Whether you send a team of employees to help build a home with Habitat for Humanity or sort canned goods at an area food bank, your employee volunteer program makes a difference in your community and underlines your commitment to corporate social responsibility.
The strongest return, however, might be in your workplace. Research shows that volunteer programs strengthen office camaraderie, enhance employee professional development and raise levels of employee engagement, all factors that lead to a happier workforce and better retention of top talent.
Building a Work Force for Good
Nearly 60% of companies surveyed now offer employees paid time off for volunteer work, according to the America’s Charities’ Snapshot 2015 survey, and 82% of employees surveyed said they want companies to give them the opportunity to volunteer with their peers in company-sponsored projects.
The payoffs are clear. A study by UnitedHealth Group reveals that 64% of employees who volunteer say that volunteering alongside their colleagues strengthens their relationships in the workplace. An almost unanimous 96% agree that the experience enriches their purpose in life and gives them a deeper connection to their communities and to others.
Increasing Engagement and Company Pride
Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship asked employers to weigh in on the value of employee volunteerism. The Center’s report revealed that 90% of employers cited “improved employee engagement” as one of the top benefits of an employee volunteer program.
The same report showed that employees who volunteer:
- Take greater pride in their company
- Are more likely to defend and promote the company externally
- Are more inclined to stay with the company
- Are more likely to go above and beyond required tasks to get the job done
Solving Challenges While Building Leaders
Today’s companies think beyond simple volunteerism to make the world a better place to live. CEEP, a collation of CEOs, reports that businesses increasingly use company talent to solve societal challenges.
The group’s report shows that pro bono and board service have increased more than any other kind of employee volunteer program during the past few years. This kind of volunteer opportunity allows employees to feel empowered to help solve real problems, from hunger to homelessness, while developing professional and leadership skills that can be used in the workplace.
A Harvard Business Review article highlights IBM as a leading example of this trend. The company gives employees a month to participate in service abroad and typically deploys 500 young leaders a year on team assignments. These employee volunteers serve in more than 30 developing nations, and fulfill their professional development requirements for IBM through these projects.
According to the article, the employee volunteer program increases the company’s retention rate and helps IBM recruit top talent.
Doing It Right
There are important best practices to follow if you want a successful and effective employee volunteer program, according to a report from Points of Light, a thought leader in the volunteer sphere.
Most importantly, businesses should set established goals and provide clear direction on the program’ objectives to achieve those goals. Measuring results of the program are equally important, including the impact on the company and to society. Remember to celebrate and report the results across the company and externally.
When done well, employee volunteer programs benefit society, help your employees grow, and make them more likely to stay on board. That’s a triple win your business cannot ignore.