Growing evidence reveals a strong link between corporate volunteering initiatives and employee engagement and performance: A 2011 Deloitte Study found Millennials who frequently participate in volunteer activities are more likely to be satisfied with their employer and are nearly twice as likely to be very satisfied with the progression of their career. These satisfaction indices are strong indicators for employee engagement, and demonstrate how corporate volunteering can be a successful vehicle to improve employee engagement levels and the associated benefits of employee productivity, morale and retention.
Employees value volunteering initiatives for a variety of reasons:
- Team building: one of the most stressful components of joining a new organization is wondering whether or not you will be able to mesh well with your peers. Whether you are a new hire or not, collaborating on volunteer projects allows you to work with your coworkers in a context that is constructive and less stressful. As a result, when employees return to the workplace, the team bonding camaraderie felt during the volunteer experience will persist.
- Career Benefits: Surprisingly, 51% of employees report that they want to participate in corporate volunteering opportunities for the associated professional benefits. Skill-based volunteer projects allow workers to develop new abilities and rise into leadership roles that they might not be able to fulfill in the workplace. These roles are crucial in providing confidence, career development and management skills that better equip employees for success and future promotions at work.
The importance of skill-based corporate volunteering
“Skill-based volunteering typically involves applying or transferring individual or organizational skills — for instance, strategic planning, property management, marketing or information technology management to a community organization or entity.” – The Allen Consulting Group, Global Trends in Skill-Based Volunteering
Employee satisfaction and engagement resulting from corporate volunteering initiatives translates directly to employer satisfaction and benefits. A worker that develops leadership and other professional skills becomes more valuable to managers and often becomes more committed to the organization that provided the opportunity. Employees that participate in volunteering programs are often emotionally fulfilled and grateful to their organizations for providing them with the resources to volunteer. The ability to contribute offers a sense of personal achievement that translates over to both the professional and personal lives of employees.
It is evident that providing volunteer opportunities gives companies an edge in attracting the best talent from today’s labor pool: even among Millennials who never volunteer, more than half (61%) say that a company’s commitment to the community would likely be a factor when choosing between two potential jobs with same location, responsibilities, pay and benefits. Furthermore, among Millennials that do volunteer regularly through their company’s programs, 52% state they are more likely to be loyal to their organization, as opposed to a 33% rating from those who don’t regularly volunteer.
“If building a more committed, engaged, creative and energetic workplace is high on your company’s agenda, then corporate volunteering might be the foundation of your staff retention and development program” – Deborah Mobberley, The Centre for Volunteering, NSW Volunteering
How to build a corporate culture around volunteering
Even when employers have established volunteering opportunities for their workers, the programs can fall flat. Why? To be successful, a company’s culture must actively support and value volunteering. According to a study by Deloitte, among the top reasons why employees do not participate in volunteer programs at their company is a perceived lack of time and the organization’s lack of recognition or reward for volunteering efforts. In addition to providing the opportunity for employees to volunteer, successful organizations will have leaders actively participate in volunteer programs to demonstrate corporate commitment to the programs.
What do successful corporate volunteer programs look like in practice? Here are four companies we think are totally rocking the employee volunteer experience:
- AVEDA CORPORATION: Aveda’s brand channels sustainable manufacturing in all of its beauty products. As such, sustainability and giving back easily integrates into the company’s mission. In the “Pollinator Protection” program, employees can work on a wildflower farm nearby HQ where bees are cultivated. Another key program Aveda features is “Caps for Aveda,” in which employees collect and recycle reused caps from Aveda bottles while raising awareness about global waste problems.
- CAESARS ENTERTAINMENT: At Caesars, employees are passionate about giving back to the communities in which they are located. In 2013, employee volunteers, named HEROs, contributed 164,000+ hours in over 600 events for social and environmental causes they care about in partnerships with organizations like Opportunity Village, National Park Trust, and the Meals on Wheels Association of America.
- IBM: Employees worldwide participate in IBM’s yearlong program, “Celebration of Service,” that connects them with over 5,000 volunteer projects. June 15th marks Celebration of Service Day, where the whole IBM community, senior executives included, reaches out to their host communities to offer aid in sustainability, education, and mentorship efforts. IBM volunteers to date have logged 3 million+ hours.
- DELOITTE: Employees at Deloitte strongly believe in skill-based volunteering, and they target their efforts in local nonprofits. By mentoring nonprofit leaders in local organizations, such as the Center For Nonprofit Management of Southern California or Youth I.N.C, Deloitte volunteers can confer their intellectual capital in workshops centered around Strategic Planning, Team Management, Project Management, and Office Greening, among other topics.
To demonstrate and communicate the corporate value of employee volunteering, employers can set aside paid volunteer days throughout the year or sponsor appreciation dinners for all of the employees who participate in such programs. Through an online platform, organizations can promote upcoming opportunities, and provide easy access for employees to register for events. With these opportunities having high visibility, employees will not feel penalized for taking time off from work to volunteer.
When volunteer programs are ingrained in company culture, they have a snowball effect: more and more employees will hear of the social good that their peers are doing, and as a result, they will feel more inclined to sign up on the platform so they too can volunteer. Volunteer programs are strategic assets for companies, and managers should view and promote them as such.
Learn more about the science behind giving: check out our corporate volunteering data sheet!