Can Engaged Employees use Mindful Volunteering as the process to Inspire Organizational Happiness while innovating to create Social Impact?
My personal journey with Google began as a participant for the Women Entrepreneurs on the Web (WEOW) Singapore series. The interest was to explore the myriad Tools and Apps offered and adapt them to suit my vision and objectives. And as I sat through the knowledge sharing, I viewed Google – less as an organization filled with people such as you and I, and more as a platform – of all things technological run by a team of other beings.
Intrigued by the desire to learn more, I took a calculated risk and explored the possibility of a Gross National Happiness talk which could lead to a Bhutan Employee Volunteering Journey with Mindfulness. The risk was rewarded with enthusiasm, and in the process, I have learned that there is more, much more to Google and its Googlers, than meets the eye. Google is inhabited by unique individuals who have set out on a journey to truly make a difference as catalysts of change; to influence change by embracing a code of conduct that seeks collective good above individual gain. This resonated with the vision and values of Insightful Learning Journeys which seeks to create the Ripple Effect of Mindful Values and Practices.
A talk on Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, delivered at Google Singapore kicked off the Google Volunteering Journey on May 2013. 55 Googlers and 6 partners signed up leading me to wonder if it was the fascination for Bhutan alone which would dominate the desire to volunteer. But once again I was proven wrong, as the volunteers willingly accepted the random allocation to 14 projects ranging from formal classes in institutions, to exploring creativity in outreach centers, from developing youth leaders to empowering women as entrepreneurs, from supporting non-profits which shoe those in need in Bhutan to extending helping hands in monasteries. Each volunteering opportunity was carefully selected to support the Domains core to the Gross National Happiness Index – from Sustainable and Equitable Socio Economic Development to Education, from Psychological Well Being to Cultural Preservation and Community Vitality.
My own learning journey continued as I witnessed the sharing sessions and absorbed the Google ethos, beginning with the term – Googliness. It speaks of opportunities for creativity both for the organization and for the self, and it resonates generosity whether in giving access to free learning to students and educators or in the willingness to scrub and polish the wooden floors of a monastery which would soon serve the masses. What stood out most throughout was the seamless team work with fellow Googlers from diverse business streams – many of whom were strangers meeting for the first time, in Bhutan.
A sharing session ended the volunteering with many Googlers expressing the joy felt in giving to and receiving from the people of Bhutan. I heard comments such as “the difference it has made in our lives and our perspective in life,”“the happiness we have experienced in giving back,” to “being happy basking in the warmth of the people in Bhutan.” Likewise the beneficiaries in Bhutan, both educators and students, responded with enthusiasm for the gift of giving, expressing a desire for more learning as a whole new world had been opened for them.
The greatest learning of all comes from the knowledge that this was not a top driven, senior management initiative – the Googlers had embarked on this volunteering journey of their own volition – with a willingness to devote their time and energy, at their own expense. That speaks volumes for Google, which breeds leaders and teams who serve with humility. I know that the Bhutan recipients have taken to heart all the learning shared and intend to build on it.
Today, more than 120 have embarked on the Mindful Volunteering Journeys and we are still counting. Organizational leaders need to stop, look, listen and learn from the Googlers, if they seek to bring out the best in their employees. Offering employees opportunities and avenues to be engaged in the Values and Practices of Mindful Volunteering is a recipe for long term sustainability. It reawakens Compassion, Empathy and Generosity – the most desirable traits for the workplace, in the VUCA times.