Merging Pro Bono Work and Professional Development:
NBCUniversal’s HR for Good

“Work and live to serve others, to leave the world a little better than you found it and garner for yourself as much peace of mind as you can. This is happiness.”

The quote by NBC’s founder David Sarnoff is featured in a book of inspirational phrases that NBCUniversal gives to each participant in its HR for GOOD program. The program was conceived by Pat Langer, Executive Vice President of HR for NBCUniversal. As an attorney, Langer was very familiar with pro bono work, but she hadn’t thought about applying the concept as an HR professional until a happenstance meeting on a plane. The woman seated next to Langer volunteered for the Taproot Foundation, an organization dedicated to driving social change by connecting nonprofits with passionate, skilled professionals who provide their services pro bono. Through Taproot’s programs, business professionals deliver marketing, strategy, HR, tech and other solutions that organizations need to help power their productivity and better achieve their missions.

After learning about Taproot, Langer got involved. First, she leveraged her human resources expertise on a six-month long pro bono project and then in a pro bono “speed consulting” event. Hooked, she joined Taproot’s board of directors and partnered with Taproot to bring pro bono to NBCUniversal. Together NBCUniversal and Taproot designed HR for GOOD, a half-day pro bono consulting event that helps nonprofits troubleshoot strategic HR issues.  NBCUniversal has held two HR for GOOD experiences, one in New York City and another in Los Angeles.  It has engaged 41 leaders from 27 nonprofits and tapped the HR business expertise of 71 NBCUniversal HR professionals (see photo below).  The nonprofit leaders rotated through three 50-minute consultative sessions targeting critical needs including team building and employee relations, performance management, and recruiting, vetting and hiring new staff. Ninety-eight percent of nonprofit participants reported that the results of the event would have a positive impact on their organizations and 100% said that they would participate in another HR for GOOD in the future.

To bring HR for GOOD together, Taproot vetted the nonprofit organizations that participated, provided the framework for the day, conducted a Consulting 101 training session with NBCUniversal’s participants, was onsite to provide support and troubleshooting to teams during the day of service, and collected and analyzed the impact of the experience on participants. NBCUniversal coordinated the communications and the logistics. By all accounts, the program was a success. NBCUniversal’s employees were able to leverage their HR skills to give back to the community during their work day, but they also received something in return: professional development and the opportunity to network with each other.

The feedback from participants from NBCUniversal and the nonprofit organizations was so positive, NBCUniversal is expanding the program beyond HR to include finance and communications this April in New York City.

Carrie Maltese, Vice President of Human Resources, NBCU, summed up the experience, “HR for GOOD provides an opportunity to use your knowledge and skills to do something good for people who really need it. Many of NBCUniversal’s participants decided to stay in touch with their non-profit. The experience really created a personal connection within their community.”

NBCUniversal worked diligently to promote the program within its organization. First, it asked for managers to nominate employees to participate, and the employees around the country who were selected received a congratulatory email. The participants were put onto teams with people they typically didn’t work with, which helped to provide the benefit of team building and networking within NBCUniversal’s large HR community.


Talent Development Roadmap
Companies can use this resource to guide the design of pro bono programs that benefit both society and their corporate talent development efforts.

Powering Pro Bono
A comprehensive how-to guide for companies that are looking to engage their talent in pro bono work.

An online interface that connects nonprofits with pro bono volunteers

Pro Bono Reshapes the Leadership Development Playbook
A conversation with Cindy McCauley, Senior Fellow at Center for Creative Leadership

Founded in 1999 by Paul Newman and other business leaders to create a better world through business, this organization empowers corporations to be a force for good in society.

“We wanted our participants to feel special, and in turn, they made the nonprofits feel special,” explained Maltese.

When asked what tips she would give to other industry employers looking to embrace pro bono work, Maltese advised companies to ensure there was an interest within the HR community and to focus on employees who have a specific skills set and a desire to help others. She added that they required their participants to disconnect from their mobile devices and be present the entire time. Langer set an example by being at the NY event all day and it had a trickle-down effect within the organization.

Maltese added, “HR for GOOD was a great investment in skill building through a unique, hands-on experience.”

Catherine Ward, Taproot’s National Director of Advisory Services, agreed that NBCUniversal’s initial events were a success, “NBCUniversal’s people were focused, engaged and wanted to do something good. They wowed their nonprofit clients right from the start. That set the stage for a high-impact experience for everybody.”

Taproot has a variety of ways for nonprofits and skilled volunteers to get engaged in pro bono – from Taproot+, Taproot’s online engagement platform, to one-day pro bono service experiences, to multi-month pro bono engagements. Taproot also partners with companies to customize pro bono programs that allows them to invest more deeply in its community while providing employees with professional development. In fact, Taproot has worked with over 75 leading companies to create customized pro bono programs. To date, the group has delivered $150 million of pro bono services.

In addition to the benefits that the nonprofits receive, Ward touted the benefits for the participating companies, “Pro bono enables tomorrow’s leaders to build the skills required of an ever-evolving work environment including comfort with ambiguity, agility, cultural competence, inspiring vision, risk-taking, client management and getting work done through others.”

Taproot helps companies develop and implement pro bono programs by providing strategy setting and design, program development, implementation, evaluation and scaling. For more information about Taproot, please visit or contact [email protected].

Learn More About Pro Bono Professional Development at CTHRA’S 2017 HR Symposium: Disruptive Thinking
The Taproot Foundation will conduct a session at CTHRA’s 2017 Symposium on October 26 in Philadelphia. Save the date and plan to attend! Details and online registration will be available soon at



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