Significant Stat: Employees Who Volunteer

93% of employees who volunteer with their company also report being happy with their employer. (source)

Advice from Jennifer Blackmon, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

There is nothing more powerful than an engaged employee who offers his or her best every day. As leaders, we need to understand what truly motivates our staff; and not just from a day-to-day, “get the work done” perspective—but understanding what motivates them in their hearts. What creates passion and pride? One of those key motivators is giving back. Many of us have a desire to contribute to the greater good in some way and when the organization that we are a part of not only supports those efforts, but creates the opportunities to make them happen—the result is a binding tie. At The Ritz-Carlton, our Community Footprints efforts span the globe and give every Ritz-Carlton employee—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—the opportunity to contribute to their own communities in a meaningful way and as a team. We come together to make a difference and depart smiling, fulfilled and unified. 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.

Service Without Borders

Mahatma Gandhi said it best: “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.” When business and healthcare organizations make service their highest priority, they’re valuing their customers. However, their commitment to service generates further good when it extends beyond the boundaries of the workplace.

Here are three ways organizations can increase the magnitude of their service and improve the world:

1) Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs give employees the opportunity to volunteer and provide service to their communities. Achievers, an organization committed to driving higher employee engagement, notes on their blog that “organizations with well-defined social responsibility programs can improve their brand reputation, attract more job candidates and customers, and increase employee engagement.”

The social and environmental responsibility program at The Ritz-Carlton is known as Community Footprints®. Employees at hotels around the globe participate in local activities that support child well-being, hunger and poverty relief, and environmental responsibility. The mission of Community Footprints states: “At The Ritz-Carlton, we have built a legacy of extraordinary service. This tradition extends into our Community Footprints program and inspires us to impact the lives of others. Every contribution we make is an opportunity to leave an imprint on our communities. It is through this collection of imprints that we can make a meaningful difference.”

Community Footprints volunteer events take place around the world—and are even woven into executive meetings. Recently, Herve Humler, President & Chief Operations Officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., convened 90 Ritz-Carlton General Managers for a three-day conference at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. To kick off the conference, the General Managers spent the afternoon with nearly 200 students at a high school that serves low-income communities in the Mission District of San Francisco.

In 11 classrooms, small teams made up of two Ritz-Carlton General Managers and four students collaborated on issues impacting the hotel industry such as identifying the biggest area of water waste at a hotel and presenting one strategy for reducing consumption. The teams worked together to generate and evaluate ideas, agree on potential solutions and create two-minute presentations. Students gained real-life problem-solving and collaboration skills, and through the expert guidance of our General Managers, they were also able to refine their presentation skills.

2) IMPACT 2030

IMPACT 2030, Corporate Volunteering for Sustainable Development, is a global private sector-led initiative in collaboration between the United Nations and other stakeholders. The purpose of IMPACT 2030 is to “advance the practice of employee volunteering, and create real and sustainable change.” IMPACT 2030 notes that corporations are “uniquely poised to respond to the needs of a rapidly changing world.”

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is the first Founding Partner of IMPACT 2030 and is partnering with many global companies, including IBM, Google and Tata Consulting Services. Sue Stephenson, Vice President of Community Footprints at The Ritz-Carlton, commented that “We’re all very excited about the possibilities of this global program that will leverage the skills and experience of employees to help address some of the most critical issues for our planet. It is about the power of our people to create real and sustainable change.”

There are several ways that companies can partner with IMPACT 2030. In addition, stakeholders from civil society, academia, philanthropic organizations and the public sector are invited to join the IMPACT 2030 network.

3) The Global Goals

One hundred ninety-three world leaders committed to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, known as the Global Goals, on September 25, 2015. These 17 Goals focus on ending extreme poverty; fighting inequality and injustice; and addressing climate change over the next 15 years. The 17 Goals are universally applicable, and every country is establishing indicators to track the progress of each goal through 2030. The new goals replace the Millennial Development Goals and as this video humorously explains, finish the work that was already started.

Organizations can help engage, educate and inspire their employees about the role they can play in impacting the Global Goals. IMPACT 2030 has supported the creation of the Global Goals Employer Hub, which offers organizations tools and suggestions for participation. Organizations can also share information on the website about their projects related to the Global Goals.

Together We Impact the World

Eliminating poverty, cleaning oceans, making cities safe, and reducing inequality among countries and between people may seem like unachievable goals, but as United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has noted: “Volunteerism … is among society’s most vital assets.” By marshaling their resources and working together, organizations will play a role in bringing about sustainable societal change and make the world a better place. 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.

