Ethical Performance
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IBM high-fliers get an exclusive volunteering scheme

June 2008

IBM has set up a programme that it likens to an in-house version of the US Peace Corps, through which ‘high-potential’ employees will use their skills to aid emerging nations.

The multinational’s Corporate Service Corps has been established with 100 employees selected from 33 countries. Twelve teams of IBM staff will be sent this year to Ghana, the Philippines, Romania, Tanzania, Turkey and Vietnam, to work on economic development projects involving information technology.

In contrast to many corporate volunteer programmes that try to engage as many staff as possible, it is deliberately limiting places to add a competitive edge. IBM has recruited employees to the corps who are expected to become senior managers, although participation in the scheme will not specifically be linked to promotion.

As a result, the initial 100 places were 50 times over-subscribed. IBM will limit places to 600 of its ‘emerging leaders’ over the next three years.

Describing the programme as ‘a corporate version of the Peace Corps’ – a government-backed project in which mainly young Americans volunteer to work in developing countries – Stanley Litow, IBM’s vice-president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs, said: ‘The individual participants get a set of leadership opportunities and development experiences, the communities they serve get IBM’s best problem-solving skills, and we as a company get leaders with a broader range of skills that can function in a global context. It’s a triple benefit.’

The programme will be run with three global non-governmental organizations –  the US-based Citizens Development Corps, the Canadian Digital Opportunity Trust, and Australian Business Volunteers.

The participating groups will jointly identify projects and work with local organizations.

Litow said it was important ‘to give high-performance employees the chance to build networks with people they might never interact with’. He hoped this would encourage them ‘to bring different perspectives and expertise to solving problems’.

IBM | Global | Professional Development

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