Four RB employees who have just returned from their 13-week placements as part of the company’s Long-Term Volunteer (LTV) programme are united in their feelings about the transformative impact of the initiative.
They welcomed the chance to make a real difference in terms of both the groups of young Raleigh International volunteers they managed in Tanzania, Nepal and Costa Rica, and also the local communities in which they were based. Among projects they were involved with, they helped to make water more accessible, built toilets and taught schoolchildren about sanitation, disease and menstrual hygiene.
Now they’re eager to apply the lessons they’ve learnt to the workplace. For Ben Smith, sales team lead, UK Health Team, it’s about engaging and motivating colleagues through “clear communication, sharing plans and vision and empowering those in your team”. While for Nikki Collinson, R&D senior associate, Air Wick US Innovation Hub, it’s realising that while office life can be “hard-working, fast-paced and task-oriented, it’s important to enjoy the journey and grow during it, too”.
Ben and Nikki, along with Fanny Venereau, senior procurement manager Brazil and Argentina, and Shalini Weerasooriya, manager, regulatory policy in the UK, are the third group to take part in the programme since it started in 2018. Another group of four leaves at the end of January. The programme is for select young talent who are invited to apply from across the business, and a new intake of eight to 10 participants will be chosen later this year (look out for news on how to apply soon).
The LTV programme is part of RB’s global employee-driven initiative Give Time, which enables all full-time employees to devote two paid days each year to giving back and volunteering. Both programmes are part of the company’s commitment to making a positive social impact in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that are supported by the business.
Driven by Give Time “champions”, who represent every market, the initiative has seen the number of volunteer hours given by RB increase globally year on year. Volunteers clocked up around 20,000 hours when the programme started in 2017, rising to over 45,000 hours last year. And we’re on track to reach our pledge of donating 100,000 hours a year by 2025.
All Give Time activity is linked to the company’s purpose of “healthier lives, happier homes” and ranges from beach clearing in Spain, the Netherlands and Costa Rica to tree planting and community outreach projects in Colombia. In China, volunteers are helping teach new mothers about health and hygiene, while RB volunteers in the UK clear riverside areas and provide food and support to the elderly and those in need.
“Give Time is a global commitment from the company to all our full-time employees,” says Susannah Herbert, social impact and partnerships officer. “We hope more colleagues get involved and plan in their two paid days for 2020 and nominate others to do so as well. Together we can multiply our impact in our communities around the world.”
For Nikki RB’s commitment to volunteering – and in particular the LTV programme – makes her proud to be part of the business. “The fact that RB offers programmes like these is the very reason I’m with them,” she says. Shalini agrees, saying: “I’ve experienced first-hand how the company genuinely invests in its people and gives them the opportunity to pursue areas they’re passionate about. That’s what makes RB such a unique place to work.”
There’s no doubt that the 13-week LTV programme is challenging. The RB participants manage a team of young people from around the world, aged between 19 and 23, who have volunteered through Raleigh International. The RB participants lead them on community-based projects and stay in local households, which can be very basic with limited access to water, electricity and other amenities.
“Being a venturer manager was not only about guiding the team to build toilets in the village,” admits Fanny, “I was also their parent, first-aid nurse and confidante. It was a fantastic opportunity for them to discover and test new skills. In our feedback session at the end I could see them realise what they had learnt.”
The experience works both ways. According to Ben, managing his team in challenging circumstances was a “serious leadership development opportunity for future roles at RB”.
His project involved installing tap stands in a 56-household village in a remote part of Nepal. It saved local people a 20-minute round trip to collect water and Ben was thrilled to see them turn on their taps on the last day of the project.
From a leadership perspective, it was the impact of the project on the young volunteers that impressed him most. “Seeing them evolve from nervous but excited participants to confident and self-assured leaders was my highlight,” he says. “It was my entire reason for doing the programme and something I’m grateful to have witnessed.”