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Engaging Volunteers | S5 E11

First published: 7 May, 2024

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Engaging Volunteers | S5 E11
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Engaging Volunteers | S5 E11

I’ve always been passionate about exploring the intersection of corporate responsibility and employee engagement. In this episode, I had the privilege of sitting down with Melissa Hackmeier, the Global Head of Employee and Community Engagement, Sustainability, and Social Business Innovation at Merck. Our conversation delved into the transformative world of employee volunteering and its profound impact on both individuals and organisations.

The Vital Role of Employee Volunteering

Volunteering is more than just a noble pursuit; it’s a strategic tool that aligns with an organisation’s purpose, values, and mission. I opened the discussion by addressing the challenges many companies face in creating well-resourced and well-supported volunteer programmes. It’s a topic that resonates with many of our listeners who are looking to make a difference within their workplaces.

Merck’s Commitment to Community Engagement

Melissa Hackmeier, a seasoned corporate responsibility professional, brought a wealth of knowledge to the table. We discussed the exciting shift back to face-to-face volunteering post-pandemic and the surge in employee interest in these activities, which now exceeds pre-pandemic levels. Melissa provided an in-depth look at Merck’s volunteer programs, including the Spark Global employee volunteer program and innovative science education initiatives like Curiosity Labs and the Curiosity Cube.

Professional and Personal Growth Through Volunteering

One of the key insights from our conversation was the multitude of benefits that volunteering offers employees. Melissa highlighted how these opportunities serve as a platform for professional development, networking, team building, and fostering a sense of accomplishment. She also detailed the flexibility of Merck’s policy, which grants employees 16 hours of paid time off for volunteering, catering to a variety of interests from civic engagement to individual volunteering efforts.

Adapting to a Changing World

The pandemic has undeniably reshaped the volunteering landscape, prompting a return to in-person activities and an expansion of programmes into Europe. Melissa shared the strategies Merck implemented to boost volunteer engagement, such as enhancing communication, reinvigorating volunteer teams, and introducing an awards and recognition framework. These efforts have led to a significant increase in employee participation and a celebration of the diversity within the volunteer community.

Innovations in Volunteering

Our discussion also touched on the innovations that have emerged in response to the pandemic. Melissa spoke about adapting the Curiosity Cube to a virtual environment, which allowed them to reach a broader audience of students. She also addressed the challenges of measuring the impact of these initiatives but emphasised the importance of recognising and celebrating the commitment of employees to giving back.

Empowering Employees and Embracing Flexibility

Melissa’s advice to those involved in volunteer programmes was clear: find and empower passionate employees, and maintain flexibility and adaptability in program development. She also gave us a sneak peek into the upcoming European tour of the Curiosity Cube and the role of local employees as volunteers.

Reflecting on Lessons Learned

As we wrapped up our conversation, Melissa reflected on the key lessons from the past few years. She underscored the value of employees feeling connected to something greater than their day-to-day tasks and the importance of community engagement in bringing employees together, especially in a hybrid work environment.

A Call to Action for Organisations

I’d like to express my appreciation for Merck’s initiatives and encourage other organisations to consider implementing similar volunteer programmes. The benefits are clear, and the impact is far-reaching, not just for the employees and companies involved but for society as a whole.

Guest profile

Melissa Hackmeier is Global Head of Employee and Community Engagement, Sustainability and Social Business Innovation at the Life Science business of Merck, which operates as MilliporeSigma in the U.S. and Canada. Melissa is a corporate responsibility professional with proven ability to effectively develop relationships and communicate with key constituents. Melissa also serves on the Advisory Council of Net Impact Boston.

LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/melissasmall73/

Other useful links:

Corporate Social Responsibility Webpage: https://www.sigmaaldrich.com/ ssbi

Employee & Community Engagement Webpage: https://www.sigmaaldrich.com/US/en/life-science/ssbi/community

Curiosity Cube®: https://thecuriositycube.com/

Curiosity Labs™: www.sigmaaldrich.com/cl

Curiosity Labs™ at Home: www.sigmaaldrich.com/curiositylabs

Episode links

Link to a relevant episode of the podcast: https://thebigpicturepeople.co.uk/blog/podcast/living-company-purpose-s3-e2/

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