Monthly Archives: December 2017

Pro Bono: Doing Good on Company Time

Organizations have long encouraged their employees to participate in food drives and home-building activities. But there’s growing interest among corporations for a new type of volunteerism that involves workers donating their professional expertise while on the company dime. It’s called pro bono service, and it differs from traditional volunteering, which is usually performing tasks for which there would not be a charge anyway.

What’s in it for the companies? For one, pro bono initiatives help attract and retain employees looking for a way to add meaning to their lives and careers. This is especially true of millennials, who are particularly interested in benefitting causes with their skills or expertise. Companies may also deduct certain expenses associated with their employees’ pro bono efforts, although the time itself is not deductible. Large organizations can likewise funnel their workers toward causes they support. Prudential Financial, for example, allows teams of employees to work on 10-week consulting projects for nonprofits near its New Jersey headquarters. Wells Fargo workers may choose to help impoverished communities obtain microfinancing.

According to CECP, a consulting firm that helps organizations do good, more and more companies are doing just that. CECP’s data shows that last year, organizations’ employees logged more than a million hours of pro bono work, up from less than half a million hours in 2013. Carmen Perez, CECP’s director of data insights, explains that people are no longer satisfied by painting a fence. “They want to use their skills […] to solve a societal challenge,” she says.


  1. What additional motivations might a large organization have for allowing its employees to perform pro bono work?
  2. Other than enjoying the satisfaction that comes from doing good, how else might a volunteer be positively affected by performing pro bono rather than traditional volunteer work?
  3. Why would smaller businesses with fewer resources also engage in pro bono activities?

From the Wall Street Journal

Talk Among Yourselves: Leading Discussions to Foster Active Learning

Remember the iconic SNL bit in which Mike Meyers, dressed as Linda Richman, assigns a topic and says, “Discuss among yourselves”? As funny as the skit was, it’s no primer for leading discussions in the college classroom.

Classroom discussions have many beneficial learning outcomes. Students share perspectives by phrasing responses in ways their peers can understand. Good discussions can trigger critical thinking and the understanding that people experience events differently. Likewise, classroom interaction can be a great way to model civil discourse.

But just what does it take to encourage students to actively engage and participate in class discussions? Experts agree that much of the responsibility lies with instructors. Research has shown that the discussion leader should be a moderator who guides but who does not control, who challenges but who does not direct. Therefore, it makes sense that instructors should plan discussions around learning outcomes to guarantee that the topic is adequately covered. When the discussion is in full force, the instructor should continually monitor its effectiveness by gently steering students toward addressing specific ideas and ensuring that all students contribute.

These pointers can help you become a more effective discussion facilitator.

Clarify when necessary. Sometimes students have trouble verbalizing what they mean. Echo the student’s comment and subtly reword it for clarity.

Consider group dynamics. Make sure no one student dominates the discussion, and invite non-participators to join in.

Correct faulty information. Students want to leave a discussion knowing they have obtained correct information relevant to course content. If a student makes an incorrect statement, elicit the help of others in the class to correct it before you step in… but if no good response is made, step in you must!

Foster participation. Students appreciate discussions more when their contributions are affirmed. Thank speakers for their input.

Listen more, speak less. Encourage student participation by listening more than talking.

Pose clear questions. Avoid long, complex phrasing and jargon students may not understand. Ask open-ended questions that encourage students to think.

Sequence questions. Prepare questions that build toward the lesson’s objectives. Good discussions need to stay on track and focus on the topic.

Show respect. Students need to feel they can trust the instructor to be open during discussions. Never be condescending; on the other hand, do not praise where none is deserved.

Spark discussion. Insert an occasional controversial statement that will stimulate debate. Playing the devil’s advocate can be a useful strategy.

How do you foster lively discussions? Write us with your classroom experiences!

Coming to Your Classroom–Gen Z! … Remote Workers Being Recalled… Top Hiring Criteria-Writing!… Easy Focus Fix

Coming to Your Classroom Soon–Gen Z!

They’re 60 million strong, and those who are native-born Americans have never known the world without social media.

Generation Z—those born around 1996 and after—outnumber millennials by a million and look more multicultural than their predecessors. The eldest members of this demographic are already beginning to show up on college campuses, and they are a different breed. Between the September 11 attacks, war on terror, and Great Recession, Gen Z has always lived amid a world in crisis. Their parents are worry-warts, and so are they. In fact, they are acutely aware of the new world order and how it affects their future.

These native users of smartphones eschew Facebook entirely and have an even shorter attention span than millennials; marketers claim that the only way to grab Gen Z’s attention is to create a message in fewer than five words and include a large picture.

Gen Z people are hyper aware of their Internet presence and prefer platforms such as Secret, Snapchat, or Whisper, all of which remove content almost instantly. Pragmatic rather than optimistic, the members of this group are anticipated to act more like their grandparents and great-grandparents than their closest demographic cohort.

From The New York Times

Remote Workers Are Being Recalled

While some jobs can be completed effectively at home, others cannot, and that conclusion is leading many employers to rethink remote work.

Research suggests that personal productivity hits a peak when workers are allowed to work where and when they like. Likewise, in jobs that require on-site relationships or little interaction, working remotely can be the best bet.

However, companies such as IBM and Yahoo! have decided that jobs depending on collaboration require people to be in the same place at the same time for maximum efficiency, and that place, they say, is in the office.

The return to the office makes sense to anyone who has waited to get feedback from others on a project—the back and forth of remote communication leaves a lot to be desired. Because today’s workplace is filled with time sensitive situations in which a problem must be diagnosed and a solution delivered almost in real time, it’s simply more efficient for teams to be physically together, researchers say.


Top Hiring Criteria? Writing Skills!

Although employment ads for Basecamp don’t say “Only good writers need apply,” they may as well.

Even if a position at the company that markets a web-based project management tool does not specifically call for writing, only competent writers are considered for several reasons. Foremost, the employees work from remote locations, so the primary way workers communicate is by writing. Next, Basecamp CEO Jason Fried says writing well demands clear thinking.

The process of evaluating an applicant’s writing begins when a cover letter is received. (Anyone sending a résumé without a cover letter is not even considered.) In the letter, candidates have been asked to describe who they are and why they want the job, and their responses show the Basecamp team how well the individuals express themselves.

Finalists for a position are then paid to do a job for the organization and afterward are asked write up their thought process for completing the project.  Fried doesn’t hesitate to challenge the document; it’s another way to evaluate the applicant’s ability to think and “handle disagreement,” he says.

From The New York Times

Lost Your Focus? Mac Users, Here’s an Easy Fix

The answer to knocking out that report on deadline is right in front of our noses in Microsoft Word, and it’s called Focus mode.

Appearing as a function in Word for Mac since the 2011 version, Focus mode blocks out everything on your screen except the Word document you’re working on. It hides the toolbar, social media, and e-mail, leaving nothing between the writer and the words. By removing distractions, the barriers to hunkering down to the work of writing are effectively gone.

While other writing tools may be gaining popularity, Word is still the preferred digital app for composing, even for millennials, especially when writing solo.