Employees Drive Social Responsibility in Wausau
By: Ben Ivory, Senior Vice President – Supplier Development
Thanks to our incredible employees, Graebel has a long history of supporting the communities surrounding our regional headquarters and service centers around the globe. And, as a signatory of the United Nations Compact, we’re closely monitoring and encouraging these activities through a company-wide CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) program that demonstrates our core values which align with the Compact.
That higher level of attention, though, has not diminished the fact that our CSR program is organic – a bottom-up process led by teams at each of our eleven primary and secondary locations around the globe. So, in this new era, we’ve given every employee access to 24 hours of annual volunteer paid time off (VPTO) while simply asking them to do more of what they’ve been doing.
As part of our Global Compact commitment, we report each year on our progress toward various initiatives, including our CSR program. Our local CSR teams feed their activity information to us in Denver – not only for tracking purposes but so we can coordinate our global efforts to support these local activities.
As we were reviewing our CSR activity recently, we were struck by the number and diversity of the activities with all the local teams – including our employees in Wausau, Wisconsin. We decided to reach out to Wausau CSR coordinator Sarah Myszka to drill a little deeper into the CSR efforts of the 103 Graebel employees in that city.
Sarah, tell us a little about your office and how you organize your CSR committee.
We’ve had a Social Committee for more than four years. Twelve of our team members serve on the committee – more than 10% of our employees! We meet monthly to make sure we always have something in the works.
How do you decide what to support?
In order to find things our employees are passionate about, we survey the entire office. In the last round, we had a nearly 50% response rate, so we had a lot of good input! We review the feedback and try to find common themes – either specific organizations or topical areas like health or the environment. Many of our activities are through the local United Way organization and historically we’ve done a lot with kid’s causes.
How do you make it meaningful and fun?
When we focus on what the employees are already passionate about, it’s already meaningful for them. We also go out of our way to share the workload and streamline the process to make participation easy. We’ve found that having public signup sheets for events can trigger good-natured competition and also encourage an employee who may be apprehensive about doing something on their own.
What makes your team and your programs so successful?
We know we have Graebel behind us and that community service is a bigger priority for our company than ever before. The VPTO allowance of course is a big driver for participation. Having the time and resources to help others within our own community is a natural motivator.
Tell us about some of your recent and planned activities.
I mentioned that working with kids has been a big priority for us. This was the second year in row we worked with the United Way in their “Adopt a Classroom” program. Earlier this year we had four teams of employees spend part of a day with four K through Grade 2 classes at several local elementary schools. They led the classes in a science project that also triggered a discussion of life lessons related to nurturing and growing plants from seeds.
Later this month, our employees will be working at a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser. They’ll be taking back and refurbishing recycled building materials that Habitat will resell.
Next year we’re planning to have a big presence at the Humane Society’s “Run for Their Lives” 5K fundraiser. It’s a really fun event – pet-friendly of course!
And then there’s our own “Garbage for Graebel” program. Over the course of a week we send teams to the local park each afternoon, armed only with garbage bags and gloves, to pick up trash! On the Friday evening of that week we have a cookout at the park.
What suggestions do you have for other Graebel offices wanting to grow their local CSR programs?
The survey process has been extremely important in identifying activities our people are passionate about – that helps participation rates of course. And we have an exceptionally engaged Social Committee – incredible people who care and want to make a difference by coming together to do good.
Thank you Sarah and the entire Wausau team for your efforts to demonstrate #GraebelCares and to help grow our program organically!