workplace volunteerism engages employees

Three cheers for workplace volunteerism! Everyone benefits from giving back. (Photo via EarthDayPictures/Tanja Ristic, Flickr)

Workplace volunteerism is a powerful way to build teamwork skills, engage employees, increase generosity and make a difference in your community.
Employees now expect opportunities for workplace volunteerism. More than 60 percent of employees even want employers to offer paid volunteering leave.
“Across the world, employee expectations of the companies they work for are dramatically expanding when it comes to corporate philanthropy,” writes Forbes contributor Ryan Scott in his article “Employees Demand Workplace Volunteering.”
The new generation of corporate philanthropy and workplace volunteerism focuses on year-round goals, not just an annual “done in a day” event or seasonal giving drive, according to Scott.
Companies are now considering a “360-degree view” of philanthropic potential.
“Ultimately, the consensus seems to be that what most engages employees is what inspires them, and inspiration comes from a culture of giving back based on a demonstrable dedication to results,” Scott writes.
Need some inspiration yourself? Read on for examples of creative and effective workplace volunteerism programs — and one easy way to get started. As Scott puts it: “The days of lip service are over. It’s time to get to work.”

4 Examples of Great Workplace Volunteerism

Why make volunteering a regular part of your engagement strategy? A European report found that environmental initiatives and charitable giving improve job performance by helping employees identify more strongly with their companies and by serving as ice breakers and points of conversation for employee-customer dialogue.
Here are four companies that do workplace volunteerism right:
1. Covestro
Covestro challenges employees to use their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills in collaborative volunteer projects. The company matches employees with nonprofits in the community that need help solving a specific problem. In 2014, for example, Covestro sent a team to the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden to help develop an educational curriculum for the youngest members of the nonprofit’s audience, kindergartners and first-graders.
The project was “well outside the employees’ comfort zones,” according to Rebecca Lucore, chief of staff and head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Covestro. That wasn’t the only challenge. Since employees came to the team from different departments all over the company, they hadn’t previously worked together.
In spite of these challenges, the project was a success, Lucore writes in a HuffPo “Pathway to Purpose” blog post:

“Together, they learned how to overcome the obstacles and rose to the challenges. After three months of collaborating, they not only presented a series of best practice K-1 education programs the garden could implement, they developed a plan to market the programs to local schools.”

Skills-based volunteering (SBV) is now a cornerstone of Covestro’s engagement and philanthropic strategy. It’s “hard to think of another volunteer situation that helps employees with such effective professional development,” Lucore writes.

2. UPS
Gregory Bradbard, president of Inland Empire United Way, praises UPS for its hands-on philanthropic efforts in a recent newspaper column. He quotes Mark St. Onge, a leader at the UPS Ontario Airport hub in Ontario, California:

“To us, giving means more than writing a check. It means combining employees’ skill, passion and time with our logistics expertise, transportation assets and charitable donations to make a measurable difference in society.”

UPS puts these words into action throughout the year, according to Bradbard.
“Not only do UPS employees contribute more to United Way than any other local company, but they also take volunteerism seriously. They help pack food for hungry kids, paint murals at school-makeover projects and get into the community in those brown T-shirts whenever there is an opportunity,” Bradbard writes.
Volunteering does more than feel good. It’s also good business. UPS has discovered that employees who are engaged in the community are also more engaged in the workplace.
“As a matter of fact, they’ve found that employees with the highest levels of engagement perform 20 percent better and are 87 percent less likely to leave the organization,” according to Bradbard.
3. MAE Plastic Surgery
MAE Plastic Surgery, a medical practice in a Chicago suburb, is no stranger to giving back — it has provided pro-bono surgeries to gunshot victims and others in need, and the doctors on staff have volunteered abroad. Now it’s branching out to volunteer efforts that involve all employees.
Recently, MAE Plastic Surgery participated in an all-staff volunteer day at a nearby Feed My Starving Children warehouse. MAE’s Dr. Michael Epstein reflected on the experience in a Chicago Tribune article:

“When we were finished, every one of us felt a strong sense of pride … When you do something like this, where everyone is involved, from our nurses and aestheticians to our office manager and patient coordinators, it makes a positive impact on each of us. We felt fulfilled, as a team, because we took the time to give back and do for others.”

Epstein intends to continue volunteering and doing community outreach projects with his staff several times a year. He’s also encouraging his employees to make suggestions for volunteer projects that are meaningful to them: “If my employees are passionate about something, and want to do good in the world, then we want to do everything we can to support them,” he says.
4. Honda
This week, employees at a Honda dealership in Newton, New Jersey volunteered for the local Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Intervention Services (DASI) center, tackling everything from organizing the center’s food pantry to mulching the grounds, trimming hedges, renovating a bathroom, painting the entrance and performing carpentry and odd jobs.
The volunteering was part of the nationwide Honda Service Week, which continues through Sunday.
DASI executive director Jamie Bernard was “blown away” by everything the Honda employees did to help. “I was moved to tears in a good way when I arrived to work Monday morning to see these volunteers busy at work in and around our building everywhere,” she told the New Jersey Herald. “It was inspiring. It was a good reminder that love and compassion wins.”
The feeling was mutual for Honda employees, and many said they’re interested in doing something similar again soon.

Inspired? Support United Way’s ‘Day of Action’ June 21st

You have a chance to kickstart workplace volunteerism in your company next week! The annual United Way “Day of Action” is Tuesday, June 21.
“On June 21, communities around the world will come together to harness the volunteer spirit,” regional United Way director Richard Payonk writes in a recent Tribune Star column.
The Day of Action “promotes the spirit and value of volunteerism, increases the awareness of local human service agencies and demonstrates what people and businesses working together can accomplish for the good of the community.”
It’s a great opportunity to get employees involved in and excited about volunteerism — and build workplace gratitude.
For practical tips on sharing and promoting gratitude every day in your workplace, download our free eBook “Transform Your Workplace With Gratitude.” You’ll find advice here on recruiting and retaining a great workforce, engaging employees and building a sustainable culture of appreciation.

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