Volunteer partnerships push Tata Consultancy Services forward (National HR Awards)

Winner, Best Corporate Social Responsibility Program
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/21/2015

If what goes around comes around, things are definitely coming around for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which was recognized for its corporate social responsibilitiy program.

“This means a great deal to us,” says Antoinette Ellis, TCS’s national corporate social responsibility program specialist. “It shows that it does pay off to give back to the community. What goes around definitely does come back around.” 

TCS is an IT services, consulting and business solutions organization. It has been active in Canada for over 20 years with offices in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal.

The company has had a strong culture of volunteerism for years, encouraging employees to play an active role in the communities where they live and work.

This approach to corporate social responsibility is driven by commitment to TCS’s global thematic areas of health (nutrition and wellness), education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics awareness) and planet (environmental citizenship).  

A four-tier engagement model is employed. It includes supporting large-scale disaster relief efforts, volunteering for projects that address needs in local communities, using IT to solve large-scale societal problems and partnering with non-profit, government bodies and clients. 

One such partnership — with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB)  for TCS’s goIT program — has been especially successful. 

The goIT program was created in the U.S. in an effort to encourage students to develop an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The program is free and requires mandatory participation from all students in the selected schools. It involves career awareness workshops and hands-on technology education. Participants acquire critical thinking and problem-solving skills while troubleshooting designs and learning in a team environment. 

TCS volunteers with the goIT program complete extensive training in youth psychology, education systems and the computer science programming as part of their preparation to be mentors. In the past year, more than 400 TCS employee volunteers contributed over 3,700 high-impact, skill-building hours through the goIT program. 

“When the application is complete, I see their final versions and students see their final versions,” says TCS volunteer Manan Mehta. “I see the smile on their faces and that is all the motivation I need.” 

That commitment runs deep at every level of the company, according to Ellis. TCS’s annual associate satisfaction survey reveals that 89.19 per cent of associates strongly agree the organization must fulfill its commitment to society. And that desire to contribute to the wider community is strongly supported by leadership.

“Having an organization that says, ‘Take the day, or two days, off from your account to mentor these kids and make a difference,’ is huge,” says Ellis. “It goes to show you the collaboration involved. Everybody is working together.” 

The company’s partnership with the TDSB has also been critical to the program’s success. 

“goIT programs are helping students see the connections between their studies, the world beyond high school and their future careers,” said Ontario Minister of Education Liz Sandals. 

“Working with partners like Tata Consultancy Services, we are ensuring that learning is even more compelling and allowing our students to become innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow. Through programs like goIT, we’re helping more students gain the skills, knowledge and confidence for future careers in computer science, technology, engineering and math.” 

More than 1,200 students at 10 schools received mentorship and education under the goIT program in 2014. While the program previously only ran during the months of October and November, goIT is expanding.  Four additional schools will be participating and the program will run throughout the 2015-16 school year. 

Additionally, the program has expanded to partner with non-profit organizations to run the goIT program in day camps for students on summer vacation. Throughout the school year, TCS will be partnering with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada to provide goIT in after-school programming. 

TCS is also looking to expand goIT geographically, says Ellis, and the company is in the midst of making plans to see it spread across provincial borders. 

“I’m proud of the fact that, launching it in Canada, we were able to do it successfully,” she says. 

“I’m so proud now that we’re looking at expanding, and looking at the model we used last year, knowing how much better it’s going to be.” 

TCS hopes the program will soon gain international recognition and continue to raise awareness about the importance of engaging students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This is especially important as TCS strives to foster social responsibility in the next generation. The company believes science and technology will be crucial for future solutions to societal problems. 

TCS is also committed to providing employees with the support they need to achieve these endeavours. The organization supports employees’ well-being through its Fit4Life program, a fitness initiative designed to inspire employees towards fitness while creating an engaging corporate culture that encourages camaraderie and community. 

Ellis says TCS leadership has been extremely active in promoting and participating in the Fit4Life program. TCS’s CEO Natarajan Chandrasekaran is an avid runner and has completed more than a dozen marathons across the globe. He encouraged his co-workers to take an interest in their own health and the Fit4Life program contributes money for every kilometre run by employees as part of the program. 

Since its inception, the Fit4Life program has grown to allow the company to support employees participating in the RBC Run for the Kids, the MS Bike Tour and the United Way’s Toronto CN Tower Climb.

That social responsibility is tied to most aspects of TCS’s culture is not surprising, Ellis says.

“TCS has been doing this from the very beginning. Wherever there’s a TCS corporation around the world, they have a corporate social responsibility that they have to adhere to. It just shows how much our employees, as well as our leadership, believe in this great work,” she says. “At the end of the day, we all want to know that we’ve done something to benefit the community.” 

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