Win4Youth: How Sport and Social Responsibility Combine to Transform Lives

Now, more than ever, we need to support our employees’ well-being. Their health and safety is a top concern, of course, and we should remember that this includes checking how employees are handling physical distancing requirements and adapting to the effects of isolation. We know that staying physically active can help with the mental and physical effects of isolation. Recognizing this, we take a look at one way the Adecco Group encourages their employees to be physically active worldwide.

Encouraging employees to be more physically active requires promotion of physical activity, meaningful accountability for participation, fun and camaraderie, and inclusivity. Getting the right mix of these elements can contribute to a successful health program that supports your employees’ well-being and encourages their engagement.

The Adecco Group has added one more element to the mix: social responsibility. Participants in their successful Win4Youth program come together to get active while supporting youth employment through the Adecco Group’s charity partner, Plan International. By tying participation in the health program to the organization’s core value of responsibility to the broader world of work, Win4Youth stands as a valuable example of the way a corporate wellness program can encourage employee participation while strengthening the organization and its core values.

Lorraine Gignac and the Win4Youth program

The Win4Youth Program

Inaugurated in 2010, Win4Youth encourages the Adecco Group colleagues, associates and clients around the world to track the kilometres and hours they’ve spent participating in physical activity. From its humble beginnings of tracking activity in spreadsheets and recording only 228,000 kilometers in that first year, Win4Youth has grown to a global program for the Adecco Group that has tracked 43 million kilometres and raised over €3 million for youth charities globally.

A fundamental component of the Win4Youth program is its social impact. The Adecco Group’s charity partner is Plan International, a leading global NGO that advances children’s rights and empowers young people around the world via economic opportunity, education and employment. Every kilometre and hour of activity tracked translates into funding for Plan International, reiterating the Adecco Group’s core value of social responsibility through participation in Win4Youth.

Leading the way are the Win4Youth Ambassadors. These individuals are chosen for their commitment to the program and demonstration of the Adecco Group’s core values of team spirit, entrepreneurship, responsibility, passion and customer centricity. They lead activities in their local offices, promoting fitness and healthy living with colleagues in the workplace, and they participate in the Win4Youth Triathlon in Lanzarote, powered by Ocean Lava.

Talk about who we are rather than what we do

Ambassador Alumni are some of the best cheerleaders of the program. Past Canadian Ambassador Lorraine Gignac talks about the program with new prospects and clients “because when I tell people what we do, they can’t believe it. They are just amazed that Adecco does this.” To Susan Brown, another Canadian alumna, the program is a differentiator for the brand, but more importantly, “it’s an authentic program. It’s not just lip service. We really do impact peoples’ lives through the program, in the same way that we do in the work we do. It’s great to know that we’re integrated into communities and helping children along the way.” For Ambassador and now former Global Head of Win4Youth, Alex Ridder, Win4Youth gives participants the opportunity to “talk about who we are, rather than what we do.”

The Adecco Group Foundation

After all, the Adecco Group is a human-centric company. With the establishment of the Adecco Group Foundation in 2017, the company refocused and defined their social value creation activities. As Cynthia Hansen, Head of the Adecco Group Foundation, describes, the foundation focuses on two key topics: “one is work readiness for underserved populations and the other one is workforce vitality. And these two roll up to really serve a key social need, which is bridging the skills gap: having the right people in the right place with the right skills for the jobs that are needed.”

If you want to hear more from Cynthia Hansen and the role that Win4Youth plays in the Adecco Group Foundation’s strategy, listen to “How is Win4Youth driving Social Impact?” an episode of the Win4Youth Podcast. Find it here.

Win4Youth’s support of Plan International’s Fit for Future program puts these goals into practice. Fit for Future provides IT training for young people in Vietnam and takes support one step further by helping participants obtain internships and jobs in the field. The structural support built up around Win4Youth has facilitated the ability of the program to make an impact.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Plan International has created a Global Response Fund. This fund will focus on protecting the most vulnerable communities, particularly in refugee camps and displaced settings. In particular, it will work to combat the rise in domestic violence against children and lack of access to education and services as a result of quarantine measures. The Adecco Group Foundation has allocated 300,000 CHF of our partnership contribution to this crisis response fund.