Our Ladies and Gentlemen: Sue Stephenson

Sue StephensonEach month, The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center (RCLC) features an interview with an employee — a Lady or Gentleman of The Ritz-Carlton — in order to share an insider’s view of the organization. This month’s interview is with Sue Stephenson (@RitzCarltonCSR), Vice President of Community Footprints. Community Footprints® is The Ritz-Carlton social and environmental responsibility program, focused on benefiting the communities where the company operates.

RCLC: What is your role as the Vice President of Community Footprints?
Ms. Stephenson: As the Vice President of Community Footprints and a direct report to our company’s President and Chief Operations Officer (COO), I lead the development of our Community Footprints global strategy. With operations in Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas, our approach is to merge our global strategy with local execution and perspectives. This ensures our employees’ volunteer efforts are relevant, impactful and can be adapted to meet local pressing needs.
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RCLC: Was there a moment in your career when the idea of social responsibility clicked for you or was it a slower, less obvious process?
Ms. Stephenson: I’ve worked for The Ritz-Carlton for 24 years, and it’s been an organic process. A commitment to the community and environment was embedded in our mission statement when our company was founded with a statement that “The Ritz-Carlton Hotels will be positive, supportive members of their communities and sensitive to the environment.” Our philosophy of service translates into reaching out to others, beyond the walls of the hotels, and I’ve been fortunate to play a role in evolving that commitment into Community Footprints—which is now one of the strategic pathways of The Ritz-Carlton Long Range Plan.

RCLC: How does Community Footprints fit into The Ritz-Carlton culture?
Ms. Stephenson: Community Footprints is woven into the Gold Standards of The Ritz-Carlton through Service Value 4: “I understand my role in … embracing Community Footprints …” Every employee acts on our Service Values so it’s a natural process for our Ladies and Gentlemen to want to be engaged in projects that support their local community. Community Footprints provides a platform for our employees around the world to play a role in tackling serious community issues. They don’t see it as a corporate program, they see it as their program. They make it work and are tremendously proud of their efforts.

RCLC: How do you determine which projects to take on?
Ms. Stephenson: Our initiatives are multifaceted and focus on child well-being, hunger and poverty relief, and environmental responsibility. At every Ritz-Carlton hotel, club and residence around the world we have a Community Footprints Team and at the beginning of each year they plan out how they will support their community and submit a comprehensive Community Footprints Annual Plan. The report details scope and frequency of all planned volunteering and fundraising activities for the year and an overview of their Community Footprints local non-governmental organization (NGO) and community partners. Targets are set for our properties with the results integrated into our company’s Business Priority Metrics and leadership performance measures. We are proud of our year-over-year improvements with, as an example, over 150,000 hours contributed to our Community Partners in 2014 and $5.6 million in cash and in-kind donations.

RCLC: Are there any brand-wide programs that all your hotels participate in?
Ms. Stephenson: Yes. Our Succeed Through Service mentoring program is deployed in over 100 middle and high schools in low-income communities around the world and is designed to make a positive impact on young people. The curriculum brings students to our hotels and takes our Ladies and Gentlemen into classrooms to teach critical career and life skills and introduces the idea of students contributing to their own communities. Since the 2009 launch, we have worked with over 18,000 middle and high school students across the U.S. and around the world. To encourage others to get engaged in helping students flourish, we’ve made our Succeed Through Service materials available on an open-source non-proprietary basis.

RCLC: Can you give us examples of individual projects going on in local communities?
Ms. Stephenson: One of my favorite aspects of my role is that every day I receive images of the Community Footprints projects that are happening in different parts of the world. One example of the multitude of programs taking place to help children flourish occurs weekly at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, where, in addition to many other Community Footprints activities, 20 employees volunteer in the John A. Cumber School Reading Buddies Program. Last year they contributed 1,963 volunteer hours reading to the young students.

In the area of hunger and poverty relief, we provide skills training, make food and supply donations and provide volunteer support. As an example, for over six years our employees at The Ritz-Carlton, Denver have been cooking and serving meals on a monthly basis at Urban Park, an organization that helps homeless youth reach their potential and achieve a successful life.

In the area of environmental responsibility, we focus on reducing our carbon footprint and protecting the environment. A local example is taking place at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Center where the employees are planting and helping conserve the Ghaf tree, a rare desert plant species of culture and ecological significance.

RCLC: How is Community Footprints evolving?
Ms. Stephenson: We’re broadening our volunteer focus to have more of a skills-based focus. We challenge ourselves to ask, “If I am contributing two hours of my time, how can I incorporate any of my business skills into that work?” For example, our chefs could help to plant trees in a local park but what’s even more beneficial is if they help a local hunger relief organization plan well-balanced, cost-efficient and nutritious meals. With this skills-based approach, our Public Relations teams help nonprofits develop their social media strategy; our Human Resources teams teach interview skills at community centers; while our front desk staffs teach social skills to members of the community re-entering the workplace. The possibilities are endless. There’s a reward when you help beyond what your muscles can do — you then engage your mind and heart and those skills are invaluable to a nonprofit or NGO!

