The New Face of Leadership: Global Pro-Bono Volunteering

[/one_third_last] Category: People & Performance
Subcategory: Recruitment, Talent & Leadership
Award won: Insight criterion

The SAP Social Sabbatical was designed to develop future leaders for SAP while simultaneously supporting the company’s social responsibility goals. It is a unique, short-term assignment for SAP’s future leaders who work in diverse, international teams to solve business challenges for NPOs, SMEs and entrepreneurs in the education and entrepreneurial sector in emerging markets. At the same time, their engagement with small organizations helps strengthen leadership competencies, industry know-how and intercultural sensitivity. Thus, the company’s guiding CSR principles of creating social impact, leveraging core expertise, generating lasting impact on SAP and engaging with multiple stakeholders establishes the general initiative framework.

The SAP Social Sabbatical was designed to develop the future leaders of SAP. Results of the immediate impact survey showed that the Social Sabbatical is strongly aligned to this goal. According to participants, two of SAP’s leadership competencies are developed through the Social Sabbatical: building trust (77%) and driving one SAP (70%). With regards to the development of general skills, cultural awareness (90%) and teamwork (85%) were the strongest areas of development for participants, followed by intercultural sensitivity (79%). Another competency that a strong majority of participants (67%) felt was developed was innovative thinking and 65% indicated improved communication skills.

Finding tomorrow’s leaders who can quickly adapt to new, fast-developing markets is one of the biggest challenges facing global CEOs. Furthermore, millennials care more about making a positive difference in the world than workplace recognition. With its Social Sabbatical Program, SAP has developed a highly innovative out of the box, experiential learning experience for its future leaders. At the same time it a new strategy to attract and retain new talent. High-performing employees are sent to partner organizations in emerging economies to solve business and societal challenges with the vision to help the world run better and improve people’s lives.[/one_half_last]

We realised after the pilot that we needed better ways to ensure participants can integrate their social sabbatical learning into their daily work at SAP. We therefore recommended integrating three coaching sessions per participant to the overall initiative with the goal of anchoring the learning. Through this, participants can reflect on leadership development and the overall learning experience in a structured way. In order to transfer the learning, it is advisable to develop a clear action plan on how to integrate the learning back into the SAP work environment.

The Social Sabbatical Program provides firms with new strategies on how to attract and develop talents. Sending their high-performing employees to client organizations in emerging economies will lead to the kind of experiential learning critical to building a next generation of business leaders who know how to operate across regions and cultures. Hence, corporations will end up with potential future executives with the type of creativity needed to problem-solve in an entrepreneurial setting. After all, international Corporate Volunteering is a unique experience to strengthen leadership competencies, cross-industry sector know-how and intercultural sensitivity.[/one_half_last]