Paternity, philanthropy and positivity

Mark Zuckerburg

It’s been a big week for social media mogul Mark Zuckerberg, and in fact, for global philanthropy. Alongside the arrival of his first born (a daughter, named Max), Zuckerberg announced that he’d be donating 99% of shares in his other baby – Facebook – to charity, stating that her birth gave Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, “reason to reflect on the world we hope you live in”. The couple decided to donate the shares to causes that “advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation” via the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Though giving away our companies wholesale is beyond the reach of most of us, Zuckerberg’s generosity does set a timely reminder for business leaders as to the importance of leading by example as we enter the New Year.

We wrote a few months ago about the importance of charity to millennials in the workforce which revealed that a huge 84% donate to charity, but only 11% of those do so via direct deductions from their pay packets, highlighting management’s failure to lead by example on the issues that matter to the workforce most.

The same can hardly be said of Zuckerberg. As well as the donation of his shares, Zuckerberg also recently announced that not only would he be taking two months’ paternity leave, but that all Facebook employees are offered up to four months’ parental leave, which they can take throughout the year. This shows an admirable sensitivity to the needs of an evolving modern workforce and an investment in the next generation that many leaders would do well to emulate.

Certainly there can be certain obstacles involved in doing so, particularly where large, global workforces are concerned. As the Wall Street Journal points out, in places like China magnanimous displays of philanthropy like Zuckerberg’s can be met with mixed feelings as their culture traditionally expects that parents will leave all of their wealth to their children. Others have been quick to find ulterior motives in the gesture, but the fact remains that Zuckerberg’s donation reflects the values of his (mostly young) workforce, and his method of leading by example will likely do much to boost employees’ engagement with the company brand.

Great leadership that practices what it preaches is invaluable in driving employee productivity and retention, and fostering the sense of purpose and shared values that turn workforces into true brand ambassadors. Speaking on the Facebook founder’s philanthropy, billionaire Michael Bloomberg commented “the only question now is: how many of his peers in Silicon Valley and beyond will join him?” That said, Facebook is not the first to make charity a fundamental part of its culture and brand. Our partner Salesforce has been running its 1-1-1 Philanthropic Model for over 16 years, allowing its employees and also its ecosystem of companies to engage in their communities, and support charities and community service at a global level.

As global and connected workforces become a part of everyday working life, it is good to see the opportunity that technology affords extending benefits at a far further and deeper level. Bring on more positivity like this in 2016, it is nice to see bright stars on a sometimes gloomy horizon.

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