Category Archives: Press & Published Articles

Corporate Social Responsibility: It’s Not Just a Fad

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) seems to be competing with “Green” on the business magazine covers and newspaper headlines. There are many interpretations of CSR, and the intent behind the actions taken and publicized by the organizations─most often either pro or con.
Opportunities abound for CSR events that are positive for all involved. An important consideration is what events will be selected. Often, employees have a very limited view of what their companies do in the CSR arena. They may be aware, for example, of a United Way campaign or a Wells for Water type fundraiser. Unless employees make the time to look on the company’s internal website, they may not really understand the complexity or generosity of the company and the difference it makes around the world — beyond its normal goods and services.
In these tumultuous times, organizations are facing a multitude of challenges, such as keeping the people in the company energized, ambitious, connected to their work, and in a positive mood; in other words, the ideal employee. It is hard to do anything exceptional on top of a lousy mood. The proper choice of CSR events can increase cross-functional networks, decrease communication silos, foster solution-based thinking and raise mood levels, and thus, productivity.
With the challenge (and scrutiny) of being in a “fishbowl” where the decisions of investments and cuts are critical and viewed and felt by many, a one-time tested choice is to allocate funds to the people. This allocation, with a specific ROI in mind, and with a process, tool, and/or service that is highly recommended can be a “brass ring” that is reachable and deemed worthy by all involved.
By investing CSR funds and time in the employees, they will feel included, taken care of, worthwhile and appreciated. They will also learn new skills and/or competencies that are essential to the game of business as their roles evolve. There is a belief that if a company–and the individuals in the company–treat their internal customers as well as their external customers, more often than not everything else will work out, even better than expected at all levels of the business.
Today, more and more companies are turning to a melding of CSR/philanthropy and team building events for their employees. Companies can no longer afford to have team building just for fun or entertainment. Employees will rarely stay on one team. It is imperative that resources spent on building a team will create the capacity for individuals to make powerful choices and blend more easily as they move from team to team.
These hybrid team building events are a fabulous place to bring corporate values and/or targeted points to life. Participants have an opportunity to connect with their co-workers as they participate in altruistic activities (i.e., prosthetic hands for land mine victims, bicycles for less fortunate youth, playhouses for children hospitals, etc.). These programs provide a visceral experience that anchors the learning points with emotion, which lasts longer than a PowerPoint presentation or a team photo. In addition, the employee has a “face” to the people affected by the company’s CSR initiatives and/or the benefits of where the company contributes. And perhaps more important, they, too, will feel as if they are being corporate socially responsible with all the pride, gratitude and humility that comes with it.
The cynicism that often goes along with team building events is diminished in these highly developed and relevant training events. The value is discovered at the outset and continues beyond the classroom walls. Those who are cynics have progressed to becoming skeptics; the skeptics to “on the bus”; the others to full-blown players on the team full of ambition. This ambition is fueled by their connection to who they work with; the work they do; and the impact they make internally and externally in this world that needs a little CSR everywhere.
When in a conversation that is aimed at team building, target a program that can provide a wide ROI for the employees, their teams, and the internal and external aspects of the business; offer them the opportunity to put their thumbprint on something that touches near and far. Philanthropic team building is a sure way to hit the CSR mark at many levels.
About the Author
Todd Demorest is the lead facilitator with Odyssey Teams, Inc, a Chico, California-based firm that helps business leaders keep their eye on the prize by building a stronger organization through processes designed to promote team building, innovation, enhanced customer service and greater profitability. Todd can be reached at todd@odysseyteams.com.

Look, No Ropes

Meetings and Conventions Magazine Article http://www.mcmag.com
JUNE 2008
This page is protected by Copyright laws. Do Not Copy.
Group team-building options get creative
By Hunter R. Slaton
Popular wisdom holds that we are living in the age of the niche. Appropriately enough, team-building companies are now offering some out-there activities that depart from tired-and-true trust falls, paintball games and ropes courses of years past.
One offbeat option is WhirlyBall, which combines lacrosse, hockey and basketball with bumper cars. The WhirlyBall (www.whirlyball.com) company has three Illinois locations, where bumper car team members work together to score baskets using plastic scoops. Visit whirlyball.org to find other places where the sport is played and watch a game in action.
For those who don’t enjoy getting knocked about, Canadian Outback Adventures (www.canadianoutback.com) organizes a barbecue challenge where teams battle, Iron Chef-style, with must-use ingredients in an outdoor cooking competition. After the judges choose the winning team, it’s time to eat.
A do-good way to forge bonds: The Helping Hands program from Odyssey Teams (www.odysseyteams.com) assists groups in building prosthetic hands that are donated to those in need. Since the program began in 2004, a total of 1,200 hands have been assembled, 750 of which have been distributed to amputees in foreign countries including Colombia, India, Jordan and Kenya.

Firm’s team-building exercise helps children

by Nathan Gonzalez – Jun. 4, 2008 05:55 PM
The Arizona Republic
What started as a team-building exercise for a group of Procter & Gamble employees turned into a surprise set of gifts for deserving Valley children.
About 135 Procter & Gamble employees from throughout the country gathered Tuesday at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort, where they assembled the bikes as part of a team-building exercise during a corporate training session.
None knew where the bikes would end up, until about 30 children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix were led into the ballroom.

