Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Small Companies, Big Ideas: Supporting Social Change Through Entrepreneurship

As mobile and wireless technologies continue to improve and make communication faster, simpler, and more direct, they are increasingly being leveraged to create solutions that can make an impact in unexpected ways. Given their position at the forefront of the industry, telecom providers have the unique opportunity to innovate—not only through their own products and services, but also through their nonprofit arm and their foundations, to support entrepreneurs who are innovating for social good.

At Vodafone Americas Foundation, part of Vodafone’s network of 27 foundations worldwide, goals center on connecting for good. The company aims to connect an ecosystem of partners that use wireless technology to spark innovation and foster entrepreneurship to encourage new approaches that impact social change.

One of the best ways for companies and nonprofits alike, whether they are small or large, to encourage innovation is through competition programs. The competition model is mirrored across the industry as many companies—both commercial and philanthropic—now use similar models to target their search for unique, effective, and innovative solutions that are not only highly socially impactful, but sustainable as well.

The Vodafone Americas Foundation supports entrepreneurs using this model through the Wireless Innovation Project, (WIP) an annual competition designed to promote innovation and increase the implementation of wireless-related technology for a better world. The competition recently opened its ninth annual call for submissions. In March of next year, they will select three winning projects and award them up to $600,000, with first place receiving $300,000, second place $200,000 and third place $100,000.

Over the past decade, they’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible entrepreneurs through this program. Earlier this year, WIP awarded the first-place prize to Neopenda, a global health tech startup that aims to create healthcare solutions to help newborns in low-resource settings. Neopenda built an affordable, wearable newborn vital signs monitor that transmits data to nurses to help provide early detection when a newborn is in distress.

MobileODT, the first prize winner in 2014, created a low-cost digital camera attachment for smartphones, which is a potential game-changer in reducing cervical cancer. Since winning the competition, MobileODT’s technology has been met with enthusiastic response from the medical community in 21 countries. The company is now expanding into new locations around the world, including Afghanistan, which currently has no cervical cancer screening program in place.

While health solutions are common to the WIP competition, there are applicants from a variety of fields like disaster relief, fintech, artisan market place and environmental solutions like clean air and water. One of the most notable winners that has gone on to do bigger and better things is a fintech solution called Insight by Inventure, now known as Tala. They started out as a financial literacy program and a management tool for the poor, and now they do much more, such as providing microloans, credit and access to banking—creating opportunities for investment in one’s business, education or home, changing the whole micro-economy of villages and towns.

While Neopenda, MobileODT, Tala, and other WIP winners started as small startups with big ideas, they are already making an impact. Many WIP winners have proven their ventures are scalable—more than 90 percent of previous WIP winners have gone on to receive additional funding from other organizations, reaching over $9.5 million in total funding.

If you are a social entrepreneur, or part of a non-profit, university, or NGO—no matter how small—that is working on a project that leverages mobile or wireless technology, you are encouraged to share your ideas and apply to the competition. The power of innovation is driven by the size of the idea, not the reach of a company.

June Sugiyama, director of Vodafone Americas Foundation

Friday, November 11, 2016

FedEx Delivers the Holidays to Armed Forces

The Christmas tree is a symbol of the season. For service members stationed away from loved ones over the holidays, a Christmas tree and care pack delivery bring memories of home and messages of thanks. With that in mind, FedEx has joined forces with the United Service Organizations (USO) to provide care packs for service members deployed overseas, and with the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation to deliver Christmas trees through the Trees for Troops program.

For FedEx, the care packs, holiday boxes and Trees for Troops program provide a way to give back to those who devote their lives to serving this country. Through FedEx Cares, the company’s global giving platform, employee volunteers assembled 6,000 USO care packs and 75 holiday boxes with decorations for 11,000 service members and their families during the Holiday Packing Day on Oct. 4 in Memphis. They also signed banners and wrote holiday messages on tags that will be attached to fresh cut Christmas trees as part of the Trees for Troops program.

“As the primary shipping company for the USO for more than 15 years, we have helped deliver thousands of care packages to active service members and their loved ones around the world,” said Jenny Robertson, director of citizenship and reputation management at FedEx. “We continue to be inspired by the passion of USO and its commitment to keeping our military connected to family, home and country. We’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together and look forward to continuing to be the force behind the forces.”

Trees for Troops is delivering over 18,000 real Christmas trees this season to service members and military families across all branches of the armed services. The base deliveries help the service members get into the holiday spirit, no matter where they are stationed.

Marvin Hill, FedEx Freight team member and 35-year military veteran, understands the importance of Trees for Troops first-hand. Marvin was the recipient of many USO care packages and Christmas trees during his service.

“The holidays start with a tree. You could bring Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree out there and they wouldn’t care; it’s the idea,” he said.

