Every year since 2015, several companies in the La Défense business district have mobilised hundreds of employees for a communal pro bono* event, where employees participate in “pro bono marathons”, sharing their skills with associations to help them solve specific problems in one day. Christian Carozzi, head of Group Compensation Operations at Thales’s Carpe Diem site, is a veteran of the event, having already participated three times. He told us about why he enjoys this innovative form of volunteering.
The 2018 Pro Bono Factory at La Défense brought together 197 volunteers in November. What did you do this year?
I spent the day with 10 other employees from Mazars, EY, Enedis and Allianz helping an association, Integr@Terre, define a recruitment strategy and job descriptions to develop its local food-based circular economy project in five areas: education, waste recovery, recycling, production and sales.
Can you really provide solutions in one day? What is the real impact for associations?
The impact is real and measurable, because the objective of each mission is well defined. It’s an objective that can be met, for two reasons:
- The mission is well prepared ahead of time by the Pro Bono Lab organisation, which audits and identifies strategic issues for associations in order to meet their priority needs with specific deliverables.
- The workday is facilitated by a mediator, with timed segments, in small groups or all together, which allows you to learn about the subject and gradually develop the deliverables by the end of the day. The timing is well managed and everyone’s skills are put to their best use.
This model illustrates the power of teamwork. Everyone contributes his or her vision and ideas, with the desire to understand and help. The volunteering context also encourages creativity.
Associations get access to skilled professionals they otherwise could not afford to pay and obtain deliverables and a work plan in a short amount of time. They see other visions and ways of thinking, which is important for them to progress.
You’ve participated in this same event three times. Why do you keep doing it?
Because it’s different every time!
Every year, I work with a different association, on a different mission.
The first time, it was a marketing mission for an association that provides vocational guidance to young people, an issue that is important to me. The second year, the objective was to facilitate the development of partnerships for an association that uses humour in corporate settings to promote tolerance and open-mindedness in order to foster employee well being, another issue that spoke to me!
This year I worked on an HR mission, which was perfect, because I got to share my vision of the profession. It’s important to know that you don’t necessarily need the specific skills related to the mission. It’s the combination of everyone’s skills and backgrounds that makes these days a success. If your skills are different, you shouldn’t see it as an obstacle but as an opportunity, and dive in!
What do you get out of it, personally and professionally?
For me, it’s a day where I get to use my skills while getting out of my daily routine and helping others.
What matters to me is offering a little bit of my time, for free, to people who are paid very little to do a lot. I offer them my skills so they can grow and build on their convictions. It also gives me perspective and makes me more open-minded.
Professionally, I try to bring experience I’ve acquired in another environment, which takes adaptation and creativity. And it allows me to work with and talk to employees from other companies and see different ways of doing things.These experiences have strengthened my belief that we must try to recruit people from outside our environment, because they bring something different and have a different point of view, which can be a big asset.
An extract of the job posting created during the ProBono Marathon
Would you recommend this event to other Thales employees and managers?
Yes! We have to advertise it more so more people are aware of it, and make managers understand that the time, which is well managed and dedicated to a charity, offers a lot to employees and to Thales.
We must also help employees get out of the mind-set of, “I can’t, I have too much work.” When you go on holiday, you prepare for it. This day is the same – you just have to plan ahead!
And we need support from HR to ensure these days are recognised and encouraged.
*Pro bono: “Pro bono”, in Latin, means “for the public good”. It refers to the voluntary use of one’s professional skills for the public good. Since the 1970s, professionals around the world have shared their strategy, finance, marketing, communication, human resources, web and legal skills to provide free assistance to associations that otherwise would not have the means to access such services.