People & Leadership

7 business benefits of employee volunteering

Gen Z and millennials expect companies to have a social purpose. Is it time to boost employee engagement by offering company volunteer days?

Fulfillment, meaning and giving back.

Not things many employees would’ve always agreed they got from their roles, unless they worked in the private or public sector.

However, that’s now changing.

Increasingly more today than ever before, the younger workforce – Generation Z and millennials – not only want, but expect, their employers to provide workplace environments where they can achieve these things.

The traditional perks of gym memberships, company health plans and bonus schemes are not enough for these two generations. They’re looking for a more rewarding, engaging and meaningful workplace experience.

In fact, 53% of under-35s want to volunteer more than they do, with this figure increasing to 60% among 18-24-year-olds, according to a report by City Philanthropy.

Of the 43% of respondents under-35 who said they already volunteer, workplace volunteer schemes and initiatives were cited as playing a key role in influencing their charitable good deeds.

Aside from just being a ‘good thing to do’, companies that offer paid time-off for volunteering can attract and retain  top talent, boost productivity, instill a sense of purpose and meaning in employees, and go some way to improving the employee engagement challenge.

Here’s some of the business benefits.

Improved employee retention

Research by Great Place to Work looked at thousands of employee surveys from companies on its 50 best Workplaces that Give Back list and revealed that workers at these organisations say they’re more likely to stay with their employer for a long time as a result of the company’s voluntary programmes.

“When employees are actively involved in giving back it can lead to a deeper commitment and connection to the work,” explains Elizabeth Stocker, a consultant at Great Place to Work.

Pride in where they work – and increased employer brand awareness

Employees at firms with volunteer days are proud to tell others where they work.

They’ll share with friends and family about their paid-time off to volunteer, even posting on social media about their volunteering activity.

All of which further enhances the organisation’s status in the community and raises the profile of the business, particularly amongst prospective employees.

Increased employee empowerment

Having a charity or cause that your company donates to, will certainly go some way to meeting Gen Z and millennials’ need for your business to do social good, but companies that go one step further than just donating, by providing employees with actual opportunities to volunteer get even better payback.

By letting employees guide charitable efforts and get hands-on with volunteering, even choosing where and when to volunteer, makes them feel empowered.

It creates high levels of commitment and pride among workers and their teams.

Stronger, more connected teams

When whole teams participate in a worthwhile activity for a good cause, even just for a day, a sense of teamwork is fostered.

Pulling together for a common goal, especially when it’s for a charity or community project, enables employees to bond and support each other.

Once built, this sense of teamwork can continue back in the workplace with a renewed sense of commitment to one another.

New skills

Volunteering projects can enable employees to learn and develop new skills.

Off-site projects with charitable organisations can open up a whole new skill-set for an employee, enabling them to try things they’ve never experienced before.

Learning a new skill adds to a person’s sense of worth, can boost their motivation, make them feel valuable and positively affect their overall wellbeing.

The ability to uncover future leaders

Company volunteer programmes can also be a great way for managers to see which team members might make future business leaders.

A team volunteering day can be an ideal environment to discover who has a natural aptitude for leading and should be put on a fast-track management programme, or which members of staff might be in line for promotion when it comes to succession planning.

Happier, healthier staff

Companies who offer volunteering days or schemes report a reduction in sick leave as employees want to work for a company that values them and gives back.

They feel more satisfied, motivated, so staff morale is higher.

Who’s already doing it well?

Salesforce topped the 2017 annual World’s Best Workplaces list, due to cultivating pride in its employees and inspiring them through its ‘relentless commitment to community involvement’.

According to Great Place to Work, who compile the rankings, 97% of employees said they felt proud about the way Salesforce contributes to the community.

The business giant enables its employees to take up to seven paid days off per year to volunteer and the top 100 volunteers are granted $10,000 to donate to a charity of their choice.

In its annual report, Salesforce reported its employees had clocked up more than 2.6 million volunteer hours around the world, while the business had supported more than 34,000 non-profit and higher education organisations.

At Sage, employees can also take five fully paid volunteer days a year to do meaningful, purpose-driven and passion-aligned work.

Time to cultivate a sense of purpose?

As the ratio of Gen Z and millennial workers increases, companies will find it increasingly difficult to differentiate through the traditional perks of fancy offices, high salaries and health plans.

Those that align to the values of the new working majority – who place a greater emphasis on their personal time, flexibility and making a difference in the world – will attract the best minds and do the best work.

And this will ultimately having an impact on their organisation’s bottom line.

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