One thing top employers have in common is a corporate-wide commitment to social and environmental causes. That’s because, besides being good for the world, they know a robust philanthropic program is attractive to job seekers and clients, and keeps employees happy, fulfilled, engaged and productive. But it’s not enough for organizational leaders to say they believe in and support employees’ involvement in charitable activities. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. How your organization walks the walk is reflected in what you actually do, which, in turn, affects your corporate bottom line.
Your employees believe in giving back. They need to see that you do too, and not just by you telling them they should volunteer, but by actively supporting their efforts. Here are some steps businesses can take to actively support volunteering.
make it a priority to have a social responsibility strategy
Like most things in business, flying by the seat of your pants rarely leads to good things. That’s also true for your social responsibility efforts. If there’s no dedicated plan in place, it’s most certainly going to fall to the wayside when other mandates pop up. First thing’s first: develop a social responsibility strategy and a plan to execute it. Some organizations commit part of their HR or Marketing department to strategize their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts; other organizations assign one person or a small committee of employees to manage and coordinate CSR efforts. Either option can be effective. It really depends on your company structure and employee availability. Either way, having a social responsibility strategy in place is a must and ensures that social issues remain top of mind at your company and that nothing slips through the cracks.
establish a dedicated social responsibility team
Having a team in place that’s committed to and responsible for your social responsibility strategy brings discipline and structure to your efforts. It also provides a crucial point of contact for employees who are interested in volunteering or other social causes to gather resources and apply their unique talents and energies to a common goal. The team will also likely be involved in information gathering and dissemination. Strong communication and employee engagement are essential to a strong CSR policy. After all, if no one knows it exists, it’s unlikely they’ll participate. This is even more important for national organizations or those with branches in multiple locations, to ensure policies and communication are consistent and shared with all your locations.
offer paid time off
We never said corporate responsibility wouldn’t cost you; it will, however, that expense is never wasted. If doing something good for your community and supporting causes that matter to your employees isn’t enough for you, employee satisfaction and retention will also benefit. There’s plenty of data to show that employers with robust social responsibility platforms are better able to engage and retain top talent who have their pick of employers. Many organizations have programs to bring volunteering opportunities to employees’ attention or offer paid time off to employees who want to work on volunteering projects that they’ve identified on their own. That might include individual efforts or a company-wide initiative that offers ongoing support to a charitable organization that you’ve identified as aligning with your corporate philosophy.
the small things count, too
If your company isn’t in a position to offer paid time off for employees to volunteer, you can still support employee efforts by making a corporate donation to a cause your employees have identified as worthy, or establishing food, toy or book drives and making them a regular, seasonal or yearly initiative. Even small employee-driven events like bake sales or a team joining a local charity event under your corporate banner can make a difference and show that your company cares. Your social responsibility efforts don’t necessarily have to be big and splashy (read: expensive) to make a difference. This is one case where thought and effort really do count for a lot.
recognize employees’ efforts
Organizations that understand how to motivate their employees know that recognizing the efforts of their top performers is critical to keep them on board. The same is true for philanthropic efforts. While the best social responsibility efforts bring people together for the common good, it’s important to recognize individual employees for their efforts, especially if you want to attract potential employees or encourage new people to get on board. Some organizations recognize employees with a plaque or add their names to a trophy or wall of fame - something that identifies people who go above and beyond. If your company has an Intranet or a company blog, feature notices and pictures describing employees’ volunteer efforts and their results. Offer prizes or other incentives to get reticent employees engaged in volunteering.
There’s hard science that says volunteering makes people feel happy, proud and fulfilled, helps them engage more meaningfully with their coworkers and employer, encourages greater productivity, builds leadership, and provides opportunities to learn new skills and network more effectively. So while you’re helping make life better for others, your organization is benefitting as well. It’s a win-win for everyone!