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Can Employee Volunteering Lead to “Coopetition” Between Companies?

RP Siegel | Tuesday June 12th, 2012 | 0 Comments

This is the fifth in a six part series on building better employee volunteer programs, presented by MicroEdge, the leading provider of software and services to the giving community worldwide. Follow the rest of the series here.

In last week’s post, I wrote about how giving employees meaningful volunteer opportunities could benefit companies by energizing the employees, generating higher productivity and retention rates. Apparently, I’m not the only one that thinks so. Carol Cone, Global Chair of Edelman Business + Social Purpose, otherwise known as “the mother of cause marketing,”  recently shared a number of statistics that reinforce that notion, as keynote speaker, at the recent VolunteerMatch Client Summit.

According to Cone, citing a Gallup study, companies with “high employee engagement” had 3.9 times more earnings-per-share growth than their counterparts with “low employee engagement.” These same employees worked 57% harder and were 87% more likely to stay. As I said last week about employees that volunteer, they “tend to experience greater job satisfaction, and improved morale. This, in turn, leads to a more positive attitude which constructively impacts job performance, teamwork and many of the other intangibles that make good companies better.” Cone says it more succinctly, “Happy employees mean a more productive company.”

The Summit that Cone spoke at brought together a large number of companies, organizations and consultants to exchange ideas and best practices in the realm of social responsibility.

One of these was Chris Jarvis, Co-Founder and Senior Consultant for RealizedWorth, an employee volunteering and CSR consulting firm. Chris had the following to say:

“In terms of employee volunteering and workplace giving, I think it’s becoming more normative, and I think the bar is being raised in terms of what you’re expected to do and the impacts you’re expected to have. The tools are trying to keep up with those expectations, sometime the tools enable new expectations… it’s changing all the time. The impact, the potential that we could realize together remains unrealized in a way that makes me lose sleep at night. I think what will happen over the next 3-5 years is, a stronger business case will be made for it, more empirical evidence will be available for it, we’ll draw in other disciplines from other fields to support the work that we’re doing in these areas and it will become more normative.”

Those tools would include things like MicroEdge’s AngelPoints software, whose website claims, “Every company in the Global 2000 is having a conversation right now about how to become more sustainable and more responsible. This is not just an expectation of shareholders, employees and customers, it’s also essential for their survival in a world that’s increasingly transparent and resource constrained.”

They go on to talk about integrating the diverse efforts within companies in areas like sustainability, employee giving, and volunteering, which are often treated like functional silos that could be more far more effective if linked together with a common interface.

Might not the same thing be said about individual companies?

Talking about his experience at the summit, Jarvis says, “It’s a great community. People just love it. They are generous with their time, with their experiences… people just love sharing, ‘this is what works for me.’ All the competition that comes with brand and business and the free market, is mitigated, by a sense of the bigger picture and a greater purpose.”

What if there was another level of the economy, above the fray of the dog-eat-dog, proprietary, trade secret world of competition, where great companies could get together to exchange ideas about how to make this world, in which all of their employees, suppliers and customers live, a better place. I’m not talking about a Chamber of Commerce type of thing, where businesses band together to make the world better for business. I’m talking about a group where businesses get together to make the world a better place, period.

If you thought of it as an organization, it might be something like what the UN is to individual countries, a meta-organization that could convene to exchange best practices and share success stories. But it doesn’t have to be an organization at all. Indeed, the companies need not relinquish their individual identities and brands either, but might instead, participate in a kind of “coopetition” in which each company might try to outdo the other in the amount of good they do in the community. At the same time, their pursuit of noble goals is undertaken with a kind of open-source spirit that facilitates the constructive sharing of ideas in service to the higher level objective.

This elevated, “coopetitive” strata of our society, would transcend the push and shove of daily commerce, marking an important step forward in the maturation of our society and serving as a source of inspiration to both our own young people as well as those following behind in the developing world, a clear indication that there are indeed values that rises above individual gain here in America.

[Image credit (permission pending): The Situationist]

RP Siegel, PE, is the President of Rain Mountain LLC. He is also the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle. Siegel also spent 15 years volunteering as a science tutor in inner city schools as part of his former employer’s community involvement program and was later Executive Director of a non-profit environmental group.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.


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