RCLC: Are there any recently launched initiatives?
Ms. Stephenson: Yes! Just last December at the United Nations, Herve Humler, our President and COO and I participated in the introduction of IMPACT 2030, a global collaboration between the U.N. and the private sector. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is the first Founding Partner of IMPACT 2030: The Global Initiative for the Advancement of Corporate Volunteering. We are partnering with many global companies, including IBM, Google and Tata Consulting Services, to launch the program in September 2015. IMPACT 2030 will help corporations leverage their volunteer programs to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We’re all very excited about the possibilities of this global program that will help address the most critical issues for our planet and bring about global change.

RCLC: If you could capsulize Ritz-Carlton’s social responsibility efforts, how would it read?
Ms. Stephenson: Our Community Footprints Mission Statement says it best. “At The Ritz-Carlton we have built a legacy of extraordinary service. This tradition extends into our Community Footprints program and inspires us to positively impact the lives of others. Every contribution we make is an opportunity to leave an imprint on our community. It is through this collection of imprints that we can make a meaningful difference.”

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.

Inspired Thinking — Giving Joy

“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt, Former First Lady of the United States

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:
In any industry, it is the level of service that sets the players apart (and of course a great product). Your workforce strives to do their best for the customer and the company. The Ritz-Carlton has a motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen, serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This is etched into our psyche. We live it at work and outside of work. Not only are we an example of service to our guests, we are also an example to the communities we work within. Through our Community Footprints® programs, the Ladies and Gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton are able to focus our first-class service externally and help enhance the communities where we live, work and play. When you provide opportunities to do good for local communities, your people will step up.

Unexpected Gratitude and Holiday Hugs

The employees of The Ritz-Carlton hotels—also known as the Ladies and Gentlemen—plan community service activities throughout the year to support their local communities. This is an opportunity for hotels around the world to make a lasting contribution and truly make a difference. As we enter the holiday season, the story below is a wonderful example of how important it is to include others in our celebrations and express gratitude for all the gifts around us.

And so our story begins . . .

Once upon a time, the Community Footprints team at Abama Golf & Spa Resort in Spain was planning its December activities. For most, December is a special month. It’s a time when we think of the people we love—our family and friends—and so this month is often nostalgic and full of memories. Therefore, the Community Footprints team decided to focus on those who did not family or friends to sing songs with, give a hug to, or spend their holidays with. The Elder’s Home in Guia Isora next to the hotel was chosen for this very special activity.

While planning the activities, the team decided that a game called “The Tree of Wishes” would be enjoyed by the group of senior citizens. The team brought a beautiful wooden Christmas tree from the Kids Club, which had been designed by the Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Senior Citizens Home. Each resident decorated a Christmas ornament and wrote a Christmas wish on it. The hotel’s General Manager was in charge of hanging the ornaments on the tree and if people wanted to share their wishes, the General Manager read them out loud. Many of the wishes were quite emotional: “I wish my son could find a job,” “I wish I could spend some time with my family,” “I wish my daughters could come more often to see me,” and “I wish not to be forgotten and to be remembered by someone someday.”

The team also gave the residents a huge basket of cakes that had been prepared by the resort’s Executive Pastry Chef and his team. The residents loved having hot chocolate with the cakes. Everyone enjoyed a fantastic time and beautiful conversations with these charming people who had so much to tell and share. The Ladies and Gentlemen gave each resident a plant with a lovely note, and the residents were so grateful and pleased that they didn’t even have words to thank the Ladies and Gentlemen. The games, the cakes and the gifts were greatly appreciated.

Recognition and Gratitude

The Ladies and Gentlemen then announced that they had one final thing to give to the residents … and that was, “Thank you!” The Ladies and Gentlemen explained that many of the residents had worked in the local fields 50 years ago, and had also helped build the hotel. The Ladies and Gentlemen thanked the residents because they had worked so hard to ensure a good future, and without their hard work, there wouldn’t be an Abama Golf & Spa Resort. Several of the residents welled up with tears. They had not expected to be recognized and thanked for their work, and they were truly touched. Before leaving, the Ladies and Gentlemen gave the residents a picture showing the hotel now compared to how it looked 50 years ago—photographic evidence that their hard work had helped create a beautiful property.

The Ladies and Gentlemen were grateful to dedicate their time and effort to these wonderful people. It was a magical afternoon! 

The Ritz-Carlton invites you to participate in Give Back Getaways. Our guests are invited to join our employees in half-day voluntourism experiences that contribute something meaningful to our communities. Each Give Back Getaways project is unique to the destination, and there is one constant — each experience makes a lasting contribution. 

 

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