Since the Trees for Troops program launched in 2005, FedEx has shipped more than 157,000 real Christmas trees to service members and their families—covering every branch of the military at more than 60 bases in 17 countries.

“To be able to bring joy to our service members during the holidays is a great privilege,” Mike Ducker, president and CEO of FedEx Freight, said. “Trees for Troops is a wonderful program that allows us to use our technologies and abilities to share the holidays with thousands of military members.”

 Trees for Troops can be supported by donating to the program or purchasing live trees at one For more information, visit and To send support to troops deployed this holiday season, visit

—Traci Stubblefield, senior communication specialist, FedEx Services

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Five Ways to Motivate Employees and Create a Positive Workplace

When it comes to motivating our teams, it is often easier to manage, encourage and develop those with obvious ambition. Their career path is clearly recognized, and the skills and experience required are well documented for their success.

Ensuring all employees have a career path makes sound commercial sense, but how do we inspire, grow and retain employees, who may have no ambitions to sit at the CEO’s desk one day? Here are some top tips for incentivizing a team to reach their full potential, while remaining satisfied in their current role and workplace.

Drive the company vision and values 

As a manager, you need to be an advocate for your staff as well as the company. Many employees, particularly millennials are more likely to look for meaning and influence in their work and aren’t content simply punching a clock. Helping them understand their role in a larger plan gives them a clearer sense of purpose, making them feel valued, which in turn boosts productivity.

Identify individual needs

Let’s start with this question—does money motivate? Meta-analysis by Tim Judge indicates the association between salary and job satisfaction is very weak and reported there is less than 2 percent overlap between pay and job satisfaction levels. According to Daniel Pink, people accomplish more when they are given autonomy, opportunity for mastery, and the belief their task is meaningful. By identifying your employees’ main personality traits, you’ll find it’s easier to work out what they need in order to value their position and achieve day-to-day success.

Generally speaking, many team members possess particular traits (e.g.: they may be an introvert, extrovert, ambivert passive or dynamic etc.) and each personality type is motivated by different needs. For example: introverts need tasks that they can do alone in a private space, allowing freedom and flexibility, whereas extroverts crave people, interaction and activity. Take some time to understand different workplace personalities. The more you understand what drives someone, the easier it will be to adapt your management style to one that will bring out the best in each person.

Consider generational differences

It’s not only diverse personalities you need to consider, but generational differences as well. The key is to effectively focus and take advantage of the differences in principles and expectations of each generation. Younger employees can gain insight and experience offered by senior employees. Older employees can be inspired by a fresh perspective from younger employees. Facilitate mentoring between different aged employees to boost cross-generational interaction and train your managers to recognize these differences and in turn, adapt to preferential learning and training styles. It’s vital managers change rather than trying to change staff.

Create incentives for different career stages

As managers, we often recruit in our own image and assume all members of our team have the same ambitions as ourselves. Whilst many do want to quickly climb the career ladder, there may be others who do not see this as an urgent priority. This does not mean these people aren't ambitious—just they don't wish to learn new skills or advance their careers right now. It’s important to work out what will motivate individuals if a pay-rise or promotion is not the driving force.

For example: a good way to motivate single parents might be to offer them flexible working hours, or on-site daycare. Eliminating any elements leading to job dissatisfaction is also a good way to ensure that even if these individuals are not currently keen for promotion, they still want to remain working at your company.

At the other end of the spectrum, it’s also key to boost morale when someone is keen to progress, but promotion opportunities are not available. Consider lateral moves for these individuals. A change in responsibility or role can be just as refreshing and motivating as moving up the organization. Take a hard look at each of your team member’s skills and work with them on ones they can improve. By developing in-between steps, managers can meet their employee’s desire for progression and provide them with the tools needed for larger, future career advancement.

Inspire ‘intrapreneurs’

On a regular basis, allow team members to work on something that inspires or interests them. Many companies have followed in the footsteps of Google's "20 percent time," in which employees spend one day a week on whatever they want. Personal endeavors from "20 percent time" resulted in Gmail, Google News and AdSense. While you might not have the resources to let employees spend a significant amount of time working on their own ventures, more freedom and flexibility to pursue individual projects allows employees to become your own business ‘intrapreneurs’ who take the initiative, embrace creativity and are capable of driving corporate innovation.

As managers, we must remember talent comes in many forms, requiring different approaches to get the best out of it. All employees play a crucial role in your business, regardless of whether or not they want to climb the corporate ladder. We must strive to find ways to excite and motivate people in their current roles to achieve maximum satisfaction and productivity in the workplace.

For more information, click here. 

—Jessie Avery, Colonial Life

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Corporate Citizenship as a Business Imperative

Jeff Hoffman
Corporate Citizenship Evolves 
Human Capital + Purpose = Value Creation

Organizations that create value for themselves by creating value for society are the ones that succeed. They represent purpose, shared value, collective impact, circular economy, job purposing, and mindfulness. These are important terms and concepts, but how do they relate to reputation management, risk mitigation, stakeholder engagement, brand building, and value creation?

