Not everyone lands their dream job, but Machelle Williams at Volkswagen Group of America (VWGoA) in Herndon, Virginia, managed to do just that. As Senior Director of Diversity and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Williams works internally to promote an inclusive workplace at VW.
While most people appreciate the value of workplace diversity, the concept of corporate social responsibility is newer. A 2015 study found that nine out of ten consumers expect corporations to go beyond profit-seeking by responsibly supporting the environment and the needs of their local community.
“Consumers are now looking to corporations to solve community problems,” says Williams. “They’re expecting them to step up, support, and be a good citizen.”
Bottom line: Diversity and corporate social responsibility are good for business, employees, and communities.
Williams goes beyond facilitating good works for Volkswagen employees; she rolls up her sleeves and serves on several boards and works many events herself. She is on the board of INROADS, an organization that gives leadership development training to young college students from under-represented communities. That training is paired with internships that give the students a bird’s eye view of corporate work. Williams and her colleagues mentor INROADS students at VW, which she calls the most rewarding aspect of her job.
“Writing a check is okay,” she says. “But when you see the light go on in a young person’s eyes when you tell them they can be professional and successful — that’s remarkable.”
Williams says it’s even more rewarding when her mentees graduate, get jobs, and reconnect with her to share their successes.
“I’d do this even if I didn’t work with VW,” she says.
What seems like a simple gesture — asking employees to donate toiletries or diapers to a shelter — makes a big difference to an organization operating on a shoestring budget.
“We really want to make an impact locally, and they are grateful for our enthusiasm,” says Williams.
The Volunteer Zone
Every summer, the VW CSR department helps students in under-served communities who often avoid going to school due to a lack of supplies. Staff fill backpacks with pens, paper, glue, and other necessities, and help community members give them out to the children.
“It makes you proud of the company you work for,” says Williams. “It gives you satisfaction that the company supports our efforts in that area. It just makes coming to work that much more meaningful.”
More Ways VW Gets Involved
Here are just a few more ways VW works with local charities.
- Matching donations. In 2016, VWGoA and staff donated nearly $200,000 to 299 charitable organizations.
- A day off to volunteer. All full-time VW employees have eight hours of PTO per year to volunteer with a charity of their choice.
- Team building activities. Many team-building activities at VW are centered around philanthropy — clothing and school supply drives, or spending a day helping out at a soup kitchen.
- The Charitable Contributions Committee. This committee supports organizations that focus on under-served children and families.
- The “Get Involved” Community Leadership Award. This award recognizes an VWGoA employee for outstanding volunteer work.
- Summer of Service. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, employees across the United States can plan volunteer projects and activities to benefit the charity of their choice.