If this hurricane season has taught us anything, it’s that people will turn out in droves to help their neighbors in times of need.
Small business employers should be aware of this urge and encourage their workers to go out, pitch in and help. Workplace volunteer programs are a great way to get employees engaged with their fellow workers. This builds a community bond within the company that keeps workers happy, motivated and loyal.
This doesn’t have to be a one-off burst of goodwill amid emergencies on the scale of Cat 5 hurricanes. It’s as simple as letting the entire staff spend one afternoon a month at the local food bank, or cleaning up a nearby park. Studies show that group volunteer activities outside the office increases productivity inside the office. It also appeals to potential younger employees and keeps your veterans happy to stay put.
Pitching in Pumps Productivity
A 2017 survey on corporate volunteerism by Deloitte shows how employees feel the positive benefits that volunteering has on their workplace:
• creates a better working environment (89 percent of those polled),
• is essential to employee well-being (77 percent),
• improves their sense of purpose (74 percent),
• boosts morale better than company-sponsored happy hours (70 percent), and
• creates a more pleasant work atmosphere (70 percent).
The same study found that employees, especially millennials, just want to volunteer, or at least work for a company that encourages community activity. And they don’t expect to get anything out of it for themselves: Only 18 percent said they thought volunteering would help their careers, and just 36 percent said they thought they’d gain new work skills.
This is a golden opportunity for small business owners—a chance to make your company the kind of place where people will stay because they love both their daily work and the satisfaction of helping their community at the same time.
How to Make Volunteering Programs Take Flight
1. Make volunteering available company wide.
For maximum impact, corporate volunteer activities should be a group activity, not just an offer of paid time off for employees to volunteer by themselves or a bulletin-board list of community opportunities for employees to pursue on the weekend. Corporate volunteerism gets employees working together as a team outside of work, and that bond will flow over to the time they spend on the job.
2. Make volunteering, well, voluntary.
No one wants to be “voluntold” to do something. If the boss announces that everyone is going to help plant flowers at his church, employees are likely to resent being drafted for this. Asking is the better approach. And remember, not everyone may want to participate. If an employee declines for whatever reason, whether it be introversion or moral objections, let it go with no blame.
3. Develop volunteer efforts from the bottom up.
Business owners should let employees find and follow their own passions. Maybe find a list of local non-profits, and circulate it for employees to check off where they’d most like to volunteer. Find out what they really care about and make it possible for them to get out and help others as a group.
4. Make volunteering activities hands-on.
The best activities for your team are not always charitable events like 5K walk-runs or 20-mile cycling events. They are proactive, action-oriented projects like volunteering at literacy programs, building affordable housing, or helping hurricane survivors strip down drywall. Things you can work on together, and pull stories from.
5. Volunteering can be done on company time.
Simple things like a monthly afternoon at the food bank let small businesses and their employees make a big impact in their communities. In addition, the benefits will ultimately come back to you, and your business. Letting employees volunteer during work hours may come at a cost in the pace of work, However, experts say employers get that cost back several times over in higher productivity and lower turnover. Benefacto, a British consulting firm, estimates it only takes a 1 percent increase in productivity to offset the costs of letting your employees participate in volunteer activities during work hours. It has even devised a calculator for employers to see for themselves whether the benefits outweigh the costs.
One final tip: It might be a good idea to look for volunteer experience on resumes at hiring time. Those community-minded applicants might have just the combination of dedication and responsibility a company needs.