As the Global Head of Win4Youth from 2018 to 2020, Alex Ridder saw the positive changes firsthand: “having the foundation in place has elevated the impact we’re making with our physical activity.” Partnering with Plan International has also increased the reach of the charitable giving aspect of the Win4Youth program and has made results more trackable, such that participants can see a “very direct correlation to what we’re helping to fund and the impact we’re making on society, which includes knowing how many people are going into the program. By 2021, 140 people will graduate, from which almost 50% have already been offered jobs.”

It’s this dual purpose that makes Win4Youth a successful corporate program. On one hand, its longstanding efforts to encourage physical activity in its employees has transformed the lives of participants. On the other hand, the work that the Adecco Group supports through Plan International can have a real and lasting effect on youth globally.

Susan Brown - Win4Youth in practice

Win4Youth in practice

The program’s ability to transform lives is something Alex Ridder knows well. His first encounter with the importance of health and wellness at work was on assignment in Manila, where he would run on Tuesday and Thursday evenings with coworkers. He carried this on wherever he travelled, encouraging colleagues to join him on runs.

If you sweat together, you work together

Alex’s experiences underscored his view that physical activity could be a uniting factor for colleagues, a belief that was further solidified when he became a Win4Youth Ambassador in 2016. Meeting colleagues from around the world who were all working towards the same goal was revelatory: “[to] see how big, how diverse, and how unique our company is in that environment was mind-blowing to me. I thought it was just such an amazing program that it could unite people in a single mentality of health and wellness to impact society was incredible to see. We started as 75 individuals and after 6 months we became a close team.”

Physical activity is indeed a valuable element of the program. But the magic is in its ability to bring people together. Alex says, “Win4Youth provides a platform to breakdown traditional work silos. I have found that if you sweat together, you work together. And that if you’re willing to put a little sweat on your shirt and show people that you’re a human, then they’re more likely to speak to you in your work environment.”

The Win4Youth program has carried this forward even as many of the Adecco Group’s employees are in quarantine. With the Wellbeing series posted on the company’s intranet, employees from around the globe can share their home workouts with colleagues to encourage physical activity as well as the community around the Win4Youth program.

It’s this camaraderie that Win4Youth Ambassadors solidify while training for the Win4Youth triathlon. The triathlon is the great culminating event of a year of preparation that includes leading local events supporting Win4Youth activities and intense training. To Alex, the triathlon “shows the change that can happen when a lot of people are being supported and encouraged locally, globally and personally to have a life-changing, pinnacle athletic achievement.”

Jason Berman - Lasting Impact

Lasting Impact

Jason Berman, Canada’s 2012 Win4Youth Ambassador, links participation in the company-sponsored triathlon with a sense of pride for the organization: “if someone asks me about my 12-year career at Adecco I think I would be challenged not to mention Win4Youth as the greatest experience I’ve had while working here.”

It changes your life

Jason had never been an endurance athlete. A former university hockey player, he found the prospect of competing in a triathlon daunting. But the Win4Youth Ambassadorship worked its magic: “it’s changed me as a person, which I never thought a work initiative could.” One aspect of this change has been continued participation in endurance sports, a sentiment that is echoed by other Canadian Ambassador Alumni. Lorraine Gignac still bikes hundreds of kilometres a year, but more importantly, she says, the experience as an Ambassador “changes your life, it makes you feel like you can conquer anything.” Susan Brown, with self-proclaimed “adult onset athleticism,” even went on to compete in a 50 km ultramarathon after her Win4Youth Ambassadorship!

With 741 Ambassador Alumni worldwide, the trickle-down effect throughout the organization is monumental. Take the Calgary branch of the organization, where there have been 3 Canadian Ambassadors since 2013. Susan, the first Ambassador from that branch, notes that everyone looks at the Win4Youth program very positively: the Ambassadors “get everyone onboard to compete in the competitions and set up camaraderie/competition across the branch.”

Win4Youth unites colleagues with physical activity in service of a broader goal to support youth employment. And it’s a program that works: from life-changing Ambassador experiences to successful graduates of the Fit for the Future Program, Win4Youth is an example of a well-being model that expands beyond physical fitness to transform lives.

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