IBM has launched a new initiative to expose high-performance employees to the 21st century context for doing business – emerging markets, global teaming, diverse cultures, working outside the traditional office, and increased societal expectations for more responsible and sustainable business practices.
Stan Litow (pictured), IBM’s vice president for corporate citizenship and corporate affairs and president of the IBM International Foundation, explained the benefits that the ‘Corporate Service Corps’ (CSC) brings to IBM.

He said: “The CSC really marked the beginning of a transformation for IBM. We went from what I would characterise as ‘chequebook philanthropy’, which is writing cheques to solve problems, into a more substantive and meaningful contribution, which is helping people solve their problems.

“The result in the community, and the result for the company, is much more fundamental and much more connected to your business strategy and your mission.”

Interviewed by, he also commented that an engaged and connected social contribution is more likely to survive during difficult times compared with a ‘spare change’ approach: “If you don’t have spare change, you can’t give it away,” he said.

The project brings together 500 people working in groups of eight to 10 from countries all over the world to help developing areas with social issues. “I see the CSC as not only being a model in how IBM develops its next generation of global leaders, but we’re increasingly seeing other companies wanting to emulate that model.”

Stan describes the Corporate Service Corps as a corporate version of the Peace Corps, saying the entire programme is “fundamentally about leadership and leadership development”.

IBM believes because employees taking part in this programme spend time preparing, living, and then following up with the people they work with, there are three main benefits that are experienced from this process: the individual benefits, the benefits in the community and the benefits to the company.

Litow claims a smarter planet is directly connected to the corporate citizenship and corporate social responsibility and that as the planet becomes smarter through the use of technology to influence transportation, energy, healthcare and education, employees need to be aware of other factors that influence a smarter planet.

He added: “The planet isn’t going to be smarter just on the basis of technology or innovation. What it is going to involve is local action and local activity and the CSC brings these to the local level and translates the need to local leaders, giving them the tools to manage these issues once the IBMers leave.”

“Due to the critical skills that are required to do the jobs, top performers in every job position and skill provided by IBM compete for these positions.

“An independent evaluation is done by the Harvard Business School, and 100% of the participants in the CSC indicated that participation in this programme increased their likelihood of completing their career at IBM, so obviously the benefits to the business are huge.

“From an HR standpoint, the ability to retain top performers who have been with the company for 10 or so years is highly beneficial from a corporate standpoint. It’s not only been a way of training your best leaders but retaining your best too.”