Employee Volunteer Programs (EVPs) have long been considered a benefit to employers, perhaps simply because they demonstrate corporate charity to the community. But recent research shows that establishing EVPs is crucial for businesses if they expect to retain talented employees and maximize customer loyalty.
As it so happens, Millennials are driving the establishment of EVPs. Research shows that when Millennials search for a job, they put more value on an employer’s social responsibility and community investment than other qualities. Because Millennials are predicted to hold 50% of the work force by 2020, employers are either creating new EVPs or fine-tuning current programs to attract the best new talent.
It’s become clear that offering an effective EVP to employees is a smart move. Here’s why:
Employee volunteer programs benefit the employer by:
- Attracting and retaining key talent: A robust EVP will attract more potential candidates, increase their loyalty once they are hired, and make their work feel more meaningful. Plus, EVPs can be a recruitment tool and an opportunity to observe potential employees in action. Deloitte, for example, offers a spring-break service project to college students as a way to give back to the community and get to know potential employees.
- Allowing employees to sharpen professional skills: Businesses that offer skills-based volunteering opportunities, in which employees “donate” their professional skills to a needy organization, report that participating employees actually improve their job performance. This might be because employees are challenged to think more critically about how to apply their skills to situations different than those of the workplace.
- Boosting public image: While this benefit might seem like a given, it’s important to remember that the effective operation of an EVP not only is attractive to the public (and potential customers), but it also can increase customer loyalty. Reports show that a company’s reputation is largely based on its social responsibility, and customers want to patronize companies who actively work toward the common good.
- Impacting the bottom line: Many reports show that, because they participate in an EVP, employees feel happier and more productive in the workplace. When employees feel engaged and morale is high, they affect the company’s bottom line in an astounding way. A Forbes article reported that companies “actively” involved in advancing the common good were substantially more efficient, and had “three times the operating margin and four times the earnings per share” than companies that did not.
- Improving workplace morale: The Deloitte Impact Survey found that employees who volunteer through their workplace are more likely to be proud of their employer and satisfied with their work life. Similarly, a UnitedHealthcare study found that “81% of those who volunteer through their employer said it strengthens their relationships with colleagues.” When employees take pride in their work and view themselves as part of a team, they are more loyal to their employer and more likely to put their best foot forward at work.
How can employers make EVPs effective?
- Recognize and reward employees’ volunteer efforts. Host an annual or semi-annual volunteer appreciation event, in which you recognize all employees who participated in your program. You can also reward employees with the highest number of volunteer hours with a special plaque.
- Give paid time off to volunteer. More companies are offering employees paid time off to participate in EVPs. This protocol cultivates a supportive culture of volunteering, showing the employees that the company cares about the common good and employees’ contributions to it.
- Allow for employee choice. Some employees would rather volunteer for a cause that is close their hearts; others would rather participate in, for example, a one-day company-wide service project, in which they get to work toward a meaningful goal with their colleagues. Allowing for choice will help employees feel more supported.
- Design EVPs based on company values. An effective EVP should result from a company’s careful assessment of its corporate mission and its local community. Volunteer opportunities, which might partner with local schools or serve community nonprofits, show a sincere investment in the common good.
While the answer is clear that EVPs will boost your business, the road to establish an effective EVP can be murky. However, useful guidance can be found in a report issued by Points of Light, “The Seven Practices of Employee Volunteer Programs,” which examines how companies can use EVPs to “transform the way customers, partners, investors, and employees think about your company.” Also, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship identifies effective characteristics of EVPs in its paper, “Mapping Success in Employee Volunteering.”
Who would have thought that sending employees out the door to volunteer might be a key ingredient in boosting your business’ success? Indeed, it is.