve". This knowledge would provide invaluable information to a firm that markets to international businesses in relationship to logistics and legal aspects of buying and selling overseas.
The concept of corporate giving is not new. Yet, support of employees provides a sense of empowerment that is often in line with the value proposition of firms is a newer concept. Prior to the official pay it forward movement, paying it forward was happening in the community using community support or activism as terms. There are many people who work in social service organizations whose sole mission is to help individuals and families within a community.
The difference is that now, with social media, we are able to see in real time or slightly delayed the community impact of the volunteer efforts of the employees. The need to socially belong to a group or community is inherently a part of basic human decency; how we treat others is how we would like to be treated. With the mixed messages that are projected through social media the employees must research well those volunteer opportunities to ensure that the work they accomplish during their volunteer time provided by a firm does not impact their employer's brand.
Paying it forward is a leadership example. In business, there is a give and take relationship that exists for many. The expectation that if I do something for you; you will do something for me in the future. The pay it forward model of leadership provides employees the opportunity to give back without the expectation of the assistance provided being reciprocated. Rather, the employee experiences a psychological payback with the knowledge that what they accomplished was the right and moral thing to do. The simple act of paying it forward can become an act of personal empowerment through the knowledge that the employee did something kind or morally correct.
Paying it forward may not require 40 hours of volunteer work. It may require an afternoon at the beach working with the Surfrider Foundation or a Chef who spends his day off cooking for the local homeless shelter or Sailors on a submarine. Within each of these opportunities their is learning that takes place that is translatable to specific career fields.
Why pay it forward?
The simple answer is: "it is the right thing to do." Society needs people to influence and create change across the country and within the global community. I call this the laws of karma; the basis that consists of our thoughts, words, actions and actions that others perform under our instructions. The shorter version is that you take in what you give out. Your thoughts, deeds, and behaviors impact those around you. Paying it forward is the process of taking small measured steps that have the potential to influence those in your organization to do better and be better. It is about setting a good leadership example while empowering employees to act. Corporations who pay it forward are able to impact their organizational culture by examining the self interest and changing the action into a community interest of giving back. There is a recognition that not all employees will participating in paying it forward; yet, the reality is that within these groups corporations will find employees willing to take a risk to set an example of authentic and transformational leadership that will have benefits for the firm in the present and future.
The action may become a comparison of an employee who does just enough to get by at work compared to an employee who sets an authentic example of leadership. Who would you rather work for or have as an employee - someone that leads by example or someone that does just enough? How would you engage someone in the process of paying it forward as part of the corporate culture?
Paying it forward can provide additional opportunities for employment. It is important to list your volunteer activities within your resume. Not so much for recognition that you volunteer within your community (although the acts of kindness are great); rather, it is for the work experience you may gain from the activity over time. There have been many times that people (myself included) have been hired based upon volunteer work experience and recognition for paying it forward when combined with other skills and experience. Although obtaining a job is not the intent of paying it forward; it can become an unexpected reward based upon your efforts to improve your specific niche in the community and later your organization's culture.
The rewards become inherent as those who receive the benefits of your employee's kindness will tend to pay it forward to someone else. The challenge is to simply act and participate in life. Remember that in leadership and community action, no act of kindness is ever wasted.
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