When Pat Langer–then the EVP of Human Resources at NBCUniversal–boarded a plane to New York a few years ago, no one would have guessed that the conversation with her seatmate would inspire an international pro bono program. Pat’s seatmate had just participated in a pro bono experience that enabled her to use her professional skills to help a nonprofit, and she encouraged Pat to look up Taproot Foundation if she wanted a rewarding, stimulating volunteer experience.
Seizing the opportunity
It wasn’t long after completing a Taproot program that Pat realized the opportunity pro bono could present for her HR team at NBCU: nonprofits have especially limited resources in areas like HR, and her HR team was eager for development and community engagement opportunities. Creating a pro bono program that leveraged the deep HR expertise of NBCUniversal was a win-win. Pat could simultaneously invest in her HR team while also investing in their local community. And the program could be built to scale–if successful, NBCUniversal could replicate this program across its other markets beyond New York.
Pat seized the opportunity. She and her team partnered with Taproot to develop a custom pro bono initiative that met NBCU’s unique objectives. Together we developed an HR-focused “speed consulting” model–a half-day pro bono event where nonprofits could troubleshoot strategic issues by rotating through three 50-minute consulting sessions. In this case, the sessions covered critical HR topics like team building and employee relations; performance management; and selecting, vetting, and hiring new staff. However, what made this program most unique is NBCUniversal’s approach to preparing its volunteers to participate: all NBCUniversal volunteers spent the morning training up on how to be effective consultants–a skill they could use with their nonprofit partners and take back to their work at NBCUniversal.
In addition to a focus on skill-building, NBCUniversal built a thoughtfully crafted program experience for participants. Known as HR for Good, every facet of the program created and reinforced the type of collaborative and creative atmosphere that makes pro bono successful. Ice breakers, music, and practice-based skill-building at the top of the morning provided a strong learning environment and enabled HR professionals to build rapport with their teammates. Additionally, all nonprofit and NBCUniversal participants had lunch together when nonprofits arrived for the afternoon sessions, which allowed people to get to know each other before delving into complex and sensitive topics.
The impact of NBCUniversal’s HR for Good
Though it piloted in New York, HR for Good has since been run in Los Angeles and London. To date, the program has served over 30 diverse organizations working across numerous issue areas. The NBCUniversal volunteers have helped solve challenges for organizations that have annual budgets anywhere from $4,000 – $60+ million, and staff teams as small as three to over 900 employees. Thus far, HR for Good has been an unequivocal success: 96% of nonprofit leaders report that the advice they received had a meaningful impact on their organization, and 100% say they would participate again if offered the opportunity in the future. The feedback internally has been equally powerful: HR professionals leave HR for Good inspired by the impact they’ve made and equipped to take the skills they learned into the workplace.
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Pat Langer is the former EVP of Human Resources at NBCUniversal who retired on July 1, 2018. She currently serves on Taproot Foundation’s Board of Directors.