Synopsys Shares program offers freedom and flexibility to drive employee engagement in local communities

CS2696_SynopsysSharesLogoV_OSynopsys Inc., a leading innovator in the global electronics market, empowers employees to organize and participate in volunteer projects that match their individual interests and giving priorities. Through its Synopsys Shares program, the company maximizes its positive societal impact while supporting the diverse passions of its employees by granting them the flexibility to choose activities that closely align with their values and the needs of the local community. Megan McDow, community affairs manager, answered a few questions about the program.

What is the Synopsys Shares program?

The Synopsys Shares program maximizes our community affairs efforts by harnessing the creative energy of our employees. Employees are encouraged to organize volunteer projects and giving campaigns as well as participate in the employee matching gift program, allowing them to have a greater positive impact on the communities where they live and work.

How is it managed internally?

The overarching program is managed by the Community Affairs department out of our U.S. headquarters in Mountain View, CA. At each of our larger offices, the Synopsys Shares program is managed by employee-led Corporate Giving Committees. The committees plan and coordinate Synopsys-sponsored community activities for local employees.

In what ways can employees get involved in their local communities?

We encourage employees, along with their family and friends, to volunteer individually for their favorite charity and/or participate in a Synopsys-sponsored volunteer activity or giving drive. Synopsys-sponsored activities are group activities that vary in size. Events can involve as little as 10 people, or occasionally, as many as 500. Typical activities include blood drives, clean-ups (beach, park, etc.), science fair judging, and goods drives (food, clothes, toys, backpacks, etc.). We only require that the benefitting charity be non-discriminatory.

Synopsys-sponsored activities are organized by a Corporate Giving Leader or Committee. That person or team is responsible for informing corporate Community Affairs of the project, identifying the benefitting non-profit, and coordinating the specifics, such as dates, tasks, and times. The team leader is also responsible for promoting the project internally through the use of email, posters, cafeteria tabling, and more, as well as entering the project in our online system so employees can pre-register and then log their volunteer hours after the event.

WT7374_CommunityInvolvement_T2_SL1Are volunteer activities required to align with an overarching theme or Synopsys’ giving priorities?

Synopsys’ philanthropic focus is K-12 education and basic needs; however, we don’t mandate that volunteer activities fit into this focus. The Synopsys Shares program is designed to be flexible so that local offices can choose activities that are most applicable to their local communities. For example, a backpack drive might work well in the United States but not necessarily in Europe. Likewise, our Chile office has volunteered with a local orphanage, an effort that couldn’t be replicated in the United States, as there are no orphanages. Ultimately, the goal is for employees to tackle whatever need is predominant in their local community.

Do you have any feedback from employees that you can share?

We’re grateful that our employees have stepped up as enthusiastic ambassadors of the Synopsys Shares program. Jaci Spross, executive assistant and corporate giving leader in Hillsboro, Oregon, is one of the many employees who has proven instrumental to its success.

“Because each site has the authority to manage their own projects, we have the ability and freedom to support local employees in their own causes,” said Spross. “When employees feel supported, they take advantage of more local giving opportunities. It is a win-win situation for our employees, our Corporate Giving Committee, and the non-profits we support.”

Lori Stephenson, administrative assistant and corporate giving leader in Nepean, Canada, has also been outspoken in her support.

“I like the freedom of being able to come up with different ideas for our site,” said Stephenson. “Different things matter to different people. I know that our global company supports numerous charities and events, as leaders are encouraged to support causes that matter to their regions. There is definitely a higher engagement from employees when we are supporting a local call for help.”

As a global company, has Synopsys encountered any challenges in trying to track and measure employee volunteer activities?

As with all large companies, tracking and measuring employee volunteerism is challenging. We use a third-party online system to log volunteer activities and hours, and encourage employees to log volunteer hours for personal volunteerism as well as Synopsys-sponsored volunteerism. We recognize our top volunteers annually as a way to motivate employees to log hours. Employees who volunteer five or more hours each year are acknowledged in various ways, whether it be a lunch, a letter from the CEO, or a gift. We are also planning to launch a formal Dollars-for-Doers program in 2014 in the hope of further incentivizing volunteers to log their hours.

Do you have any best practices or lessons learned that you would like to share with our members who might be trying to implement a similar program within their companies?

In order to have a community program at non-HQ offices, it is imperative to recruit a passionate local employee to lead community outreach for that site. A committee of people is ideal, but an individual can work just as well, especially at small offices. Although our Corporate Giving Committees have a lot of freedom, we have guidelines in place for them to reference. A guidelines or process document is a necessity prior to recruiting local leaders or committees. We also recommend quarterly or monthly outreach to local leaders to foster open communication. Whether it be via email or conference calls, this outreach gives you the opportunity to inform local leaders about corporate initiatives and hear what local sites have planned. Finally, we recommend initiating a volunteer recognition program in whatever form your budget allows. We’ve found this is the best way to incentivize employees to record volunteer hours. Even a small recognition, like a thank you letter from an executive, makes employees feel appreciated.