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Transformational Teambuilding – A new twist on the traditional

Written By Diana Rowe
in Insurance and Financial Meetings Management Magazine -May/June 2008 issue
full article
Teambuilding with a purpose — corporate sales meeting attendees assemble bicycles for deserving kids. Odyssey Teams’ Life Cycles program has donated more than 10,000 bikes to children worldwide since 2001. Doing good for others enriches not only receiver and giver, but the corporate culture as well.
Photo courtesy of Odyssey Teams
first bike ever — or his first prosthetic hand — assembled by your team. The same objectives of cooperation and communication are achieved but with the added, profoundly powerful component of doing good for others. “Paying it forward” not only enriches giver and receiver, it extends to the company’s bottom line.

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Corporate team-building putting focus on good deeds

Corporate team building putting focus on good deeds – Building bikes for kids, prosthetic hands for landmine survivors.
Written by Darrell Smith for the Sacramento Beedvsmith@sacbee.com
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, March 28, 2008
Story appeared in BUSINESS section, Page D1 of the Sacramento Bee
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Xyratex employees assemble a bicycle during a team-building exercise this month at the Le Rivage hotel in Sacramento. Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

Chris Sharman did a couple of unexpected things at a team-building workshop with 44 of his co-workers from the data storage firm Xyratex. First, he built a prosthetic hand and placed it in a wooden gift box that he and his teammates decorated.
Then, after he saw a brief slide show about the land mine victims all around the world waiting to receive the device, he brushed away a tear.
Eschewing the rope climbs and trust falls that have long been the traditional exercises at such retreats, Xyratex, based in the United Kingdom, and other companies choose to cement team bonds by giving employees a project with a higher purpose.
“We figured out what it was for fairly early,” said Sharman, a Xyratex vice president, who had safely stowed the prosthesis he helped build under his chair. But that didn’t lessen the impact, he said. “It pales into insignificance, your problems.”
“Philanthropic team building” it’s called, and Xyratex sought out a Chico-based firm that has designed and facilitated team-building experiences like this one for the better part of two decades. Known as Odyssey, it helps employees and managers work better together while helping the larger community in a “mix of inspiration and practical philanthropy.”
The Xyratex employees who came to Sacramento’s Le Rivage hotel from around the world March 4, worked together to build not only prosthetic hands but also bikes that they donated on the spot to nine smiling children from Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento. “We’ve tapped into the humanity of business,” said Lain Hensley, co-founder and chief operating officer of Odyssey. ” … You don’t have to quit your job and join the Peace Corps.”
Utilizing firms like teambonding, with its twin homes in Boston and San Diego, to Oakland’s Team Building Unlimited to Repario of Lake Tahoe, Nev., more companies in California are fusing corporate team building with good works.
“It’s not just the trick du jour anymore,” said Danika Davis, chief executive officer of the San Francisco-based Northern California Human Resources Association. ” … Anytime you add meaning, it’s going to have an impact and drive the message home.”
The emphasis on good works may even be part of a larger trend in corporate giving. Harold McGraw III, president and chief executive officer of The McGraw-Hill Cos. and chairman of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, discussed the evolution in the committee’s 2007 review.
McGraw said the New York-based forum of corporate leaders now spearheads “holistic philanthropy” which, in part, “taps into the tremendous desire of employees to participate through their volunteerism.”
Odyssey’s programs are a natural fit for Xyratex, which has focused on charitable giving to children who live near their sites in Malaysia, Europe and the United States throughout its 13-year history.
Todd Gresham, a Xyratex executive vice president, has seen the program’s effects on his people.
“The IT industry has a unique culture. Many came from venture-backed organizations, and this type of (exercise) tears down walls of intellectual prowess or macho success,” Gresham said. “You see people who are very powerful in the industry broken down to their rawest levels of emotion.”
It works on a number of levels, said Dwight Burlingame, associate executive director of the Indianapolis-based Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, a leading center on giving.
Many companies use this approach to increase morale, give employees a greater and clearer sense of purpose and develop a stronger understanding of the company’s mission, Burlingame said.
“Firms are focusing in on how they can use community involvement programs to increase pride within their companies and increase morale,” he said. “To be working for a company where you have that opportunity to build team pride in a business, that can provide another factor in the sense of engagement with the employer.”
Xyratex employees, including about 450 in West Sacramento, produce data storage technology that has been embedded in systems for machinery as diverse as the space shuttle and GE Healthcare’s mammography equipment, Gresham said.
“The person you’re building that for could be your wife or your daughter,” Gresham said. “It brings home that (the customer) is not just buying sheet metal and software.”
Company executives emphasize delivering quality products that meet customer needs, so it was no surprise that Xyratex employees were anxiously awaiting signs of approval when the door swung open for the nine children who had no idea what they’d be receiving.
“Do they look like new bikes?” Odyssey facilitator Todd Demorest asked. “Who’s No. 5? They built you a brand new bike!”
No. 5 was 10-year-old Alondra Tovar.
“I was really in shock,” Tovar said later, standing next to her bicycle. “It was amazing that they gave us (each) a bike.”
That’s the payoff for Odyssey’s Hensley.
“For the 99 percent who are skeptics, there’s the 1 percent who say, ‘I want to enjoy my work,’ ” Hensley said. “We want them to say, ‘When I created this hand, I could probably do that more often, and I can probably change the life of someone two cubicles away.’ They forget. That child, that hand, embodies that purpose.”
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Xyratex employees Ed Prager, left, and Penny Gillhan put together one of the nine bikes destined as gifts for children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento. Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

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Alondra Tovar, 10, gets her new helmet adjusted, which goes along with the bicycle she received from Xyratex. Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com