By Hattie E. James
Even if your business doesn’t currently have a corporate volunteer program, chances are that you’ve considered it. It has already been established that volunteer programs have a positive impact on employee well-being. When implemented correctly, they can improve self-efficacy, productivity, emotional health, and physical health.
However, entrepreneurs who have found some measure of financial success typically resist taking on any extra commitments. The amount of attention, planning, and follow-through needed to make substantial changes can be major deterrents. Nevertheless, the benefits to morale and brand perception from volunteer programs are undeniable. If you don’t have a volunteer program, or if you are unhappy with the progress of your current volunteer program, you need to reassess your business needs.
What are the best methods for introducing a corporate volunteer program into your business? How can you maximize employee engagement, your impact on the local community, and the benefits to your business? Here are a few tips to getting started:
Determine the purpose of the volunteer program
The first step to creating an effective corporate volunteer is to assess your local community, as well as your workplace culture. You can research volunteer opportunities online at VolunteerMatch or through organizations like United Way or the local chamber of commerce. Are there any needs in your community that the employees of your business can help meet? Which opportunities would be most likely to appeal to their interests?
Keep in mind that a successful volunteer program is mutually beneficial for both the local community and the company. Ensure that the volunteer opportunities you choose mirror the values and culture of the business. You can do this by evaluating your overall business objectives and determining how each activity can contribute to those goals. For example, if your workplace culture is centered around the importance of sustainability, get involved in green building projects or collaborate with other green-oriented businesses in your area on larger volunteer opportunities.
How to maximize employee engagement
Increasing employee volunteer participation requires that you get to know your workers, find a message that resonates with them, and ensure that you reach each one.
Employees are guaranteed to feel more strongly about a volunteer program if they have some amount of control in how it is operated. If you are unsure which opportunities would best resonate with your employees, let them direct your company’s volunteer efforts. It is essential that every level of management shares enthusiasm for the importance of the new volunteer program. Encourage managers to play a part in the program, and consider electing a few of them to become leaders of an employee committee dedicated to establishing the focus and direction of future volunteer efforts. This group can also collaboratively determine volunteer policies. Ensure that these community-generated expectations are consistently enforced.
This same community-led group can determine employee incentives as well. Recognition is a central component to maintaining employee satisfaction and interest, so consider introducing an awards program for those who perform exceptionally at volunteer events.
An excellent way of getting more involved with your local community is by involving the families of your employees in your volunteer program. Even children should be permitted to join in; doing so will both foster childhood development and encourage other family members to participate. Having employees’ families represent your business will put a much more personable, friendly face on your brand and strengthen the bonds between employees.
Measuring and announcing progress
Keep in mind at the outset that you need to track the results and progress of your volunteer efforts. Not only should you keep a pulse on your business’s accomplishments, you need to regularly get feedback from your employees regarding their satisfaction with the selected volunteer opportunities. Discuss this feedback in community meetings and look for ways to either improve or maintain employee satisfaction.
To maximize the impact of your CSR efforts on employee motivation and brand perception in the community, you should make announcements regarding your company’s volunteer work. Internal memos should thank employees that participate in such activities and encourage others to join in the future. Externally facing communications, such as social media accounts and press releases, should emphasize the company’s commitment to bettering the local community.
In general, you should take the same approach to branding during your CSR efforts as any non-profit organization would:
- Gain an understanding of your community and speak directly to the needs of your audience.
- Have a consistent message across all channels of communication, including social media.
- Collaborate with local businesses to spread your message and brand awareness.
These are some considerations to keep in mind when starting or revising your corporate volunteer program. By taking this advice to heart, you are already on the path to developing a more socially responsible business and a happier workplace.
Hattie E. James, MBA, is a writer and researcher.