quality

Corporate Giving Gets Personal

shutterstock_769507753.jpg

Corporate giving has recently increased among American companies. Bolstered by $405 million in contributions related to disaster relief last year, it totaled $20.77 billion—up 8 percent from 2016, according to Charity Navigator.

Tax breaks for charitable giving are an obvious benefit, as is the benefit from public relations around corporate giving. Having worked for both very large and very small companies that incorporate giving into the culture, I truly believe the biggest impact is the personal benefit to employees. QIP offers a particularly unique aspect to a charitable giving benefit; rather than the more popular donation matching practice, the company provides an annual contribution to the U.S.-based 501c3 of each employee’s choice (except for political organizations). Many employees’ options involve personal experiences or memories.

When I joined QIP nearly three years ago, this was one of the benefits that intrigued me most. The first year, I chose the ALS Association in memory of my mother, who died of the disease in 2009. Last year, I desired a smaller, local organization to support the community I had grown to love. Thanks to crowdsourcing, I discovered A Farm Less Ordinary in western Loudoun County, Virginia. I was moved by how effectively the founders had woven together personal, environmental, and social areas of need. My donation likely would have a significant effect on their young nonprofit, I thought. As it turns out, it made more of a difference than I might have imagined (details on that later).

Blog Post Dec 2018-op2-NEW-01.png

Because QIP is a company made up of remote workers throughout the greater Washington, D.C., Metropolitan area and beyond, our contributions tend to go toward a range of organizations in many localities. This year, QIP gave more than $25,000 to 30 organizations that focus on many areas of need, from health and education to refugees and the local poor. One employee opted to donate to Courtney’s House, a safe-house for victims of human trafficking. Another selected Sandy Claws Sanctuary by the Sea and Hospice, an organization providing homes and care for elderly and infirm cats that have a very low likelihood of adoption, as well as fostering and rescue services to younger cats to be placed in forever homes. The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation was another recipient; the nonprofit offers musical instruments and support services to underfunded music programs in school districts nationwide, with the goal of providing economically disadvantaged youth access to music education.

“Music has played a vital role in my life and was a major connection between me and my late father,” writes Bridget Thomas, Senior Researcher for QIP. “And I love being able to support an organization that brings the joy of learning and performing music to children who might not otherwise have the chance to participate.”

As for me, I decided to donate to A Farm Less Ordinary again. This time, I felt like I was donating to a friend. That’s because I was fortunate enough to meet one of the founders in a sweet, serendipitous moment at an annual fair last September. My daughter and I have attended the Bluemont Fair every year since her birth, and we moved to Loudoun County in 2005. This year, we were perusing the booths and talking to folks as we normally do. I found myself chatting with a farmer, who was telling me the story of his sustainable practices, nonprofit organization, and employees who have special needs. My eyes widened and I smiled.

“I know you!” I shouted before introducing myself. “I donated to you last December! Do you remember?”

“I do,” he said. “You saved us. We might not be here today if your donation didn’t come when it did.”

In 2019, QIP plans to broaden philanthropic employee benefits to include paid time off for volunteer efforts. I have an idea of who I will be contacting.

 

9 Tricky Education Terms You Should Understand

edterms.png

Learning standards. Kindergarten readiness. Achievement gap. Personalized learning. Universal preschool. Can you define the terms buzzing around the education world? Jargon can be overwhelming—even for the experts. And language can be further complicated by disagreements on (or misunderstandings of) what terms mean, politics, and different definitions that depend on context.

Whether you’re an educator or education expert, a parent or family member of a student, or a voter hoping to learn more about local schools, a clear understanding of education terms, and the issues surrounding them, can help in many ways.

As education experts ourselves, QIP employees encounter a lot of jargon, much of which has the potential to cause confusion. Here are a few tricky education terms we’ve seen lately, along with descriptions of what they mean—and don’t mean.

Deep and Shallow Work: Why Both Are Brain Essentials

Planner 03232018-01.png

Think about some businesses or organizations you have visited recently. Did the employees working there display a commitment to quality? You can likely remember instances when you witnessed extreme quality—or the opposite. How do great employees do great work? One of our QIP core values—committing to quality—involves two very different types of work. It turns out that both types are essential to the human brain’s ability to be productive.

