Why CSR Initiatives and Pro-Bono Activities are Key to Building Employee Engagement

Corporate social responsibility was a term first coined in the 1960s to describe companies’ engagement in business activities that aimed to contribute to societal goals of a philanthropic or charitable nature. But over the years, CSR has grown to become a key part of the culture of many businesses. In the following series of blog posts we speak to some of our main partners to find out why pro-bono activities are the heart of what they stand for, and the impact that they have on employees and the business as a whole. 

Today’s conversation is with Jacek Pawlas, Scrum Master & Bench Lead and Natalia Zglińska, PR & Employer Branding Specialist at Boldare

Could you tell us how you approach CSR at Boldare? What is your attitude to pro-bono work? 

Natalia: For us it’s one of the key elements of effective employer branding. CSR strategy at Boldare is embedded within the entire employer branding strategy which we revise every quarter. We review it so regularly, because we want it to reflect the real-time needs of our company and employees, as well as what’s going on in the wider world.

Great, and which element of your Employer Branding strategy do you think enables you to stand out as an employer and to win that top IT talent, which we know is currently in such short supply? 

Natalia: We definitely put a big emphasis on sharing know-how in different formats - for example through Boldare Talks on YouTube. We want to give a good sense of our culture and what we’re like as a place to work, but we also have Boldare Tech, a series which focuses specifically on sharing tech insights. The aim here is to showcase our expertise and promote it through all possible channels in a way that would appeal to developers who might want to work for us in the future. We pitch this content at different levels, to appeal not just to junior developers, but also to mids and seniors. 

And on the subject of expertise, we also encourage our employees to attend conferences and events in which they can take on the role of an expert in a given field, and give a seminar or a talk on a subject which they know in-depth. It’s important to note that these are both external and internal events - because we also host our own events on a range of different subjects. For example, we’ve recently ran the seventh edition of tech event called No Exceptions which is for fans of backend technologies, and we also held a hackathon. There are numerous bottom-up, grassroots initiatives at our company. 

And what are the development opportunities for new starters at Boldare? 

Natalia: This might sound really trivial, but honestly - there is so much opportunity for development. Let me start with saying that we build our projects in phases: prototype, MVP, product-market fit and scaling. Each phase requires slightly different skills and abilities and when a new starter joins us, they get assigned to one of these areas - where we feel their skills are best suited. This doesn’t mean that they will stay here forever, but it gives them a good opportunity to hone their knowledge in a particular field, regardless of their role. 

We’ve also had situations in which people have moved across roles and departments - becoming for example, a developer, having previously been a Scrum Master. Perhaps this is quite an extreme example, but it shows our flexibility. 

We have so called ‘Chapters’ in which we share knowledge. They’re a source of support for product teams, but they’re generally great places for sharing ideas and know-how. We also have ‘Lessons Learned’ catch-ups and the previously mentioned events, all of which are a great opportunity for gaining knowledge. 

Finally, it’s important to state that every employee at Boldare is encouraged to set their own targets and to work towards them. We want to truly empower everyone to develop and grow. We have a policy of open calendars, which means that whenever anyone is interested in a given subject and wants to for example join a meeting about the latest design trends, they’re able to see it in the Design Team calendar and can hop on to listen to the call. 

Do you have ‘buddies’ who support employees in reaching the next level of development? 

Jacek: Yes, every junior member of staff has a buddy or mentor who supports their development - and of course this also benefits the buddy themself, as they can learn mentorship skills. But another key way for developers to gain new skills is simply by working on client projects at Boldare. There are no ‘coding monkeys’ here. Everyone is encouraged to liaise closely with clients, to really understand their needs and to help them solve their challenges. 

You mentioned previously that ‘Team Spirit’ is very important in your communication with prospective employees? 


Natalia: Definitely. We want to show that we’re real people and not avatars. This is particularly important in a remote-first world in which people often lack that crucial human connection. We make an effort to regularly organize team socials and we want to show future employees that there’s a very strong sense of culture here. 

OK. And tell us a bit more about how CSR fits into the EB strategy? 

Natalia: We want to build products that deliver true value to the end user and to society at large. This is why I feel that CSR has an important role to play in helping us to attract like-minded employees who will help us achieve our goal. 

And how did you first get involved with Tech To The Rescue? 

Jacek: It was via our Co-CEO, who immediately put the word out there on our open internal channels to say that there’s this initiative that anyone is welcome to get involved with. Tech To The Rescue really resonates with us from both an organizational and a values standpoint, so there was a lot of interest in it from the start. The most obvious people to get involved with the TTTR initiatives are those who are currently on the bench - i.e. between commercial projects. For the record, you should know that the bench at Boldare is not scary at all. On contrary, here people have an opportunity to work on an intriguing pro bono projects like TTTR and develop their skills and talents.

Sure, and how do you choose the Tech To The Rescue projects that you get involved with? 

Jacek: Initially, when TTTR was just starting out, we worked very much on a case-by-case basis, where we were being notified about new projects that were coming out and going through them one by one to find out which ones were suited to our capabilities and vice versa. At present, we have much greater visibility of the TTTR backlog which means that we get an at-a-glance overview of what each project entails, and can make a decision about which ones to take on. 

To date, how many TTTR projects have you completed and what has been the feedback from the people involved in them? 

Jacek: There’s one which we’ve completed in full and that’s for the Dziewuchy Dziewuchom (Girls for Girls) Foundation and we have a couple more in the pipeline. Anyone who has been involved in a TTTR project from our side has said what a great deal of satisfaction it has given them. It’s actually really changed the perception of what being ‘on the bench’ means, which is traditionally seen as a bit of a negative or boring place to be. But the people who have worked on TTTR projects have said that these projects have been just as good, if not better than the commercial ones that they’ve been involved with. 

That’s great to hear. And off the back of that, do you think that the nature of your work with NGOs will change? Do you think you’ll build an ecosystem of charities that you regularly support? 

Jacek: Yes, I mean the bottom line is that we want to help as much as we possibly can. With the Dziewuchy Dziewuchom Foundation, we’ve promised to support the team with any ongoing web issues or challenges that they encounter. We also have a couple of other foundations which we’d like to enter into a long-term relationship with. 

And could you tell us a bit about the impact that you think your relationship with TTTR has had? 

Natalia: It’s definitely had a positive impact on both recruitment and retention. There have been several candidates who have said that our work for TTTR definitely influenced their choice of Boldare over other job offers. Our retention has also improved, because the people who previously decided to leave us due to being on the bench, now see this as an attractive place to be - one in which they can work on exciting projects for NGOs. 

I also think that an ongoing relationship with TTTR is truly valuable for us from a business perspective, because the projects are all international, so in the future it will likely help us spread the word about our services in other European markets. 

What do you think is the secret sauce of effective employer branding, which some companies still might not be aware of? 

Natalia: There isn’t a single secret sauce as such because it differs between companies. From our perspective,  the EVP is crucial here, as is building a strong company culture that will resonate with prospective employees. Of course, you need to provide flexibility, and also real opportunities for professional development, what is a pillar and actually a requirement these days. 

Thank you and we wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

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