Transitioning from military to civilian life is difficult. Among the most challenging aspects is finding a job. Patrick Brehany and Miles Chesser had a leg up on that front: Through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative, the U.S. Army veterans completed corporate fellowships at Slalom, a global consulting firm with about 8,000 employees globally and 500 in Denver. Both men were then offered full-time jobs at the company and, together, now co-lead a veterans’ group at the Mile High City office.
“Slalom has an enormous amount of internal support for community,” Chesser says. “We’re an organization that sees value in diverse walks of life.” The veterans’ group runs quarterly events, creates care packages to send to troops overseas every Veteran’s Day, hosts Hiring Our Heroes fellows, and creates opportunities for civilians to build relationships with former military members. Almost all of the group’s projects take place during working hours, and Slalom’s C-suite invests in its efforts monetarily, too.
Giving back to the community has been part of Slalom’s core values from the beginning, but when Binh Diep stepped into Denver’s general manager role in January 2019, he cemented the focus with a new mission statement: “to be one of the most impactful companies in Colorado, creating sustainable and recognizable impact in our community.” In April, Slalom Denver hired Alexandra West to its community and public sector team as its community impact lead to further those goals, formalize an impact program, provide support to employees coordinating impact work, and extend the company’s civic reach.
Last year, Slalom employees completed over 1,500 volunteer hours and nearly 1,000 hours of pro bono work. They also led 40 community-focused events and donated 100 units of blood during quarterly blood drives held at the office. “Giving our people the forum to pursue their passions…has helped to create a culture of impact and philanthropy,” West says. “It’s part of our DNA.”
“Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and philanthropic initiatives are not new in the business world. It’s well understood that monetary giving, volunteerism, and advocacy work can support a company’s mission, improve public perceptions of a brand, and serve as an effective recruiting and retention tool. But these benefits are only achievable when the efforts are authentic and intentional,” West adds. Customers and prospective employees will eventually sniff out a brand that’s only giving back to get good press.
With West at the helm, and backed by executive leadership, Slalom has more fully infused community impact into every aspect of the office—and learned quite a bit along the way. The journey to a sustainable and effective program won’t look the same for everyone but starting from an informed perspective can help you make the most of your investment. Here’s what you need to focus on to ensure your impact efforts are truly making a difference:
- Make community investment part of your culture. “Impact” is part of Slalom’s mission statement, which is crucial, but the company understands that in order to be effective, the ethos needs to infiltrate every level and every department. This year, Slalom employees will be introduced to the company’s community focus right from the get-go, with an onboarding presentation that explains the business’ endeavors and how new employees can get involved. Every quarter, West plans to host a session so employees can learn about community impact initiatives and upcoming opportunities. And, at the end of the year, part of the annual review process is assessing employees’ community score. In other words, being a good Slalom employee means helping your community and every individual knows that.
- Let your employees lead. The pro bono projects Slalom takes on (known as the Capacity for Impact program) are inspired by employees’ passions. For example, a consultant who serves on the board of an organization may realize it needs some strategic planning or technology help. Or, Slalom’s LGBTQ affinity group might organize a crew to raise money for and run the Pride 5K. Brehany and Chesser estimate that more than two-thirds of the Denver office is involved in some way in philanthropic efforts. When you empower your team to create the impact they’re passionate about, you give them more than just a forum to do good—you give them yet another reason to love their work.
- Support needs to come from the top.Yes, work needs to get done. But providing employees with the time and space to support causes they believe in can go a long way in ensuring they feel satisfied and motivated on the job. Through Partners for Good, Slalom Denver provides support—sometimes monetary, sometimes with time or office space—for employee giving and volunteer efforts. Brehany and Chesser’s veterans’ group has a set budget and an executive sponsor, a member of the company’s leadership team who advocates for their efforts and helps them procure necessary resources. “Without that, it would probably be a lot more challenging to make an impact in a meaningful way,” Chesser says. The benefit of executive involvement in employee-led efforts can’t be overstated. It’s crucial for your team to witness you living your mission and values. When they see tangible expressions of your mission, they gain a deeper sense of trust in and appreciation for your brand, and that’s invaluable for recruitment and retention.
- Organize company-wide initiatives, too. Slalom doesn’t just leave altruism to its employees. The Denver office formally supports a number of education-focused organizations, including Colorado Succeeds, Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain, Inc., and Denver Public Schools. The leadership team has also organized a team focused on finding opportunities for Slalom to drive positive change through partnership with clients, public sector stakeholders, and the community. The company as a whole also takes part in Movember and food drives every year.
- Celebrate successes. It’s important to recognize employees for good work, and that applies to volunteering, too. At Slalom, one individual is recognized publicly each quarter with a 360 Award for community impact. Community involvement is also considered in end-of-year bonuses, which provides extra encouragement to workers to get involved in causes that matter to them.
If you’re looking to establish or improve upon your business’s CSR and philanthropic efforts, keep these five tips in mind. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but the elements of a winning program are consistent: support from an aligned leadership team; employee empowerment; and a culture of recognizing, celebrating, and encouraging altruism. For Slalom Denver, impact goes beyond traditional CSR programs—it’s about creating real, tangible change in Colorado. We’re all responsible for building a better future—whether that be for our team, our community, or our planet.
Slalom is a modern consulting firm focused on strategy, technology, and business transformation. We redefine what’s possible and create what’s next. Here, personal connection meets global scale. We build deep relationships with our clients in over 35 cities across the US and around the world, while sharing insights across markets to bring the full breadth of Slalom’s expertise to every engagement. Our regional Build Centers—including one right here in Denver—are hubs for innovation, attracting top talent to rapidly co-create the technology products of tomorrow. We also nurture strong partnerships with over 300 leading technology providers, including Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Tableau. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Seattle, with roots from day one in Denver, Slalom has organically grown to over 8,000 employees. We were named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2019 and are regularly recognized by our employees as a best place to work. Learn more about joining the Slalom family at slalom.com/careers.