Deep work produces quality

The scholar Cal Newport coined the term “deep work” to refer to distraction-free, cognitively demanding work. In his book Deep Work, he cites evidence that many workers are continuously distracted by email, text alerts, phone calls, social media, and clickbait temptations, and have trouble finding sustained time to think deeply.

Consider whether you engage in deep work, for around 90 minutes, without distraction, on a regular basis. If so, that’s great. If not, Newport has some recommendations:

  • Change your phone notification settings.
  • Find a work environment that minimizes disruptions.
  • Schedule deep work sessions into your day.

QIP Program Manager Kris Dunman, for example, protects her deep thinking time because attending to tasks such as emails, phone calls, and meetings, while very important, sometimes prevents her from accomplishing deep work. She marks calendar time slots as busy when she needs to focus on specific projects. She says, “I aim to respond quickly to colleagues. However, phone calls and emails can make it difficult to accomplish work that requires focus. Fortunately, I can rely on team members who help to make sure our projects balance responsiveness with time for deep thinking.”

Don’t skimp on shallow work

Newport notes that the human brain can sustain only about two deep work sessions per day. More than this on a regular basis will exhaust your brain’s daily capacity for deep work—and you risk burnout. What Newport terms “shallow work” plays an important role in helping our brains recover from deep work sessions, as well as process the problems we were tackling in those sessions. Therefore, email, text messaging, and Internet surfing can have an important place in our lives—so long as shallow work is not all we do.

In a New York Times article about the value of “wasted” time, Lisa Belkin writes, “Over the years I have come to see that the hours away from the writing are the time when the real work gets done . . . a paragraph turns itself this way and that in a corner of my brain even while my fingers are buying books on Amazon.com.”

Deep vs. shallow

Reflect on how much deep versus shallow work you tend to do each day, or each week. If the balance seems off—you are either working deeply too often and burning out, or shallowly too often and feeling unable to concentrate—strive to gain the necessary balance. Finding time for both deep and shallow work is just one way you can enhance the quality of your outputs on the job. We find that striving to keep this balance helps us stay true to that particular QIP core value. Indeed, our commitment to quality runs so deep that we named our company after it.

Evaluations: Because We All Can Improve

1712Dec_QIPblog_evaluations_imagesmall.jpg

The holiday season has ramped up, and everyone is busy with work and personal obligations. It’s a time of busyness not just for our company, but also for education stakeholders in federal, state, and local agencies. But even in the midst of this joyful but harried time of year, QIP chooses to take a short hiatus from our day-to-day responsibilities to reflect on staff productivity and satisfaction over the past calendar year. Yes, the last two months of the year is the time when we conduct our annual staff evaluations.

In some organizations, evaluations are largely a formality, but we have a different perspective on the process. Evaluations offer our organization the opportunity to (1) evaluate individual productivity and work quality; (2) discuss the future direction of staff responsibilities; (3) assess staff satisfaction; and (4) gather feedback regarding how our people, projects, and organization are managed. 

At QIP, the evaluation process begins when each employee receives a written evaluation from his or her supervisor. The written draft is followed up by telephone meetings, during which staff members can discuss the evaluation with the supervisor and set goals for the following year.

As managers, we understand that a review—particularly when it comes to areas for improvement—can sometimes make people feel defensive, unappreciated, or undervalued . . . but we hope to convey the opposite: our employees are very much appreciated and valued. When conducting evaluations, we stress our belief that we can all improve in some way—and that includes the Principals. As such, we encourage staff to get the most out of the evaluation process by welcoming constructive feedback on both demonstrated strengths and areas in which they can grow and improve.

We also tell our staff to think seriously about how to set achievable goals for next year that are meaningful to both QIP and the employee. We are confident that all of our staff want to do a good job and improve their skills and performance. Our annual evaluation process contributes to our individual and collective development, and we encourage employees to embrace the process. It’s an opportunity to exchange perspectives, think about evolving roles within the company, and grow as valued professionals.