Enlist a small group of employees to volunteer in an external, community-related project to demonstrate how collaboration and community can solve real world problems for individual and organizational benefit.
What specific problem(s) is your hack designed to overcome? Why do you believe this is an important problem to address?
Most companies claim to engage employee passions so that communities makes a positive difference, but few know how to do it or attain collaborative benefits. This leaves many employees less engaged and enthused in their jobs. As a result, younger workers, and those that are highly skilled in new technologies, there is a retention problem. How can management recognize this?
How can we address their seeming:
▪ Lack of understanding how to roll out what they espouse;
▪ Lack of really believing what they say as public or corporate policy;
▪ Fear of losing control of people and processes (see Hack in Autonomy: Embracing Autonomy: Small Bets);
▪ Lack of awareness of any really strong internal communities of passion;
• Fear that the company will become too 'touchy/feely' and lose focus (on stated goals and objectives.);
What are the core components of your solution and how are they interrelated? (Provide as much detail as possible). What, exactly, are you proposing needs to change in traditional management practices or processes?
What company doesn't say it supports community outreach, corporate social responsibility (CSR)? Many now have 'policies' or programs allowing employees to volunteer as individuals or teams and have corporate relationships with larger scale CSR programs. Use existing programs to demonstrate the translation of external communities of passion internally. Some solutions include:
1. Identify, within a part of the business, a group of people that work together in some capacity - can be tightly or peripherally - preferrably cross-function in background and share an existing external outreach passion (e.g., support of the public library, town beautification, city counsel, coaching of a sport, tutoring, church, etc.) as a group or as a majority of the group; Allow this team to schedule into part of their daily worktime (which may overlap with outside work hours) volunteering together at that external outreach. Have team members identify what makes them work well on each specific outreach. For instance, demonstrate how they manage themselves, the workload, the tasks, and relate how they could apply that specific skill to their day jobs.
2. If there is no common theme or outreach as described in #1 above, get an internal team involved in Sparked.com. Have the team identify the areas of passion or interest (e.g, education, health, etc.) and then identify their own diverse set of skills to apply to it. (Sparked.com is also willing to come 'inside' the corporate firewall). Ask the team to identify a few challenges within their interest area and start working on those. Allow them some time during the day to discuss how they can provide value/solutions for the Sparked.com challenge. This is not time consuming. Have them identify what makes team members work well together on a specific challenge, how they manage themselves, the workload, tasks, outcomes, and how they subsequently apply learned skills to their day job.
Start applying the learnings from either 1 or 2 above to a specific project and track the progress!
Try to describe how your hack might work in practice—how would it change attitudes, actions and outcomes? (Paint us a picture). In other words, how would it actually address the problem you described above?
Employees that are able to work together on an external outreach or challenge build a stronger sense of community, purpose and passion that, if allowed, they could bring back to the workplace and apply to their own work. Serendiptiously, a recent HBR article by Sylvia Ann Hewlett on the positive relationship between volunteer programs and an engaged workforce, provided evidence of the practical impact:
▪ Increases employee retention
▪ Provides leadership development opportunities
▪ Increases employees internal and external networks
▪ Identifies new market opportunities for the company/BU
▪ Provides career and skill development opportunities
▪ All of which lead to better outputs - productivity, profit, etc.
If an organization wanted to test your hack, what would it need to do first? How might it run a quick & dirty experiment?
The experimental design section should include detailed answers to the following questions:
▪ Hypotheses: What is the key hypothesis you want to test (what changes do you expect your hack will produce? What outcomes?)
Employees with similar passions make more productive and effective teams than those that don't share like passions (obviously preferrably around the project they are involved with!). These "Communities of Passion" teams are more productive, come up with more and better ideas, tend to stay with the company longer and have a stronger sense of meaning and purpose.
▪ Measurement: How will you measure the impact of your experiment?
▪ Employee retention
▪ Leadership development opportunities
▪ Employees' internal and external networks
▪ New market opportunities for the company/BU
▪ Improved career and skill development opportunities
▪ Productivity increases
▪ Quality and quantity of ideas and solutions
▪ Experimental subjects: Who will be the “subjects” of your experiment (and how will you enlist their participation)?
Natural teams on a project or initiative that already exists - see above for how to enlist - solicit interest, assess for common (enough) outreach passion;
▪ Start with volunteers (as individuals and as teams)
▪ Vet volunteers by:
▪ Their passion, commitment
▪ More likely achievable goals (e.g. don’t increase the obstacles, select ones with lower barriers)
▪ Alignment with corporate/BU goals
▪ Control group: How will you establish a “control group” (a post-experiment comparison with a baseline or a separate control group)?
▪ One could set up another group or individual with the same goal and see but this could lead to an unhealthy sense of competition and or too many vague variables
▪ Compare experimental subjects with a control group made of similar type/ilk and a similar enough project
▪ You probably can’t do a one-to-one apples-to-apples comparison – which is ok, but recognize, identify and address the disparities up front
▪ You could use projects that have been done in the recent past that are analogues or involved the same people in a command-and-control setting
▪ Realize that finding exact controls will be formidable, probably not possible so a margin of ‘error’ needs to be acceptable
▪ Timeline. Develop a timeline of actions for implementing your experimental design at the 30, 60, and 90-day. Be as specific as you can be in laying out the actions you will take. To make the experiment as “doable” as possible, please take into account the following constraints:
– You should be able to show quality results in 90 days
– You should rely mainly on volunteers recruited to help run the experiment
– You should not go beyond one layer of approval
– The experiment needs to be feasible within existing budget constraints
– Have fewer hypotheses and more experiments (rather than the other way around)