Time-crunched employees are increasingly looking to their jobs to provide opportunities for the good deeds that they don’t have the hours for outside of work, and companies are responding. Corporate social responsibility programs are no longer an afterthought in corporate planning, but garner big payoffs.
Volunteering offers participants the opportunity to strengthen their skills, broaden their networks, break out of a career rut, and find new meaning in their job. These benefits return to employers in the form of increased engagement and retention. A strong employee volunteer program can also increase company loyalty, develop ties to the community, and spur innovation.
The vast majority of college graduates want to amplify their commitment to good causes through their employer. Generation Ys employees who frequently participate in their company’s volunteer activities are more likely to be very proud to work for their company, feel very loyal, and are very satisfied with the progression of their careers. In fact, for many recent college graduates, a robust corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandate makes a crucial difference in where they choose to work, with 77% of respondents in a recent study (PDF) indicating that “a company’s commitment to social issues is important when I decide where to work.” This sentiment crosses generations, with the majority of people polled acknowledging the importance of contributing to their community or the wider world through work.
Corporate volunteer programs can range from one-day community service activities to mini-sabbaticals that send top performers to developing countries to lend their expertise to nonprofit organizations and proven entrepreneurs. Moody’s Afternoon of Service is a good example of a once-a-year opportunity for people who want to dip their toes into volunteering. The program takes place during the workday; employees sign up for a variety of team-based activities, including sorting library books at a public school in a poor neighborhood, planting flower bulbs in a city park, lending a hand at an organization that gathers clothing for and coaches disadvantaged women going out on job interviews, and preparing lunch at a community soup kitchen.
Such volunteer assignments can do more than inject excitement into a humdrum job; they can ignite a career. Despite the growing prevalence of corporate volunteer programs, placements are super-competitive — Intel, for example, says that only 5% of applicants win spots in its Education Service Corps. It’s also high-profile, with blogs and videos of participants’ experiences distributed throughout the company and on the internet. Who knows what kind of connections could result?
Corporate volunteer programs benefit employers, employees, and service recipients alike! By providing a practical bonus for both participants and employers, they’re not just a “nice to have” perk but a retention tool, leadership development opportunity, and strategic business initiative.
Have you participated in a corporate volunteer program? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!