Corporate social responsibility is an opportunity to impact the community in a positive way. Many organizations have employee volunteer programs that encourage employees to participate in activities that give back to those around them. This type of program not only helps to enhance the community but also builds employee engagement.
Business leaders agree on the payoff in terms of employee engagement and increasing levels of retention, creativity, and competitive advantage. Research from Deloitte “suggests a powerful link between frequent participation in workplace volunteer activities and several measures of employee engagement that, in turn, contribute to employees’ perceptions of positive corporate culture.”
Volunteerism provides great benefits to everyone involved. However, there may be pitfalls that you are unaware of, and that could have a negative effect on striving to serve others. Here are a few points to consider:
1. Clarify Expectations: Your organization may support and promote volunteerism, but if no one monitors the process, you may find that employees are making their own decisions about what it means to volunteer. Yes, you want employees to be vocal. And in most cases, the ideas are excellent examples of community service. However, others may use this time off from work to chaperone a field trip, organize their garage or coach football practice.
2. Write it Down: I know, another policy, right? Well, not necessarily. It’s more of a program outline. Volunteerism is not meant to be mandatory, but encouraged. Providing structure to any program helps keep everyone working towards the same goal. So, write it down.
Include program guidelines in your onboarding program and on your internal website. You can post organization-wide events and offer ideas of other opportunities that may need volunteers. You may also provide a request form that employees can use to request time off for other volunteer activities.
3. Track Paid Time Off: Regardless if employees are volunteering for an organized work event, they still must be paid. Typically this is accounted for on a time sheet, indicating a specific charge code that allows the company to track the number of hours spent volunteering. Think back to the issue of unpaid interns. Work performed must be accounted for and might even be something employees themselves can keep track of in the employee self service portal.
4. Encourage Rather than Mandate: Employment Attorney Donna Ballman reminds us to be careful when asking employees to get involved. “An employer can’t require an employee to ‘volunteer.’ Let’s say a company organizes a disaster relief effort and asks employees to volunteer to help out. If getting involved is truly voluntary, then that’s okay. But, once it’s required, the employee is no longer a volunteer.”
Mandatory volunteerism is not going to engage your employees. It’s not going to benefit the community. We all know that when forced to do something, it can have a negative effect on the process, reducing the impact we had hoped to achieve in the first place.
Volunteerism can be a fantastic way to engage employees, strengthen your brand image, and improve the community. When you have a good program in place that is supportive and proactive, people will want to participate because they will believe in the work being done. Encourage participation. Strive to do good and watch others rally around your efforts to help others.