Should You Encourage Your Employees to Volunteer?

It’s becoming slightly trendy to build a company culture around volunteerism and other forms of social responsibility—but what exactly does a company get out of encouraging employees to volunteer with non-profits? And will suggesting employees volunteer always pay off for companies?

The Upsides

There are positives to fostering a work environment where volunteering is taken seriously. Here are some of the perks of encouraging your employees to get involved:

  1. Can Boost Employee Morale

Employees have to spend a lot of time with their companies—40 or more hours a week to be exact, without factoring in commuting times—so it’s important to provide them with an environment they can be happy to spend the bulk of their days in. There are many things’ employers can do to keep their staff motivated and comfortable returning to the workplace—and one of those things could be demonstrating enough flexibility to allow workers to pursue outside endeavours they find meaningful, like volunteering for causes that matter to them.

  1. Makes the Company Look Attractive

In addition to helping retain staff, providing incentives and space for employees to volunteer, and creating a culture that encourages volunteering, is likely to appeal to new talent or clients who are scouting out your organization from the outside. A charitable company looks good.

According to a survey by Deloitte, two in five Gen Zs and millennials have rejected a job offer because the company or job duties didn’t align with their ethical views. Seventy-five and seventy-six per cent of Gen Z and millennial respondents, respectively, also reported a desire for a hybrid model of work, citing that such a model “Frees up time to do other things I care about.” 

The younger generation, who make up the vast majority of new talent, have some concerns about the nature of workplaces—and it’s been contributing to the phenomenon known as “The Great Resignation.” Companies that make it obvious they’re aiming for a positive societal impact and care about the work-life balance of employees stand a better chance of appealing to a younger pool of emerging workers.

  1. Giving Back to Your Community

While running a for-profit service or selling products could be considered “giving back to your community,” volunteering goes above and beyond by offering its contribution without expectation of monetary exchange. The act of volunteering, in most cases, is a reflection of someone’s love to a disadvantaged group and devotion to serving them without much more than a thank you. By volunteering, workers wouldn’t only be providing to the portion of the community that can afford an organization’s products and services; they would be providing for those in need. Volunteering gives people a chance to serve their whole community.

  1. Offers Employees Training Opportunities

Employees who fall into a comfortable routine in their established roles might start feeling like there isn’t much they can do to advance, either hitting a plateau in performance or growing frustrated with the company for inhibiting their growth. The solution might be volunteering. It’s a deviation from routine, and putting employees in a new environment either prompts them to learn new skills or provides them with the chance to apply old skills to never-before-seen scenarios. Either way, you’re allowing employees the space to evolve, which is going to fall back on the company one way or another. The outcomes: a more well-rounded employee that can give more to the organization or an employee that feels like your organization prioritizes their personal as well as career development.  

Words of Caution

Because volunteering is overwhelmingly perceived as positive, it might be easy to assume nobody would take issue with being coaxed to volunteer. But certain approaches and attitudes surrounding the subject could leave a sour taste in employees’ mouths.

  1. Avoid Coercion and Guilt-Tripping

If you’re demanding or otherwise manipulating employees until they add volunteering to their schedules, it ceases to be volunteering. An employee who feels like volunteering is more their employer’s choice than their own may begin to resent their employer, which will fracture both their relationship with the company and their perception of volunteering. Nobody wants to be “voluntold,” especially when there’s any hint the additional hours of unpaid labour were pushed to meet a company agenda. 

  1. Offer “Volunteer Time Off”

A major deterrent to volunteering while being employed is often time. Employees may want to get involved in the community on a voluntary basis, but make the tough choice to axe those plans when they realize how much the activity will cut into their weekends and evenings. Employers can eliminate this dilemma by offering designated paid time off for volunteering during work hours. This will help employees feel like they can strike that perfect balance between work, personal life, and community.

Jacob Carmichael | Staff Writer

Fall 2023

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