Leveraging Philanthropy to Transform Workplace Culture

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In today's digital world, it can be easy to get bogged down with technical details and forget about the importance of caring for your people. However, there are some companies who just understand that their workforce needs to be supported, developed, and empowered if they are to be successful. With more than 300 centers in 70 countries, New Horizons is one of the world’s largest independent IT training companies - and they seem to have figured this out. Using an integrated and flexible learning approach, the New Horizons team provides a wide range of technical, application, and business skills courses to every single company on Fortune's list of the 100 largest corporations in America (not to mention hundreds of other clients). Their Southern California branch has been named one of the Fastest Growing Private Companies in America, and has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work for five straight years in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego.

So, what makes New Horizons such a great place to work and such a competitive service provider? We took some time to chat with Kevin Landry, President & CEO of New Horizons SoCal, to find out what makes them different.

Co.tribute: You’ve been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in different areas in Southern California for five straight years now. Why do you think that is?

Kevin Landry: We’ve worked really hard over the years to create a great company culture, but it hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t always been on our minds. For much of the beginning, we were focused on just trying to make payroll and keep the lights on. But there came a time where we worked through some new core values that we actually believed in, a mission statement, and more. We do something every month called “Living the Values.” Each month, our employees nominate a fellow employee for embodying one of the company’s five values. Also, when one of our clients writes in and compliments someone for a job well done, we’ll take their message and rework it into something that can be presented to that employee to recognize their great work.

So when someone wins a value, they get one of our value shirts, and each one is a different color, which creates some good dialogue when you see these shirts around the office. Our values are: Gratitude, Respect, Accountability, Simplicity, and People First.

Co.tribute: How do you handle corporate giving and philanthropy at New Horizons?

KL: Well, to start, we ended up getting tired of all the requests to sponsor everyone’s kid’s soccer team…not that we don’t support that stuff, but it gets tedious when you have 100+ employees.

So we got together and decided on a corporate philanthropy program to go do charity work with pay for two days every year. On day 1, we tell them that they can go do whatever they want. Whatever is dear to their heart. The only caveat is that they have to take five pictures and give us a short write up about it. For their second day, we ask that they spend it working for one of the company-supported charities. We’ve selected two charities that we want to be supporting: Wounded Warriors and the Special Olympics Program.

What we’ve discovered is that people really get into this, and they go above and beyond, sometimes doing more than two days in order to complete some more charity work without pay. And we don’t judge on what the employee chooses to support, we’re just proud of how they’re contributing to the world.

Co.tribute: How do you take the pulse of your team and stay in touch with how they’re doing?

KL: We have a monthly meeting in every office where, for about an hour, we review the prior month’s activities: financial performance, sales performance, delivery performance, celebrate success, address concerns and areas of improvement. We’re fairly transparent, so people have the ability to ask questions and weigh in.

We also do a monthly survey of every employee where we simply ask them, “How do you like working here?” Rate it 1 to 5. And if you rate it below 3, please tell us why. We give them the opportunity to either be anonymous or to put their name down. We get so many great suggestions, because they are much closer to the day to day operations than I am.

The other thing we ask is that people don’t make it personal…that they don’t take shots at another person in the company. And I’m proud to say that in the two years that we’ve been doing this, we’ve never had one of those submitted. And we put every comment up in front of the company every month, sharing it for them to see. There’s no filtering, which makes for great round table discussions.

Co.tribute: Do you involve your clients in your giving initiatives?

KL: Yes, we have one client that is actually a large casino. One of the owners is good friends with one of our executives. So at a get-together one evening, they were talking about an event they do every year with a Wounded Warriors softball team. It’s basically a weekend gala event at the casino, and we supported them with our employees working as servers and helpers for their event.

Some of our events are client-sponsored events where the client has got something going, and so our employees who work with that client will be there supporting that charity event. This all wasn’t by design, though, it’s just that through the years, it organically took on a life of its own and has worked out very nicely.

Co.tribute: How have the giving programs affected your employees in the area of morale, motivation, energy, and so on?

KL: We give people the opportunity to stand up and talk about the event that they helped out on, and it really gives us a chance to get to know them personally and see what their true passions are. When people are talking about something that they have a real passion for, their true emotion comes out. As a result, we’ve had our eyes open to what really motivates our people, and therefore it’s given us the information needed to foster a better working environment for everyone. Because if the employee’s objectives align with our objectives, it’s going to be a win-win for both the employee and the company. The offer of choice as far as how they spend their charity day helps them see that we’re here to support them and celebrate them.

Many thanks to Kevin and his team for sharing their story with us. New Horizons is doing some amazing work, and engaging their employees in the process. We hope you're inspired to take some of these ideas to your own team, and promote a healthy culture at your organization.

13
Aug 2015

By: Terry Mott

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