We have also seen how employee volunteering has increasingly become a stronger element within a company’s overall philanthropy program. And philanthropy is playing a more important role within Corporate Social Responsibility and ESG (Environment and Social Governance). The employee is central to all of this. Harnessing, and then letting loose, the 21st century workforce will create profound change. Corporate Citizenship, when aligned with company values and products, will achieve positive bottom line results and is a key tool in the success of the company in today’s turbulent society.

Human capital is being viewed in a way that is different from the past, and forward-thinking companies value it with the same attention and rigor as financial capital. People run companies. Employees, customers, shareholders, and activists are all human. It’s about relationships. We see this with social media. When people are disconnected from the actions of the company, the company suffers. When companies act more human, they are complimentary assets to society, and are less of something that can be detrimental.

Purpose is the buzzword of the day. Central to a purpose-led company is to recognize why it exists. It was created to provide a product or service to fulfill a need. A company needs to stand for something it really believes in that goes beyond profit. A values-based approach will be helpful with recruitment and retention of quality employees and a strong customer base. The old saying of “doing well by doing good,” with purpose—it’s about “being” good. Purpose needs to be integrated in business practices and the culture across lines of business, not just the CSR department.

The 'human' and 'purpose' concepts resonate with younger workers and the emerging workforce. The 2105 Millennium Impact Report focuses on the relationship between the employee and the manager, understanding the relationships that drive participation. Employees want to feel valued, and value working at a company that acts responsibly and allows them to get engaged in the community. Here are some helpful tips:
  • Build a corporate culture that fully leverages cause work and responsibility;
  • Utilize peer’s interactions with co-workers to influence participation;
  • Identify causes that your employees care about; and
  • Story telling of how participation made a difference resonates with young workers.
Here are some of the stats: 84 percent of millennial employees made a charitable donation in 2014. 48 percent have donated to a company sponsored giving campaign. 70 percent of millennials spent at least an hour volunteering. 45 percent volunteered with a program promoted by the company. Whether we call it volunteering, or an expression of the employee and company doing social good, it will become the norm in the workplace.

What is your brands purpose? Does the essence of the brand reflect being a responsible company? Trust is an important component. Brand is a relationship—it's engaging with your key audiences, and is continually evolving. Does the company’s corporate citizenship program assist in building the brand? Strong brands can take years to build and missteps can damage it in a few moments with today’s connected society. This is why every employee should live the brand purpose and carry out their duties responsibly. The public will be more forgiving of a company that has had a hiccup but has a history built on responsibility.

Community relations is about being a good neighbor. It's an important program and the main component of a company’s philanthropy. While there will probably always be a place for charity dinners, direct grants to nonprofits, and employee volunteers participating in a walk-a-thon, corporate philanthropy is becoming more sophisticated in approach and aligned with company strategy. Community engagement is a symbiotic relationship that is mutually beneficial. Healthy communities mean healthy customers. Employees live, raise families, have friends, and are engaged in the same communities where the companies have operations. Schools educate the future workforce. Residents and businesses alike pay taxes. When one element of the community is sick, it is felt by the rest, and it can have long term negative implications. As a result, it is in a company’s best interest to impactfully invest in the success of communities.

Utilizing a company’s core assets to help find solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems is becoming more prevalent. With some, the work is part of the product portfolio, is a profit center, and, as a result, leads to long-term sustainability. These companies could be social enterprises. Often, it is companies utilizing their assets strategically for the betterment of society. Employees are dispatched to nonprofits to help them better achieve their mission through pro-bono service or skills-based volunteering. Products and services contributed could be cost offsetting, allowing resources to more directly support beneficiaries. And, in many cases, the support from business allows them to scale to be more effective. This is evident by what some companies have already committed to do in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Institutional investors have become more active in their desire that their companies act responsibly. We see this with various indexes and the rise of socially responsible investors. Customers today are more likely to purchase products from responsible companies. Potential employees often “choose” their employer based on if they are a good corporate citizen. Entitlement processes can move quicker when regulators and lawmakers view the applicant as responsible and a good neighbor.

Many proactive programs, both in society and in companies, work to prevent problems as an alternative to intervention later. And the more progressive are looking beyond value protection in their ESG efforts to value creation. With the environment to do business ever more challenging, competition stronger and stakeholder expectations higher, can you afford not to differentiate your company as a responsible business with purpose?

Jeff Hoffman

Hoffman is the former global vice president of philanthropy, community relations, employee engagement and cause marketing for The Walt Disney Company, and is on the board of Points of Light. He is CEO of Jeff Hoffman & Associates, Global CSR and Philanthropy.