Beyond The Corporate Meeting Room

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - It's hard to escape the corporate bubble, which is why some companies are looking outside of their business models to reconnect with what’s going on around them. A number of companies are consciously enabling their employees to get out more, stepping outside to transform their businesses and reconnect to society. Many feel the corporate world is too detached from the world around it.

Now, around the world, some companies are encouraging their staffs to break out of their meeting rooms in order to make a difference. Outerwall Inc. (Nasdaq: OUTR), a leader in automated retail, has taken its corporate giving to another level, furthering its collaboration with the not-for-profits that it has given grants to by creating meaningful volunteer opportunities for its own company employees. This is part of the company’s mission to engage one-third of its workforce in volunteering by 2015. It believes by playing an active role in the communities where its employees live and work, it is also empowering the organisations that are driving positive change.

Outerwall’s corporate giving strategy is unconventional. It integrates employee volunteerism opportunities as part of its grantee selection criteria. This approach not only offers not-for-profits skilled talent, it provides employees with valuable personal development opportunities and benefits the company by strengthening recruitment and retention. Moreover, Outerwall has decided to give more than $250,000 in grants to support not-for-profits that are addressing local issues with innovative solutions in the Seattle and Chicago metro areas. In addition to awarding these grants directly to charities, Outerwall is providing a matched-giving program that supports employees’ favourite community causes. The employees who contribute personal time or monetary donations to these types of organisations can amplify the impact of their generosity by applying for matching grants.

Across the globe in India, in Mumbai, there’s the story of Mahindra, a large manufacturing plant, which sent 150 of its top managers to spend days in rural areas with smallholder farmers. The result was transformational. In 2005, the company set itself the goal of becoming the world's largest tractor manufacturer; by 2007, it was clear they would achieve that within a couple of years, but as a vision, "continuing to be the world's number one just wasn't that motivating," leaving them with the question: what next? The company reflected on the purpose of the business and decided to dispatch its management to the fields. Immediately, it became obvious that the tractors Mahindra was producing were too big and far too expensive for these poor farmers. The experience led Mahindra to launch the Mahindra Yuvraj, a smaller tractor that was compact enough to be useful in small fields and far less expensive.

Both these companies show that at times, it makes better business sense to ditch the business meetings and get involved with local communities, volunteering to drive change in order to make better business decisions.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia