Corporate Volunteer Programs Benefits To Business – Summary. Across society, volunteering has been stagnant or in slight decline in recent years. However, in the corporate world though, it has increased. In fact, voluntary time off is one of the fastest growing employee benefits in the last five years. The benefits of well-designed volunteer programs are well established: they increase productivity, increase employee engagement, and improve recruitment and retention, to name a few. But too often, corporate programs fall short. When designing their volunteer programs, companies fall into common pitfalls: blindly copying what other companies are doing, prioritizing leaders’ pet projects, or pressuring employees to participate, essentially making volunteering mandatory. Such errors reduce the value of the programs to the company, employees and society. Instead, companies should prioritize meaning, balance top-down structures with bottom-up interests, and seek to involve a variety of stakeholders in their activities.
The benefits of well-designed volunteer programs are well established: they increase productivity, increase employee engagement, and improve recruitment and retention, to name a few. But too often, corporate programs fall short.
Corporate Volunteer Programs Benefits To Business
When designing their volunteer programs, companies fall into common pitfalls: blindly copying what other companies do, prioritizing leaders’ favorite projects, or pressuring employees to participate, essentially making volunteering mandatory.
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Such errors reduce the value of the programs to the company, employees and society. Instead, companies should prioritize meaning, balance top-down structures with bottom-up interests, and seek to involve a variety of stakeholders in their activities.
Across society, volunteerism has been stagnating or slightly declining in recent years. However, in the corporate world though, it has increased. In fact, paid time off for volunteering is one of the few employee benefits that has increased significantly over the years. According to the Human Resource Management Association, 47% of US companies offered volunteer programs in 2018, up from 40% in 2014. The percentage is even higher among large companies. The CEOs for Purpose conference – a global alliance of billionaire companies – reported that 66% of its member companies offered volunteer programs in 2019, up from 56% in 2016.
It is unclear whether these trends will continue as the Covid-19 crisis and global recession continue. Some issues seem to sensitize people to community needs: After the terrorist attacks of September 11 in the United States, for example, volunteering reached its highest level in the last two decades, a wound that has existed for several years. However, after the Great Depression, both voluntary participation and charitable giving declined. The current economic downturn is likely to put pressure on the company, and managers may be pressured to reduce volunteer programs. But even in difficult times, there are good reasons to keep efforts well managed.
Many studies have shown that volunteering programs increase productivity, increase employee engagement, and improve recruitment and retention. For example, a study I conducted in 2013 showed that many people who volunteer (even if it’s on their own hours instead of working company hours) do better at work. It also showed that volunteers tend to be better citizens at work (helping others, voting on ideas, and so on). Another study, conducted by David Jones of the University of Vermont and his colleagues, showed that potential candidates found companies with employee volunteer programs particularly attractive due to three important factors: pride in the job, the prospect’s expected affiliation with the company, your perception of how your values fit with the company, and expectations about how the company treats its employees. The research also firmly established the benefits of volunteering for people’s well-being and sense of purpose, not to mention their physical and mental health.
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Corporate volunteer programs tend to reflect top management’s personal priorities. But what’s important to managers isn’t necessarily important to employees.
In my research and consulting work, I have seen volunteer programs come in all shapes and sizes. Some companies allow employees to volunteer for any cause or activity they choose; others organize highly organized outings that groups can participate in together—a charity run, for example, or a home-building effort. While the Covid-19 related challenges have disrupted many normal volunteering activities, they have also brought about many creative programs that allow people to make a difference even during lockdown – for example, somewhere remotely employed essential services online. like “phone pals” to check up on seniors or join a 5K run on treadmills. Companies also differ in how they encourage, recognize, and reward employee volunteer efforts. And the difference makes sense: companies must adapt their programs according to factors such as company size, customer and investor expectations, and cultural norms and characteristics. No matter how different the programs are, however, the mistakes companies make are often painfully similar. In this article, I discuss the pitfalls companies often face and some best practices for designing and implementing programs that work.
There are many ways companies can go wrong when designing and implementing volunteer programs. Three problems are most common:
When designing programs, managers often try to take the simplest approach and simply copy what they see as successful companies in their industry. The thinking is “everyone around me is doing it, so it must be effective”. However, this reasoning is based on an assumption that may be wrong; Other companies’ programs may
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Helpful or helpful. The cut-and-paste approach can also cause a disconnect between the company’s mission and goals and its program, limiting its strategic value and internal appeal to employees.
Often, executives center their companies’ volunteer programs around personal charitable giving preferences. (They often do the same when making corporate or in-kind donations to charities.) Or they allow inertia to dictate the continuation of past charitable choices. As a result, corporate volunteer programs tend to reflect top management’s personal priorities and values. But what’s important to senior executives isn’t necessarily important to employees – who are the foundation of corporate volunteer efforts.
In partnership with United Way Worldwide, my colleagues and I surveyed nearly 500 employees in 2014 and 2015 – some volunteer, some not – at 50 companies that offer volunteer programs. Among employees who chose not to participate, some stated that it was due to logistical issues and the program’s inflexibility, explaining, for example, that the timing of the opportunity “wasn’t right” or that the location was ” “too far away. Far away.” But many others reported that they were encouraged by what they saw as programs that prioritize animal projects for implementation, sharing sentiments such as, “I would prefer volunteer opportunities that I am interested in and feel I really need more help with.” [the employer] has something to do.” These findings suggest that volunteer programs tailored to top management preferences are unlikely to be well received by ordinary employees.
When creating corporate volunteer programs, companies often feel compelled to participate as much as possible and then continually expand their activities. Unfortunately, this can put pressure on employees to volunteer – creating “forced volunteering”. Research by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan shows that a problematic conflict then arises: if people perceive that they will be rewarded for participating in a task or punished for choosing not to do it, their intrinsic motivation and satisfaction with the task usually decreases. reduced.
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Company pressure can also lead to what researchers call “thumbs up” from employees, as employees participate only to have a positive effect on co-workers and supervisors. In theory, this could lead to a positive cycle where employees are happy with each other, but this is not the case in practice. When employees respond to pressure from management to volunteer, their efforts are often seen by employees as dishonest attempts to ingratiate themselves with superiors. In a field study of American workers, my colleague John Lynch and I found that workers who volunteered to make a positive impression were often criticized rather than applauded. To avoid being seen as immoral, they were characterized by their peers as absent-minded, hypocritical and stupid. Workers in our study noted how they generally avoid or distance themselves from colleagues who suggest volunteering in this way, resenting what they see as a fraudulent attempt to force work on others. Even supervisors tend to overlook these individuals when making important decisions, such as promotion recommendations.
Companies often measure the success of volunteer programs in terms of the percentage of the workforce that participates, but my research suggests that the mere existence of volunteer opportunities can help employees feel more engaged. In the study we conducted with United Way Worldwide, we found that at companies that offered programs, employee loyalty increased not only among those who volunteered, but also among those who did not. People who chose not to volunteer made comments such as “It’s great that [my company] offers volunteer programs” and “I’m glad volunteering is available.”
While companies should avoid pressuring employees to volunteer, they can take steps to
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