BENGALURU: In January this year, the SAP India office in Bengaluru was short of 21 employees for two weeks. From six months before, the employees had deployed their skills for altogether different organisations. They were working with nonprofits across Northeast India through calls and video sessions.
HR director Shraddhanjali Rao, who worked in a remote village in Khowai, Tripura, said she imparted corporate skills that helped villages create a comprehensive education programme, . make optimum use of natural resources for fishery and animal husbandry and sustain traditional weaving.
She taught them to evaluate and manage organisational work to make them self-sustaining over three to five years. Elsewhere, other colleagues provided other needbased skills like project, legal and people management.
“The experience shook us to the core and we got a much-needed reality check,” Rao reminisces. “The sympathy for them developed into empathy over two weeks. We continue to stay in touch with them and follow up on developments.”
Top corporates are devoting significant resources to encourage employees undertake paid social sabbaticals. They are formalising traditional volunteering so that their workforce can train the social sector to develop viable, sustainable programmes with high operational efficiency.
What’s more, companies offering this are seeing an increase in the number of employees applying for it. City-based technology multinational IBM, for instance, is seeing a 25% increase year on year. “These community-based initiatives equip employees with unique leadership development opportunities,” says Mamtha Sharma, corporate citizenship and corporate affairs ISA (India, South Asia) leader. She is referring to their month-long global Corporate Service Corps programme. “The program has made a difference to over 1,40,000 lives directly ,” she says.
At IT firm InfosysBSE 0.41 %, employees volunteer with charitable, governmental or para-governmental organisations in public interest areas.”Employees are eligible for a fellowship from the company based on their role, and they get time off from their normal work schedule for a minimum of six months and a maximum of one year,” says Richard Lobo, EVP and Head HR.
Social sabbaticals, however, are not without their share of challenges. As a top executive at one of the Big Four consulting firms puts it, the burden of funding these programs currently falls entirely on the companies, and that, with the industry facing resource scarcities, companies may not go all out. “It might get difficult to sustain sabbatical policies in the long run without employee support. On the other hand, if employees are asked to contribute even a third of their income, the interest levels might go down.”
Companies, however, are optimistic for the time being. As Gunjan Patel, head CSR, SAP India, puts it, they will continue with sabbaticals even though such volunteering cannot be monetised and reported under the current CSR Rules. After all, he said, it is about larger goodwill, empowerment and developing diverse cultural values.
"We generate wealth for the people, what comes from the people, must to the extent possible, therefore get back to the people.”-Bharat Ratna-JRD Tata VISION: TO BRING WORLD PEACE THROUGH INTERNAL TRANSFORMATION. MISSION: "TO CREATE PLATFORM FOR LINKAGE BETWEEN BOTH THE ENDS FOR CONTINUOUS SOCIAL REFORMATION" .
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