My daughter decided to volunteer through a program at her job.
Each employee has the opportunity to volunteer their services and
receive a day off in return. She was up early on a Saturday morning and
headed into New York City to work at a soup kitchen in the Bowery.
To her surprise, basically the entire division that she worked with
was there. She was really surprised to see the senior executives there
in their jeans and sweatshirts.
She could not stop talking about the experience and how wonderful for
her company to sponsor such an event even if there was not a day off in
return. She met many of the people in the kitchen and got a chance to
really have a conversation with a number of them one-on-one.
When they finished, all of them retreated to a local restaurant to
have lunch. The discussions at this roundtable were not like what would
take place in an office environment. Everyone was open, and laughter
filled the air.
My daughter came away with a new sense of the team that she works
with every day. The volunteering opportunity turned into a learning
event for the participants. Not only did they get a chance to see how
people in unfortunate circumstances live, but they each saw something
within their co-workers that they would probably not have noticed within
the confines of an office environment.
This impromptu team building exercise did more for team building than
any off-site event would have done — and it was all accomplished
through an employer-sponsored volunteer program.
Employer-sponsored volunteer program equals real value
According to the Institute for Volunteering Research, volunteering is an essential part of life for 58 percent of the population.
But research also supports the view that having an employer-supported
volunteering program is good for business. Despite the growing pressure
on resources which so many organizations face, an employer-supported
volunteer program can bring considerable benefits.
I recently read an article about American Express donating over a
million dollars to create a leadership institute for a non-profit
organization. That donation of money and their talent had absolutely
nothing to do with credit cards.
Smart companies today are rethinking their role in society as well as
their roles and relationship with employees and the communities that
they live in.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is slowly emerging as a core
cultural characteristic of the organization. Consumers and employees are
looking for organizations to make a positive impact on the world as
well as making a profit. This new movement is not to be seen as a feel
good afterthought, but as a critical part of a company’s core values.
Within some organizations today, this role has evolved to an extent that there are now 29 C-Level positions known as Chief Sustainability Officers. I just finished reading an in-depth white paper from the Weinreb Group
about the progression of this role within the organization which is in
charge of corporate sustainability and corporate social responsibility.
This position has crept up the corporate ladder in level of importance.
Organizational benefits of volunteering
The benefits of an employer volunteering program to the organization are numerous:
- Volunteering as a learning event: Employer-supported
volunteering provides an opportunity for participants to develop a wide
range of skills and competencies, and can be a part of the learning
strategy. Employees can develop better communication and team working
skills through volunteering. In addition, volunteering can give them an
opportunity to lead projects and have responsibility for managing others
sooner than might be possible in the workplace. It can also expose them
to a wider range of tasks than they might not get on a daily basis.
- Talent acquisition and engagement: A vibrant
employer supported volunteering program can contribute to improved
employee perceptions of the workplace as well as higher levels of
motivation and retention. Companies can communicate employer-supported
volunteering alongside other benefits during the recruiting process. At a
previous organization I worked at, the CSR program within our company
was the key component of our onboarding program. There was a full
presentation on all of our activities including the three (3) volunteer
days that each employee was given from Day One on the job.
- Marketing awareness: A volunteering program can
provide increased visibility for a business and can generate positive
media coverage. Volunteers in the community serve as company ambassadors
and can enhance the reputation of their company.
- Making a difference: Employer supported
volunteering is continuing its rapid rise up the business agenda.
Through a volunteering program a business can make a real difference to
communities in which it operates. The reputation of the business will
benefit and everyone involved will be making a difference. All of which
can have a positive impact on profits.
- It’s the right thing to do: Pret a Manager
has this sign in their window that states that it gives their entire
lot of unsold sandwiches to a local food bank at the end of the day.
Why? “Because it’s the right thing to do” is the next line in that
During these trying times when so many of our citizens being
unemployed or underemployed, we all should look to give back in some way
to make a difference.
Why? Because it is the right thing to do!