Reintegrating Employees After a Volunteer Overseas Assignment

As 2012 quickly comes to a close and another great year of ICV programs wrap up, it’s a good time to think about the “now what?”  Virtually without fail, our pro-bono consultants report in their post-assignment surveys that their time on project was a life-changing and transformational experience. They return to their daily lives more energized than ever to make a difference in the world. After providing their employees with such a transformative experience, companies sometimes struggle to capitalize on this passion, and even risk employees looking elsewhere for fulfillment. Here are five ways to better engage your high-performing employees upon their return:

  1. Encourage Dialogue: Provide opportunities for participating employees to share their experience through formal and informal channels through a brown bag lunch with their team or a presentation to the wider organization. This will enable your employees to “relive” their experiences and share them with others.
  2. Create an Alumni Group: The intense nature of these assignments means that people often form very tight bonds quite quickly.  Encouraging these connections to continue after the experience by providing opportunities for participating employees to continue to interact, employers provide a way for those relationships to remain strong. Alumni can contribute to ongoing programs by mentoring new teams and acting as resources for participants just getting ready to head out on assignment. As an added bonus, these groups become in-house advocates for the program to continue and scale.
  3. Provide Opportunities for Virtual or Micro-Volunteering: ICV participants appreciate the opportunity to use their professional skills in a new way that provides needed support to a deserving group. By creating workplace opportunities for on-going skills-based pro bono—even if they are just “micro” or virtual opportunities—participants will continue to have this positive outlet as they return to their day jobs.
  4. In-person or online business integration workshop Employees often return with great ideas for new business processes, new products or services, or other business-related ideas and become frustrated when they don’t see an outlet to communicate them. By providing employees with a structured outlet to discuss their ideas, and even forming working groups to move some of the ideas forward, employees will feel meaningfully heard and engaged.
  5. Manager Communications: Often we hear from returning volunteers that they don’t feel like their managers appreciate the incredibly impactful experience they have just had, expecting them to jump right back into their previous roles. You can overcome this obstacle by encouraging managers to schedule one-on-one time with the returned volunteer to discuss the experience and how they can incorporate what they have learned into their performance evaluation moving forward.

These are just a few ways we recommend you engage returning volunteers to ensure your employees stay engaged after the experience of a lifetime. What successful strategies for post-ICV engagement does your company use?

Amanda MacArthur

Amanda MacArthur

Amanda MacArthur is the Vice President of Global Pro Bono and Engagement at PYXERA Global where she leads the organization’s Global Pro Bono and MBAs Without Borders programs, as well as the Center for Citizen Diplomacy. In this capacity, Amanda designs and implements corporate social responsibility programs for the public and private sector focused on skills-based volunteerism in emerging markets, leadership development, and sustainable economic impact. Most recently, Amanda played a key role in designing IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, while overseeing Global Pro Bono programs for PepsiCo, Pfizer, FedEx, and several others.

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