Want to Boost Employee Engagement? Try Company Volunteer Programs

Employee engagement is one of the principle concerns among business leaders around the country who aim to create an effective and satisfied workforce.  In fact, according to Gallup’s most recent U.S. employee engagement survey, employee engagement is closely correlated with business conditions essential to an organization’s financial success, such as productivity, profitability and customer engagement.

In short, engaged employees are more committed to the company they work for and are invested in its success by driving the innovation, growth and revenue their employers rely on to stay ahead of the competition.  For employers, investing in their most important assets – their employees – can have a transformational impact on overall business outcomes.

The real question is, how can an organization create a culture of engagement and what employee benefits drive the highest levels of engagement and employee satisfaction?  Unfortunately, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

In today’s war for talent, attracting and retaining the best employees are more important than ever.  As the U.S. workforce continues to shift in demographics, employers need to consider embracing a host of new benefits that appeal to a multi-generational workforce.  Among the many benefits options available, volunteer programs should not be overlooked.

According to a Deloitte Millennial study, 75 percent of the workforce will consist of millennials (those who were born after 1982) by 2025.  As more young people enter the workforce, they bring with them a new set of priorities.  In fact, a study from the Intelligence Group found that 64 percent of millennials said they would take a lower-paying job that they found fulfilling over a job that they didn’t enjoy, even if they had the opportunity to earn more than twice as much in an unfulfilling job.

Millennials care about diversity, company ethics and the opportunity to give back to their communities.  These priorities are essentially creating an entirely new workplace model for employers, one in which a company’s moral compass is just as valuable as its bottom line.

When executed properly, volunteerism and charitable giving can be strong morale boosters.  Companies implementing an employee volunteer program should consider the following key steps to ensure success:

  1. Commitment is key. Demonstrate company executives’ commitment to volunteerism and charitable giving.  Share a clear vision for the program and examples of milestones and long-term goals.  A recent GreenBiz study found that millennial employees prefer working for leaders they admire in companies that exemplify strong values that underscore their corporate social responsibility.
  1. Understand employee passions. Ensure the program focuses on one or more issues that truly engage employees on a personal level by soliciting their input upfront.  Survey employees to determine the community issues or causes most critical to them today and in the near future.  Are they passionate about addressing homelessness, bridging a local opportunity gap or improving community parks?  Understanding the issues of greatest importance to employees will empower companies to deliver more engaging volunteer programs.
  1. Go social. Create opportunities for employees to connect with each other about their employee volunteer efforts.  These initiatives could range from creating a company-only internal blog platform where employees can share experiences and photos with one another, to kicking off a company e-newsletter highlighting employees’ charitable efforts or even promoting the company’s volunteer efforts on the company’s Facebook or Twitter profiles.  It’s important to remember that charitable efforts can also create excellent team-building and leadership opportunities for employees.
  1. Think beyond monetary commitments. Donation-matching programs and other fundraising initiatives are a great start, but it’s also important to consider alternative avenues for employees to offer their time and talents to causes important to them.  According to America’s Charities’ Snapshot 2015, nearly 60 percent of companies offer paid time off for employees to volunteer.  This same survey shows a growing expectation among employees that employers will provide volunteer opportunities for teams of their colleagues – 82 percent said employees want the opportunity to volunteer with peers in company-supported events.

Creating a comprehensive employee volunteer program as part of an organization’s overall employee engagement strategy can help companies attract and retain top talent.  They can result in stronger relationships with the surrounding local community, an enhanced public image, and a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.

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