IBM: Celebrating 100 years of corporate civic leadership

Business in the Community Ireland

Company Description:
IBM opened its first office in Ireland in 1956, and today employs over 3,000 people working across a broad range of businesses and locations including Dublin, Cork and Galway, delivering sales, marketing, services, manufacturing, research and software development for the Irish and world market and delivering Sales and Services Support to the European market.

Business Issue:
IBM celebrated one hundred years as a corporation in 2011. Wishing to leave a lasting legacy in Ireland, IBM decided that the most tangible way that employees, retirees and our communities would experience this milestone was by having a year-long Celebration of Service.

Solution Applied:
Early 2011 all IBM employees and retirees were encouraged to volunteer at least eight hours by applying their talent and expertise to civic and societal needs in their local communities. Building on our existing On Demand Community programme, additional resources and volunteer kits were provided to volunteers and were also made available for free to the public. A Day of Service took place on June 15, the last day of our first 100 years, when several hundred employees in Ireland participated. Several of the projects undertaken were for ongoing highly skilled projects which will continue for many months.

Company Benefits:
By August 2011, our volunteering uptake increased to 29% of employees, with 10,000 hours of volunteering registered, up from 19% at the end of 2010. There was greater engagement from senior management and throughout the whole company.
According to one employee/volunteer “I never get to use my core skills – my programming and development skills in a volunteering capacity and when the opportunity to volunteer on the Irish Cancer Society Care to Drive cloud solution came up, I jumped at it.”

Stakeholder Benefits:
Global grant funding was increased to $12m, up 140% on 2010. Several organisations and schools in Ireland received not only grants of up to $75,000, but also the time and skilled volunteering efforts of hundreds of employees. “By bringing together its employees, retirees, partners and community members, IBM is undertaking the largest service challenge of its kind that we have seen to date”, said Yvonne McKenna, CEO of Volunteer Ireland. “It is creating not only an impact on communities in Ireland, but it is also applying the unique and powerful IBM assets to catalyse a movement around service. We commend IBM for celebrating 100 years of corporate civic leadership in such a remarkable way.”

Convincing employees that this was a good way to celebrate our 100 year milestone – that getting involved with organisations and schools to share their skills would allow them to receive significant grant funding for the organisations and generate a great feeling of personal satisfaction. It was also a challenge to encouraging employees to “own” volunteering opportunities and not expect them to happen for them.
Executive support and participation was essential. A good communications programme, speaking to employees directly, taking them through the Celebration of Service and explaining the benefits and grants available, all worked well to address the challenges.

Start planning early. Get senior management buy-in and their commitment to participate. Recruit advocates for your programme throughout the company and across locations, it takes several people to drive a strong programme.

Departments Involved:
Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs

Solution Champion:
Deirdre Kennedy, Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs manager,