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Letters to a Young Manager

Giving Back is Strategic, #62
LTYM > Strategy

Dear Sophie,
I can understand your team asking about what the social impact of their project will be. More and more, the new generation wants to know about the greater good and meaning of their work. Jobs are not just jobs anymore; they are causes.

Cisco was the first supporter of NetHope. After the dot com bubble burst in 2001, they launched a Cisco Fellows program in lieu of downsizing. Employees were giving the option of working for a year for an NGO at a third of salary and full benefits. They were told they would be rehired once the market turned around.

This was not just charity, it was good business. The cost of rehiring and training new employees was more expensive than having a group of experienced employees ready to return.

About 80 employees took the option. We hired the first Cisco Fellow, who became the cofounder of NetHope with me. After a year, about 60 employees returned. Here's the surprise: they said they learned more about managing in chaotic under-resourced situations than ever before. So Cisco made it part of their leadership development program. Now those on the fast-track can apply for a sick-month tour at an NGO for full salary. Why? Developing versatile, agile leaders was strategic.


Philanthropy is more than citizenship or retention; it's strategic development

Discussion Questions:

1) How are you helping to create meaning for your team?
2) What does your team value doing? Can you together create a group project or activity rather than simply time off to volunteer?
3) What would you want your team to learn from a charitable activity?

For Further Reading:

1) See my article "The changing face of corporate social responsibility," MA High Tech, Sep 4, 2008,
2) See the Pepperidge Farm Story #241

© Copyright 2005, 2020, E. G. Happ, All Rights Reserved.

Draw on and cite my MA High Tech article on this:

[ ] Note the link has changed: ; update my Articles & Presentations page

Cisco and the new corporate philanthropy; from my MA High Tech article?