Time Off To Volunteer as an Employee Benefit

"To prosper over time," Laurence Fink, CEO of BlackRock, once wrote in a public letter, "every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society." Employee volunteer programs help you align with your corporate vision by offering such opportunities to your employees and nonprofit partners. Thoughtful planning and execution are essential to having an impact on company culture and making a difference for your team and in your community.

Paid time off for volunteering is one of the few employee benefits that's increased significantly over the past five years. Among the benefits of well-designed company volunteer programs are boosting productivity and increasing employee engagement.

Working together to tackle community issues in different settings tests employees' adaptability and problem-solving abilities. More than 80% of professionals surveyed pointed to volunteer programs as helping them develop leadership skills. Volunteering promotes trust and camaraderie by building a sense of community among employees as they work toward common goals. Service to the community builds teamwork internally — 79% said that volunteer service improved their communication skills.

Programs that prioritize meaning and give employees a belief that their efforts contribute in important ways are successful. You can create an initiative and give employees active roles in shaping their focus and features or provide the basic scaffolding for volunteering and allow workers to create and build specific opportunities that fit the company's vision and appeal to their personal passions.

Employees are motivated to volunteer by intrinsic factors: self-esteem and recognition. Younger talent consider volunteer programs a significant priority when evaluating potential jobs. Nearly two-thirds of young professionals say they'd prefer to work for a firm that provides opportunities to serve the community with their skills.

Benefits to the bottom line

Corporate service can build brand awareness, affinity, trust and loyalty among customers. A good reputation is increasingly linked to bottom-line benefits such as improved sales and employee productivity. Stronger communities result in more robust markets and a deeper pool of workforce talent.

The types of opportunities and incentives you offer your workers — along with the technology and communications you employ to facilitate, track and promote these opportunities — contribute to your program's success and impact.

You're empowering employees to be change agents in the community. Encourage employee ownership, and enlist the right partners. Your program will help you and your workers create meaningful impact. What kind of impact is your volunteer program having? Your firm should prioritize meaning, balance top-down structure with bottom-up passion and seek to involve a variety of stakeholders. Even in trying times, there are good reasons to preserve well-run programs.

Volunteers tend to be better citizens at work, helping others and voicing ideas. Among the established benefits of volunteering are a sense of well-being and purpose and better physical and mental health. Your program should be tailored to your firm size as well as customer and investor expectations.

But watch out for these pitfalls: 

  • Imitating other companies' programs.
  • Prioritizing your own pet project.
  • Lacking flexibility in allowing employees to suggest volunteering opportunities.
  • Making volunteering mandatory, diminishing intrinsic motivation and satisfaction. You don't want employees who participate just to make a good impression on co-workers and supervisors.

Successful volunteer programs serve to recruit top talent, increase team member satisfaction and retention, focus on employee wellness, and develop skills. Is your volunteer program aligning with your employees' skills and your own company values? 

Volunteerism can play an important role in engaging employees, serving stakeholders, meeting social impact goals and ensuring your company's sustainability, while also having a positive impact on your community. A study discovered that employee loyalty increased not only among those who volunteered but also among those who didn't, prompting comments like "It's great that my company offers volunteer programs" and "I'm happy that volunteering is available at my company."


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