Manikandan R., senior analyst at global technology services company Accenture, has been teaching children coding for the last five years. It was a moment of pride and satisfaction for the 27-year-old when one of his students recently got a job in Accenture.

Through the company’s employee volunteering programmes, Chennai-based Manikandan is looking to “get children excited about coding, build their confidence in their skills and get prepared for the tech-driven jobs of future".

Since joining the IT firm in 2013, he has been volunteering with other colleagues around Chennai or at the Accenture campus in the city. Volunteering not only gives him a sense of satisfaction of giving back to society, but also instils a sense of responsibility and an opportunity to learn. “There is a lot of learning in every session which I take," he says, adding, “it allows me to grow in life and focus on giving rather than just getting."

Ketharnath Sivajirao, 42, associate director at Accenture’s advanced technology centre in Bengaluru, shares Manikandan’s views. “The fact that there are so many children out there who do not have the basic access to privileges that we have in our lives , and that we have been able to step up and make a difference, makes me a better and grounded person," he says.

Hour of code

Accenture India runs several volunteering programmes for its employee, especially around teaching coding. One such initiative is Hour of Code—an annual event at local schools in which coding and Artificial Intelligence are taught simultaneously across different countries. The other is a programme for class V-IX students, which is run round the year in collaboration with CoderDojo, a global network of free computer programming clubs for young people. Employees teach children to code, develop websites and create apps and games in a fun, social and collaborative environment. The mentors hold sessions at schools every weekend and a batch runs from three-six months. The children are divided into groups on the basis of their class and the topic they are most interested in.

Sivajirao says the company has aligned its corporate social responsibility programme with volunteering initiatives. It has also developed a support system for employees, providing them trainers and online study tools, and introducing peer-to-peer engagement to get more people to engage in this activity. “We conduct a training programme through a self-learning module for volunteers that explains to an employee what to expect from volunteering, how to volunteer effectively, what to do when working with partner NGOs or talking to the beneficiaries, etc," says Kshitija Krishnaswamy, associate director and lead, CSR, at Accenture India. She actively volunteers for 2 hours every month—1 hour every second Saturday—to teach digital skills to students.

A win-win engagement

Krishnaswamy says the millennial workforce wants to work beyond business deliverables, and be associated with something bigger. “For us to leverage their passion for doing this is a just a way of getting a multiplier impact or our own corporate citizenship effort," she says.

Krishnaswamy says when a company invests funds, it seeks to ensure that there is a true social return on that investment. Taking the help of employees through volunteerism provides them emotional fulfilment, makes a difference to the community, and ensures there is true impact. “It is a win-win situation for all stakeholders—employees, company and community," she says.

According to Ajay Vij, managing director, geographic services lead for Accenture India, the company’s larger agenda is skilling people for employability in future, and also try to expose youngsters to an information technology environment by inviting schoolchildren to Accenture locations. Through volunteers, Vij says, participants also learn skills such as communications skills, interview preparedness, building resumes, etc.

The company has also launched some programmes to access the impact of its volunteering activities. It conducts quarterly sessions at all its offices where it records feedback from volunteers. Second, it has developed an internal portal where employees can share their experiences. It has also put in place informal mechanisms like coffee sessions, which are recorded and reviewed, and on the basis of which the next set of initiatives are planned.

Volunteering Warriors is a series that looks at how companies are fostering a culture of engaging with communities.