Global Lead, Volunteer Strategy & Employee Engagement
- corporate social responsibility
- employee engagement
Erin LaBarge, Global Lead, Volunteer Strategy & Employee Engagement at SAP, works on the company’s Global Corporate Social Responsibility team, leading their global employee engagement and volunteer strategy.
At SAP, their overall CSR strategy is focused on three areas: building digital skills, accelerating social business, and collaborating for sustainability. Engaging employees in purposeful, impactful activities is key and foundational to bringing this strategy to life.
Their goal has always been to offer employees a wide spectrum of opportunities that balance support for their signature CSR programmes and partnerships – SAP’s strategic investments – while also enabling and empowering employees to support the causes that matter to them. This gives the team a chance to meet employees where they are and in turn, employees are offered the opportunity to participate in social impact as well as learning and leadership enablement.
They are big believers that a deeper understanding of the social and environmental issues that plague our world can inspire employees to understand their own capacity to make an impact and have evolved how they engage employees significantly over the past few years.
Some of these efforts are, yes, in part a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and employees’ limited ability to gather together in person. But really, for SAP, there is also a recognition that employees are more likely to feel empowered to get involved when they have a deeper awareness of how the world’s most under-resourced and disenfranchised communities are impacted by things poverty, a lack of access to education, hunger, etc. and how they (and SAP) are uniquely suited to help.
Before moving into her current role leading SAP’s overall global volunteer strategy, Erin led the company’s volunteer programming in the North American region. During that time, she was able to build up and support an incredible network of what they call “Volunteer Ambassadors” – dedicated and purpose-minded employees who lead volunteer engagements for their colleagues and fellow employees on top of their everyday jobs at SAP.
A big part of the way SAP activates and supports employees in taking on this leadership role is by offering enablement tools, up-skilling resources, and training for ambassadors around the world.
These resources are globally-relevant to ensure that a transformative experience is available for employees who participate, but each region is quite nuanced in how they execute their programmes and that the culture of volunteering looks a bit different everywhere.
For this reason, it has always been important for SAP to maintain a strong global foundation for the enablement of volunteerism, leaving space for regional specificity so that employees can feel part of something bigger while they are able to contribute on the ground in their own community.
Launching a new “April Spring Into Service” volunteer campaign
During her time working on more regional CSR programming, Erin and the North America CSR team launched an initiative known as “Spring Into Service” to help meet an authentic interest they were seeing from employees across the US and Canada to make an impact in their local communities all throughout the year. Historically, the company rallies employees around volunteering each October, as part of their long running “Month of Service,” which helped amplify a message to employees that they are empowered to lean on SAP support to volunteer with the causes and nonprofits that matter to them.
For the North America team, this was a huge area of opportunity and there were a lot of factors to consider. It really started with what they were hearing from employees a true grassroots desire to do more. So that became an opportunity to encourage year-round engagement and to create renewed clarity for employees around what it looks like to volunteer with SAP.
Often times they would get questions from employees like, “Am I allowed to volunteer outside of October?” and the team became acutely aware that they had some work to do to help employees in their region understand all the opportunities that exist for them to volunteer with SAP.
This initiative also gave the team the chance to start the year off strong from a communications perspective.
Early each new year, the CSR team invites all employees across North America to join info sessions intended to help share information about SAP’s wider, global CSR strategy, as well as details about regional programmes and partnerships in North America. Thereby making it easy for them to get involved in April Spring Into Service, understand what it means to act as a Volunteer Ambassador and lead a volunteer activity, or sign up to participate in an upcoming volunteer event.
Engaging a collective of more than 100,000 employees in purpose
A large part of SAP’s global CSR strategy is focused on connecting employees with purpose and offering them learning and leadership capacity-building through volunteer engagements. From a regional perspective, this is why SAP North America’s Spring Into Service initiative has never been about supporting SAP’s CSR partnerships or the different areas of focus that they strategically aligned with and invested in. Rather, it has been an opportunity for employees to leverage support from SAP and work autonomously to bolster the causes that they care about – while still contributing to the company’s efforts around social responsibility.
The success of these efforts to expand employee awareness in North America around available corporate volunteer offerings and encourage impact all throughout the year – and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 – led SAP to consider how they might take a similar approach with their once-annual, global “October Month of Service” initiative.
The first adaptation of this programme, which had been running for 15 years and was SAP’s largest employee engagement effort, came to life in October of 2020. Month of Service was now no longer just about volunteerism, it was also about learning enablement and the entire global CSR team worked hard to offer employees a dynamic calendar of speaker sessions – all of which were intended to help employees understand the large-scale social and environmental issues that SAP is invested in improving.
This proved to be a huge success, enabling 270,000 hours of employee learning and showcasing that awareness-building can be a powerful motivator when it comes to connecting employees with purpose.
As a result, 2021 became the year that SAP went BIG and made the effort to evolve October Month of Service into an all-year initiative now known as “Moments of Service.” Having moved into her current role in early 2022, Erin led this effort to completely reframe and restructure how volunteerism is enabled at SAP.
The entire global CSR team worked together to create another inspiring series of speaker sessions for employees, bringing leaders to the table from both inside and outside SAP to help connect the dots for employees around how and why SAP invests across the focus areas of their global CSR work, as well as the company’s entire sustainability strategy.
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