Want a Better Workplace? Encourage Employees to Volunteer

Want a Better Workplace? Encourage Employees to Volunteer
  • Volunteerism can positively affect a company’s culture and morale while enhancing brand perception.
  • Employees often don’t have free time to pursue volunteerism, so they feel empowered and grateful when their workplaces help them give back to the world.
  • Volunteer programs allow businesses to embrace corporate social responsibility and boost their appeal to customers, investors, and employees.
  • This article is for business owners seeking creative ways to improve their workplaces and enhance corporate social responsibility.

Creating a company culture of volunteerism in your organization can help your community and the world while improving your business. Employee-sponsored volunteerism appeals to consumers who prefer doing business with socially responsible companies and employees who want to make a difference in the world. Whether you focus on climate issues, racial injustice, diversity and inclusion, poverty, or another concern, the shared mission can create a stronger workplace culture and help businesses embrace corporate social responsibility.

We’ll explore how volunteering helps businesses and their employees and share best practices for creating an employee volunteer program.

Did you know?: Money isn’t enough to adequately compensate employees. Meaning and purpose, challenging work, trusted relationships, and autonomy are powerful motivators.

How does volunteering help employees?

According to the 2022 Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose Giving in Numbers report, 84 percent of companies offer flexible scheduling or paid time off for their employees’ volunteer opportunities. Some businesses even allot up to 60 hours of volunteer time off.

Here are some of the benefits volunteerism brings to employees.

1. Volunteerism helps employees feel more empowered.

Employees feel empowered when they can contribute to causes close to their hearts. According to the Giving in Numbers report, employees are more likely to participate in volunteer programs when the cause resonates with them.

Deloitte’s Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey found that today’s Gen Z and millennial employees feel the need to balance work lives with a drive for societal change. They’re drawn to businesses that allow them to be of service to the community. In return, employees will feel a heightened level of commitment to their company and team, offering substantial growth and development opportunities for both.

2. Volunteerism helps employees develop and share talents and skills.

Employees are hired for the talents and skills necessary to perform their jobs. However, most, if not all, likely have untapped skills they’d appreciate exploring — ones that would bring enormous value to their organizations.

Volunteer programs open a new world for employees to explore their talents, improve skills, and learn new skills. In fact, the Giving in Numbers report revealed that employees volunteer more when the employer offers skills-based programs. Of companies offering employer-sponsored volunteerism, 73 percent offer skills-based volunteer programs that allow employees to practice and explore tangible skills to help their communities.

Whether employees learn new skills or hone current talents, they’ll bring this expertise back to their organization along with higher self-worth and a higher value to the company.

3. Employees will feel happier when they participate in volunteerism.

A Journal of Happiness study found that volunteering can positively impact physical and mental health, alleviate stress, and experience increased life satisfaction. In other words, people who volunteer are happier.

Employees who participate in volunteerism benefit from higher morale and an increase in overall happiness — and happier employees see significant productivity boosts. When employees feel good about being at work, they tend to work harder and take pride in their company.

4. Volunteering helps employees develop leadership potential.

Volunteering can help employees discover untapped talents and may even help them realize their leadership potential.

Volunteer programs are an excellent platform for employees to discover a natural affinity to lead, especially when participating in activities that require sharp management and organizational skills. For the company, discovering new leaders is a valuable opportunity to strengthen the entire organization.

Key takeaway: Volunteerism is a way to improve employee engagement. Other ways include implementing team-building activities, offering health and wellness programs, and supporting their professional goals.

How does volunteering help companies?

Volunteer programs also benefit the companies that sponsor them. Some advantages of sponsoring volunteerism include the following.

1. Volunteer programs help businesses attract and retain talent.

According to the Deloitte survey, millennials and Gen Zers say a sense of purpose is critical — along with a positive work-life balance and pay — when choosing new employers. Nearly two in five of the younger generations, and nearly half of those in leadership positions, have rejected a job because it didn’t align with their personal ethics.

Today’s employees want to make a societal and environmental impact, so companies that offer employer-sponsored volunteer programs are more attractive. Companies that help their employees impact the world through volunteerism have a better chance of attracting and retaining top talent.

2. Volunteer programs can improve a brand’s image.

Just as employees want to work for a company that positively impacts the world, today’s consumers prefer supporting companies and brands that are public and transparent about their corporate social responsibility initiatives. Volunteer programs that feature employees connecting with communities through social initiatives are positively received by the public, which can improve a brand’s image organically.

3. Volunteer programs boost employee engagement.

According to Gallup, only 36 percent of employees feel positively engaged in their positions, although they want to be invested in, connected to and enthusiastic about their employers. Volunteer programs are an excellent way to create and boost employee engagement, motivating employees to invest time and energy into their employer relationship.

The values and skills they acquire via a volunteer program allow them to perform better while fostering a deeper sense of loyalty to the company. More engaged workers are more productive, making volunteer programs a win for employers, employees, and the causes they support.

Did you know?: Aside from volunteering, other community involvement measures can include offering free services or discounts, offering free workshops in your area of expertise, and sponsoring local events.

How to create an employee volunteer program

To improve employee morale with volunteer programs, preparation and follow-through are crucial. Here are some best practices when developing an employee volunteer program:

  • Assess your community’s needs. Determine what needs are present in your community. Then, poll your employees to learn about their interests. Try to match community needs with employee passions. You may also consider a broader scope for your volunteerism, such as helping the environment or fighting racial injustice.
  • Align the volunteer program with your business goals. A volunteer program should benefit employees, the cause and the company. Align your business goals and objectives with your volunteer initiatives. They should reflect the company mission and its long-term goals. For example, if you have a sustainable business model, consider environmentally focused volunteer initiatives.
  • Ensure everyone is onboard with your volunteer initiatives. Ensure everyone in the organization is onboard with prospective volunteer programs. If company executives support the program, they’ll be more willing to encourage employees to participate and offer time off. They also may roll up their sleeves and help.
  • Partner with other organizations in volunteerism. Determine if you can partner with other local organizations, customers and vendors to help strengthen your volunteerism’s impact. Partnerships also open opportunities for bigger collaborations in the future and more meaningful relationships.
  • Acknowledge your volunteers and show them your appreciation. Employees are motivated when their efforts are recognized, and this holds true for volunteerism. To show employees you appreciate them, reward volunteer participants with awards, gift cards, coupons, or other forms of recognition.

Employer-sponsored volunteerism can be a win-win-win

Volunteer programs are an excellent way to encourage employees to explore their talents, give back to the world, and develop stronger relationships with their organizations. Businesses benefit from an enhanced brand image and a more engaged and discerning workforce. Positively impacting the world is a noble goal that befits the community, employees and sponsoring companies. Carefully consider your volunteer programs and implement them with sincerity, excellent management, ethical behavior and thoughtful leadership.

Adam Uzialko contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

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