By Donna West
Did I have “eight minutes to answer a few short questions for a survey?” the voice on the phone asked. Given the work of our industry, I took pity on her and agreed. It was all about the communication skills (or lack thereof) of young people who applied for jobs at our company. The ensuing conversation took more than eight minutes as we lamented the poor language proficiency of the graduating high school students. But, it made me think. If I didn’t like the situation, perhaps I should make an effort to improve it.
What could one small, independently owned company do to make a difference? It turned out we could do a lot. You can, too, and it will be a true win-win situation. Here is how to work our plan.
Identify a school system you wish to help. (Our staff chose one of the poorer towns in the area.) Meet with the principals of the schools and the Parent Teacher Associations to learn about their greatest needs. Assign someone from your company to be the liaison to the school and to attend PTA meetings and school functions. The key here is involvement. There are things that you can do within any degree of involvement.
At all educational levels, a back to school drive for school supplies is appropriate. Principals know which children need assistance, so it may be possible to adopt a student, a class, or just offer supplies to the school. In addition, teachers always appreciate materials for their rooms and many are purchasing such items from their own pocket. New supplies are needed at the beginning of every semester so the opportunity to assist repeats frequently.
Extracurricular activities are especially hard hit by educational budget cuts. Organize a bike ride, run, or walk to raise money for new playground equipment or library books. Uniforms for bands or sports are always needed, as are instruments and sports equipment. Donating a computer would be an obvious tie-in to our industry and would be appreciated by any school. Be sure to find out the exact brand and model that would be most useful to your school.
Involve your agents in the decision-making. They may want to actually purchase supplies themselves and deliver a package to the school. An alternative would be to collect money to purchase a single item or give a check to the school.
Elementary School: Reward your agents with excellent monitoring scores by allowing them to spend half a day at the school (on the clock) to read to students, mentor, or perhaps tutor.
Middle School: Mentoring, tutoring, and coaching are all areas that provide opportunities for you or your staff to make a difference to students.
High School: Participate in career day, offer internships or jobs in the work-study program. Offer to give presentations to classes regarding the importance of good communications skills in today’s business world. Give a free, half-day “telephone etiquette” workshop to students getting ready to graduate. Bring them in to your office (on a weekend or afternoon), provide a snack, and let your trainer or one of your best agents give the mini-seminar. Of course, granting a scholarship is another way to help a deserving student.
Helping your schools will also help promote your company. People like to do business with people they know and respect. Teachers and their spouses, parents, and other community members will soon learn who you are and what you do. Students who need part-time jobs will think of your company and so will their parents and siblings. Local papers and radio stations provide publicity for companies that assist schools. Best of all, helping your community schools will just plain make you and your staff feel terrific.
Donna West is President of Focus Telecommunications, Inc. You can visit them online at www.focustele.com.
[From Connection Magazine – October 2004]