Before corporate social responsibility was a buzzword, RPM was a philanthropic entrepreneur, shares Randell McShepard, the company’s chief talent officer who manages corporate philanthropy and external/government affairs.
“We’re not afraid to be the first corporation to dip a toe into the water with a new organization, a new idea or a civic cause that no one has agreed to lead,” McShepard says, pointing to City Year Cleveland, which today helps 3,000 students in eight partner Cleveland schools. McShepard helped bring City Year to Cleveland in 1996, while serving on the Cleveland Bicentennial Commission.
In 1997, he became RPM’s vice president of public affairs. Since then, McShepard says RPM’s mission statement to “hire the best people you can find, create an atmosphere that will keep them, and let them do their jobs,” has allowed him to pursue a fulfilling career path.
“In my career, I have been giving autonomy — the general direction of where to go, and the freedom to figure out how to get there,” he says.
McShepard created a playbook for how RPM would build its community affairs program. “Fast-forward to today, and we have released community reports that highlight our projects and initiatives,” he says.
One of those was establishing a Medina chapter of the Bluecoats to provide financial assistance to families of safety personnel who have lost their lives in the line of duty. “Now, the organization has been in the county for more than a decade,” McShepard relates.
RPM introduced the concept for the John Hay Cleveland School of Science and Medicine. “We pushed and pushed — and worked together with the schools, the Cleveland Foundation and our hospitals, along with the Case Western Reserve University Medical School, to start a nonprofit that could begin raising money to support the work of the school,” he says.
Giving back to the community is fulfilling for employees too.
“The one thing anyone in Corporate America wants to say when they go home at the end of the day is, ‘I added value. I gave something back. I made something better,’” McShepard says.
And corporations have a responsibility to bring positive change to communities.
“The health of a community is very much connected to the corporations that are a part of that community,” McShepard says. “We want our people to be successful and happy. That means contributing to education, health and human services, the arts and civic activities.”
McShepard adds, “RPM has become a household name in the corporate philanthropy world. It’s about us fulfilling our social responsibility.”
His efforts have included formalizing a partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership and starting RPM’s Global Organizational Leadership Development (GOLD) team, which involves senior executives and managers in HR, marketing and operations who shape leadership programs. RPM University has been a huge success, McShepard says.
“We are focused on developing our emerging and senior leaders and developing pathways for executive leadership opportunities,” he says.
As for McShepard, he says, “Every day is different — every day is exciting, and I’m fulfilled with the work I’m involved in, whether it’s making a charitable contribution to a nonprofit or helping direct a senior management executive to a meaningful development opportunity.”