HR and Learning, Are you making the world a better place?

My oldest son is graduating from high school this week! Not only has this kept me very busy this last month, it has also put me into a reflective mood concerning the world he’s entering as an adult.

In preparing for all of his milestone decisions about college and careers, he recently asked me a question I think everyone should consider:

How can I be sure that my path will make a difference? How can I make the world a better place?

Most of us enter the HR and Learning profession with a goal of helping other people. I think like many professions we start off with the right idea – but we often lose our way among the tasks, processes, and policies. We forget that our role isn’t to network, automate, build, or implement – but to help people. In helping people we need to think beyond their role as an employee – and realize that everything and everyone is connected. So as HR professionals how can we make a difference beyond our own organization?

One of the most effective ways to help people is by volunteering your expertise. Volunteering your time and expertise can be done in both formal and informal venues, but the first step is realizing that no matter your skills – someone out there probably needs your insight and help. Combining our efforts with a larger community; within our industry, company, or neighborhood makes an even larger impact.

Recently I attended Cornerstone OnDemand’s user’s conference, Convergence 2012, and found myself reflecting a great deal on that single question from my son. Several years ago Cornerstone OnDemand’s CEO and President Adam Miller, started the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation, an organization developed to solely provide programs and services designed to help the non-profit sector increase its impact by leveraging human capital management software and strategies. Adam felt that the best way to make a difference was by helping these organizations manage their own critical talent. The organization not only helps by providing technology and services through the Cornerstone OnDemand offerings, but coordinates volunteer time from clients and partners through the HR Pro Bono Corps to ensure that each non-profit also has the skills and coaching needed to put in place stronger talent strategies.

At the Convergence event, Adam announced two additional programs being rolled out under the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation including:

SaaS Based Volunteer Management System

In the U.S. about 64.3 million people volunteered in 2011, often volunteers need to be managed and tracked for multiple purposes. Corporations may choose to track and manage company sponsored volunteer events only or choose to manage and help support ongoing volunteer efforts throughout their organization – but all organizations face a challenge when managing volunteer efforts.

The  Cornerstone OnDemand Volunteer Management System manages the typical tracking needs, but it also includes:

  • Skills based screening and matching for volunteer assignments/needs identification
  • Compliance tracking for required volunteer communications and education
  • The ability to make connections to Multiple non-profit organizations

The tool does have a cost for both the corporations and the non-profits who choose to use the tool – but it is deeply discounted for non-profits, and corporations can reduce their cost simply by encouraging employees to volunteer. By reaching a set volunteer goal for each organization, 3-hours of tracked volunteer time per employee per year, will lead to a 50% discount in the cost of the system the following year.


Disaster Ready Initiative

In 2010 Pakistan faced one of the largest natural disasters in recent memory from flooding. Over 20 million people and over 70 percent of Pakistan were affected, and more than 1.7 million homes were damaged or destroyed. When the calls went out for help to the multiple NGO (non-government organization) disaster relief organizations – Cornerstone OnDemand also received calls. Thousands of volunteers needed to be added to the current people systems they were supporting – and most of them needed immediate training on health and safety issues before they could be released for volunteer work.

It quickly became apparent to the Cornerstone OnDemand team that large and small volunteer organizations needed access to better training and better tools to assist with disaster relief needs, thus, the Disaster Ready Initiative was born. The goal of this initiative was to create a one stop shop, a portal, for the aid worker to find quality training on safety, security, and health issues related to disaster recovery needs. The training needed to be scalable and customizable for different aid organizations. This training also needed to be portable and available off-line for aid workers, especially since traveling to remote locations often required long car and bus rides through rural areas. The decision was made to not only create a portal for access, but to also work on creating quality content both within Cornerstone OnDemand and in partnership with their content partners. The content would be designed specifically for the needs of the disaster recovery community, and would include high-end learning options such as simulations, gaming, and video as well. The portal is planned for a Q4 launch date – all course content is free of charge (unless provided by a partner with a fee) and will be accessible for customization by various NGO organizations.

Cornerstone OnDemand, had a lot of positive business announcements to make at their users conference:

In the middle of all of this, they spent a great deal of time talking about the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation work, continuing to show the focus is on people. It was also impressive to listen to their user community share their thoughts and appreciation for the work of the foundation.

Other HR and Learning Industry Organizations Making a Difference:

Other organizations to look at for volunteer opportunities that can leverage your HR and Learning expertise include:

American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) is working to create a community of industry volunteers. This is primarily targeted for the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance certification volunteers, but volunteering at your local level is also invaluable for these associations.

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has multiple volunteer opportunities on expert panels, chapter programs, leadership roles, and legal support – and in turn they offer many benefits for profit and non-profit organizations.

Learning in NGO’s (LINGO’s). Offers a broad spectrum of technology and access to general course content through a membership model for NGO’s. Multiple learning industry organizations support the work that LINGO’s is conducting around the globe.

Oracle Education Foundation focuses on providing grants and technology to schools and children.

Microsoft’s IT Academy is working to fill the technical skills gap in our education environment today. I recently had the chance to speak with the program director of this program and was impressed by the focus on the kids and their opportunities in the future.

You might look at many of these programs, and ask if they are self-serving for these organizations– and the simple answer is yes. Benefits for these organizations include name recognition, market penetration and industry input – but the simple fact is that they are helping people and more importantly they are making a difference. The resources and investments that go into these programs, could just as easily be put into marketing as well, but these organizations chose to take a different path.

As my son races towards many changes in his final days before graduation he needs to make decisions about college, face his concerns about leaving home and leaving friends, and search for some clarity on his path forward. His question about “making a difference in the world” wasn’t a question I expected, but it is one I can understand. In his mind, all of his choices today are leading to the end result of his impact on the world.

In your day to day interactions and decisions, are you thinking about how you can impact the future? As an HR and learning community our combined efforts are a force for good – and our individual decisions can have a positive impact on helping people every day. What are you doing to make the world a better place?

If you have information or other examples of how the HR or Learning community can get involved and make a difference we’d love to hear them and share them at the Brandon Hall Group site.

Stacey Harris,

Brandon Hall Group Research Team

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