A little-known solution to boost engagement in remote workplaces?
Lyrics by Megan Amrich
Northampton, MA –News Direct– TriplePundit
Employee interaction and engagement can be difficult enough when everyone is working in the same building. Factor in the shift to remote work and the challenges of the past couple of years, and it might seem like connecting with colleagues is a thing of the past, leaving many business leaders looking for new ways to bring everyone together.
BMC Software, for example, launched a set of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in 2021 to empower, celebrate, support and champion employees, their unique cultures and communities. Members of each ERG are united by common experiences or interests, including: Abilities, Asian & Pacific Islander, Black @ BMC, Caregivers, Interfaith, LatinE, One Earth, Pride, Veterans, and Women in Technology and Business.
When BMC Software’s Corporate Social Responsibility team, led by Wendy Rentschler, created the ERGs, they knew they had to develop tangible ways for group members to get involved and make meaningful changes in their lives. areas of interest. This was particularly challenging as volunteer projects were still very segmented and difficult to find due to the pandemic. Instead, BMC Software’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team provided each of the 10 groups with funds to invest with Kiva, an online platform that has funded over $1.7 billion in microloans. to underbanked borrowers in 76 countries since 2005.
“One of the best ways to build equity is through economic empowerment, and each of our ERGs participates in microcredit through Kiva,” Rentschler explained on BMC Software’s “Business of IT” blog.
Strengthening equity through economic empowerment
For those who may not be familiar with it, Kiva is a nonprofit organization that creates economic opportunity for individuals, entrepreneurs, and small business owners around the world through microcredit.
Borrowers can apply to Kiva for a loan to start a business, further their education, upgrade agricultural or manufacturing equipment, cover emergency expenses and more. Investors – individual lenders or groups such as BMC Software’s ERGs – can research and contribute to the loans they want to help fund, based on factors such as geographic location or business type. Once loans are funded, over 96% of Kiva borrowers end up repaying lenders, allowing users to reinvest those funds into another loan on the platform, increasing monetary impact and expanding reach. financial inclusion.
As BMC Software’s ERG meetings are held remotely, all employees have the opportunity to participate and help decide which Kiva initiatives to invest in based on the relationship between the opportunities and their common background. The LatinE ERG, for example, has funded loans in 10 Central and South American countries, while the Pride ERG has invested in LGBTQIA+ initiatives.
Addressing sustainability challenges
Mark McDermott is director of global real estate and facilities at BMC Software’s Houston headquarters. He started microcredit with Kiva in 2009 through his former employer. Five years later, he began volunteering to proofread loan profiles as a Kiva editor. That experience gave McDermott a “behind-the-scenes” look at how loans moved from application to funding to repayment, a perspective that helps him today as co-captain of BMC’s One Earth ERG.
One Earth is the company’s largest ERG, focusing on sustainability and environmental issues. Although each ERG has a slightly different process for choosing which Kiva loans to fund, One Earth tends to focus on one environmental challenge at a time and select the loans that best address it, McDermott said.
For example, fast fashion is a big topic of discussion and concern for One Earth members, so for a while the team focused on supporting businesses that resell or recycle second-hand clothing. Other recent loans from One Earth have gone to projects involving sanitation and renewable energy, including Heri-Go, which provides solar home systems through a network of energy kiosks run by women entrepreneurs in rural areas of Madagascar. (pictured above).
“The loan we helped fund provided solar power systems to more than 1,000 homes,” McDermott told us. “Its focus fits perfectly with what our Employee Resource Group represents: the project was run by women entrepreneurs, provided clean energy, was located in Madagascar, and touched on many interests of BMC’s various ERGs.”
Microcredit as an incentive
Christina Chao, Kiva’s Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships, works with businesses of all sizes to help implement microcredit engagement initiatives. “You can participate with five employees or with 50,000 employees,” she told us. “Companies can use microloans in conjunction with employee resource groups, as in the case of BMC Software, or they can be part of a company-wide strategy. In fact, we even see friendly rivalries developing between different offices or departments within a company, and even between companies.
Unlike traditional corporate giving programs, companies don’t just donate with Kiva — they also make investments — and employees aren’t the only ones who benefit. Chao said he has seen many organizations engage customers by giving credit to Kiva as an incentive. “Not only does this help borrowers whose loans can be funded by credits, but it also helps companies strengthen their corporate responsibility and sustainability initiatives.”
She then shared an experience of meeting a borrower, Vicky, in Uganda who wanted to start a vegetable farm to send her children to school and lit up with confidence when Chao showed her the list of lenders around the world who signed up to support her. For McDermott, it’s not just the support borrowers are getting from investors that has meant the most to him over the past year, but also the support employees are finding for each other by rallying around of a common cause.
“The One Earth ERG has certainly helped strengthen the bonds between business units,” McDermott said. “Together you feel you have a bigger impact than just knocking a clock. You are making a real difference.
This series of articles is sponsored by BMC Software and produced by the editorial team at TriplePundit.
Images courtesy of Kiva
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