An estimated 10,000 baby boomers retire every day — nearly 4 million per year. As millennials and Gen Z continue to enter the workforce, they are becoming more influential and intent on developing purpose-driven careers.

Today’s purpose careers need purpose-driven leaders. These leaders are the most effective at advancing their own careers while making the world a better place. They also inspire others to achieve extraordinary results for reasons other than delivering a profitable quarter. They are exemplary, and nothing short of a company’s value system, morals, and purpose.

Skills-based volunteering, particularly pro bono consulting, plays a vital part in cultivating this type of leadership.

Pro bono consulting is a form of skills-based volunteering where employees leverage their professional skills and expertise to serve as business consultants for social sector partners. This kind of engagement can help staff and employees gain different perspectives, build relationships, and master new skills – skills that one wouldn’t immediately associate with traditional leadership styles, that encourage those budding leadership attributes nestled deep within to grow.

This sentiment is strongly echoed among SAP employees who have participated in pro bono consulting through the SAP Social Sabbatical program over the past 10 years. In fact, leadership skills development was among the top three motivators for employees to apply for the program.

SAP Social Sabbatical – Celebrating 10 years of impact!

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SAP Social Sabbatical - Celebrating 10 years of impact!

The impact on SAP employees is multi-layered, with more than half associating their career growth with SAP Social Sabbatical, while others have attested that the experience provided a space for them to invest in their own personal growth and development. These are critical traits for a leader — or future leader — to nurture and to help guide teams to the best possible outcomes.

Hazel Ruth Taparan, country director for SAP Concur in the Philippines, knows all about leading teams. Taparan participated in an SAP Social Sabbatical in 2019 and to this day applies the insights she learned to her personal and professional life. The program redefined what leadership means to her and opened her eyes to the realization that inclusive spaces for everyone to safely share their ideas help shape future leaders — by not only developing their skills, but also allowing them the opportunity to actualize their capabilities. SAP Social Sabbatical opens up a world of possibilities to those seeking the chance to improve themselves and their career development.

Sarah Hayers, a solution consultant for EMEA in the Intelligent Delivery Group, is a future leader impacted by SAP Social Sabbatical. Through her participation in the program in 2019, Hayers was inspired to apply for the fellowship in Global Leadership Board at SAP’s Business Women’s Network. Today, she trains teachers and students to code as part of the Africa Code Week program.

Skills for Today and Tomorrow

SAP Social Sabbatical helps people to develop skills like emotional intelligence, cultural intelligence, cohesive collaboration, and adaptive thinking — all of which are needed by leaders of today and tomorrow.

According to the participant feedback results, 74% of employees reported a positive long-term impact on their careers, with the top self-reported changes found in newly gained perspectives and increased confidence. One program participant noted, “After my sabbatical in 2016, I know I am an all-around leader and doer. I can play multiple roles in a team and drive results.” While some of these may not be traditionally celebrated leadership skills, the ever-changing pace and growing diversity of our workforce demands a different type of leadership that encompasses all these attributes.

Program impact doesn’t end there. One program manager from an organization in India supported by SAP Social Sabbatical shared that their team members who worked on the project alongside the SAP participants now demonstrate improved planning, communication, and technology skills, showcasing that the knowledge acquired on their journey transcends leadership beyond SAP employee volunteers.

Working and Leading with Purpose

According to a survey conducted among previous SAP Social Sabbatical participants, 79% of employees said the program improved their sense of purpose.

“The survey results show that the program plays a crucial role in building future leaders and even more so with ones who ‘lead with purpose,’” says Hemang Desai, global program director for the SAP Social Sabbatical Portfolio in the SAP Corporate Social Responsibility (SAP CSR) team. “In today’s world, a good leader helps ensure that profit, people, and planet can all co-exist. Business is more than just driving the next profitable quarter. Purpose-driven leaders make decisions that are aligned with a company’s reason for existing beyond monetary gain.”

Desai notes that with 70% of employees saying that their sense of purpose is defined by their work and 56% wanting to contribute more to society, empowering people to become purpose-driven leaders by giving them opportunities to volunteer their time and expertise is essential: “This is why programs like SAP Social Sabbatical are so crucial. Our best selves emerge when we share experiences that foster a sense of purpose.”

Another participant who developed further leadership skills shared, “The SAP Social Sabbatical program empowered me. This program made me step outside of my comfort zone and helped me realize all the things that I’m capable of. In some way, I consider that this program gave me the confidence to aim for more and obtain the leadership role that I now have.”

Leadership Beyond the Workplace

In a recent survey, 88% of participants reported that participation in the SAP Social Sabbatical program had a long-term positive impact on their personal lives. The top leadership qualities acquired through the program included cultural awareness, adaptability and resilience, and problem solving, which can be applied not only in a professional capacity but also personally.

One skill in particular that has helped participants feel a greater sense of community and purpose is social awareness, with 51% of employees saying they are better engaged with their local communities after their sabbatical experience. As more participants diversify the issues they care about and find important, they are discovering that the engagement improves their confidence and empathy — key qualities for any good leader to possess.

“As the market changes, so do the needs of companies. While leadership has always been a part of the company culture, it continues to evolve to be more human-centric. In an era of rapid change and innovation, we need leaders who can find sustainable solutions that positively impact business and communities around the world, with a focus on improving people’s lives,” Desai concludes.

Feeling inspired? For more information about the SAP Social Sabbatical program or to get involved, visit sap.com/socialsabbatical.