"Skills-based volunteering." For companies at the forefront of social impact, it's an exciting and rapidly evolving way of using company resources to do good in the world. Unlike traditional volunteering opportunities that take advantage of employees' time, skills-based volunteering uses employees' skills in addition to their time to address community concerns. In my role at Johnson & Johnson, I've made it my mission to create programs that use the immense talents of our J&J workforce to tackle an issue that has been front and center for us from day one -- ensuring the well-being of frontline health workers so they can provide everyone everywhere with the healthcare they deserve.
Earlier this year, our Employee Engagement team had the privilege of participating in a global benchmark study – led by Emerging World – to measure the longer-term impact of our skill-based volunteering programs on participating J&J employees.
The study examined two of our signature Talent for Good programs: the Secondment Program and Global Pro Bono Program. Both programs offer employees the opportunity to travel across borders (pre-COVID) and immerse themselves in one of our partner organizations active on the front lines of care. Over the course of several weeks or months, employees apply their expertise to special programs identified by the NGO partner to strengthen their capacity in improving the health of their community. While we continuously strive to learn from and improve our programs, having a third party evaluate our programs was a special opportunity to gain the next level of insight.
Participating in a global benchmark study can of course be exciting and nerve wracking at the same time, as – let's be honest – we all like to be 'best in class' and you never know what the study will reveal! What I appreciated most from this study was that Emerging World provided all six participating companies (Credit Suisse, BD, Mars, MSD, Salesforce and Johnson & Johnson) the opportunity to learn from each others' similar programs, not just our own. The purpose of the study was to:
- Benchmark our skill-based volunteering programs: Provide a better understanding on how we are performing vs other companies offering similar immersive experiences.
- Obtain a performance evidence tool: Showcase how our programs continue to impact our participants after they have returned from their experience.
- Strengthen our impact aspiration: Identify what type of improvements can be made to further align employee engagement programs with J&J internal business strategies.
By measuring seven levels of impact, from depth of learning to business impact, and from responsible leadership to employee engagement, we all gained great insights into what we are doing well collectively, what our individual pain points are, where our strengths lie, and where we can build upon our future success to grow and create even greater impact, be it in virtual settings or in-person.
In an effort to share the learnings beyond those of us who participated in the study, here's a quick summary of what we learned about the impact of our Secondments and Global Pro Bono Program on employees.
What we're doing well:
- Programs perform well on all measures of learning, score above the benchmark for employee engagement and responsible leadership outcomes
- Engagement with J&J Line managers, those who enable their employees to participate, is strong
- Participants are vocal about their experience – particularly within the Company
- Involve more senior leaders to take part in our programming
- Provide new ways to support our participants with reintegrating upon their return to their regular job and applying their lessons learned to create even greater impact
- Reassess the matching process of skills vs talent to make sure both employees and partners gain the best and most impactful experience
Learnings from Our Employee Engagement Team
Ailbhe Timmons & Jasmien Hufkens, Managing the J&J Secondment Program share: "Since launching the Secondment Program in 2014, close to 70 employees have taken on individual life-changing, skills-based volunteering assignments to help raise public health standards in communities around the world. At the same time, they grow personally and professionally and bring new insights and learnings back into their J&J jobs. From day one, we placed the needs of our NGOs first. By identifying their needs and matching the best J&J employees with the right skill sets, we can truly address our partners' greatest needs, and make a long-term impact to vulnerable populations by strengthening and transforming health systems. One of the best decisions we ever took!"
Anastasia Christianson, VP R&D Business Technology, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, US
"The Lion Secondment Program, designed for senior leaders within J&J, opened my eyes to the role of the private sector in strengthening global public health and the many opportunities J&J provides its employees to use their 'Talent for Good'. My assignment with TIP Global Health showed me the power of data in motivating improved healthcare and the importance of local teams on the ground to enable digital transformation. Through this assignment, I saw a whole new dimension to digital enabled precision medicine. The timing of my Secondment, during the global pandemic, yielded new lessons on resilience and adaptability and gave me newfound respect for healthcare workers on the ground. My Secondment helped me see the value of my skills and experience in a whole new setting, in the context of personal healthcare, family health services, and global public health, and allowed me to use my skills in the best way possible – to do good."
Yezenia Ramos & Alex Fernandez, J&J Global Pro Bono Program Leads share: "At J&J, giving back to local and global communities has always been at our core and we have created a new way to harness the skills, energy, and passion of J&J employees to continue giving back and creating positive change. Through the Global Pro Bono program, teams of J&J employees have a 4-week, fully immersive 'consulting' experience with an NGO partner, working hand in hand and side by side with them, understanding and appreciating the work they do and the challenges they face every day. It has become not just a compelling and insightful experience for the NGO, but also for our participating employees. Through our program, employees are fulfilling their personal and professional purpose in supporting communities across the globe. Ideas are shared, new solutions created, and lasting relationships are formed. J&J participants learn to be more creative in their problem solving and they come back to J&J with a renewed sense of "spirit" and belonging. As a Company, J&J continues to get the best out of motivated employees that help us live our Credo values every day."
What will 2021 look like?
While the pandemic may continue to limit in-person activities, we have no plans of slowing down our employee engagement opportunities -- in fact we plan on getting even more creative as these opportunities are more important than ever. The learnings and insights from this benchmark study will reinvigorate our efforts to create even more impactful experiences for our employees and partners alike.
I'm proud to work for a Company like Johnson & Johnson who encourages employees to benchmark its programs, to learn from it, to do better and to continue supporting those who need our help -- especially in the face of adversity. The pandemic only further highlights how important it is for influential companies like J&J to play our part in championing frontline health workers and strengthening global health systems. Frontline health workers need our support and through our skill-based volunteering programs, we can play our part by offering needed expertise and skills to build their capacity. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you'd like to learn more about the findings of the benchmark study.