This is post is presented by MicroEdge, the leading provider of software and services to the giving community worldwide and a 3p sponsor. Read more about Microedge and employee engagement here.
By Gabriel Swain
Over the past decade, employee engagement has taken on greater significance than ever before. Companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of engaging their staff (PDF), as it has profound impacts on workplace morale, employee retention and the company’s bottom line. Simply put, engaged employees are happier, work harder and stay longer. As corporate leaders search for ways to engage their workforce, employee volunteer programs regularly rank at the top of the list of highly effective ways to keep employees engaged over the long term.
Indeed, the importance of employee volunteering cannot be understated; in their 2011 Volunteer Impact Survey, Deloitte found that 70 percent of employees between the ages of 21 and 35 strongly favor companies that are committed to the community. Volunteering allows employees to make a noticeable and measureable impact (PDF) that the company can then communicate to stakeholders and the communities it serves. It enables employees to feel connected to a company-wide mission, resulting in a stronger sense of unity within the company, and endearing them (PDF) to the company and its stated goals and objectives.
Key to an effective employee volunteer program is a willingness and eagerness by employees to get involved in the effort—after all, they are the backbone of the program. Simply putting a program in place is a start, but to truly realize the many benefits of an effective employee volunteer program, companies must create a collaborative environment that encourages and inspires staff to participate.
1) Get the word out
Employees can’t get involved unless they are aware of their opportunities to do so. This becomes more of a challenge when employees are spread out over many locations, but it’s a vital element of maximizing engagement. Bulletin boards in the cafeteria and signs around the office can help, but those methods are becoming obsolete; it’s now crucial to make it easy for employees to know what’s going on, and where and how they can get involved. Today’s technology makes it easy to electronically communicate volunteer opportunities to all employees, or even target communications to employees based on their skills and interests. Embracing technology is vital to maximizing participation in your program.
2) Bring the word back
It’s one thing to tell employees what causes they can volunteer for, but if you really want to increase participation, you’ll want to make sure there are open channels for employee feedback on your current and past events. Let them tell you what worked, what didn’t, what could be improved, etc. Allow them to suggest new causes and events to get involved with. Provide surveys and use the results. The more your employees feel their voices are being heard—and that you are supporting them in volunteering for causes they care about—the more passionate they will become about supporting your company in its volunteer efforts over the long term.
3) Strike an emotional chord
Telling employees about volunteer efforts can help raise interest, but it’s also important to tightly grab employee interest from the beginning. Start by communicating your company-wide commitment to giving back to the community. Appeal to your employees’ altruistic nature. Show them you genuinely care about making the world a better place, and that you need their help to make that a reality. Volunteering provides a significant sense of emotional well-being and pride in helping those in need, so make sure your employees know that you are committed to helping the community, and that you need their help to make a difference. Help them realize that their involvement really matters and is truly needed.
4) Make it fun and get them excited
Organize contests to get your employees involved. Offer prizes. Perhaps your employee volunteer program needs a catchy name. Maybe you want to create a snazzy logo that people can relate to. Or maybe you want to open the floor for event suggestions. Let your employees compete to submit the winning logo idea, or the winning program name. Communicate the contest broadly. Honor the winners publicly. You’ll have them interested, having fun, and—most importantly—engaged right from the start.
5) Get to know your employees
How well do you know your employees outside of their day-to-day jobs? Did you know that Jane Doe down the hall is trilingual and has experience teaching English as a second language to immigrants? Or that John Smith in accounting used to work in construction? The more you know your employees’ skills, the more you can target volunteer events to them based on what they are interested in, and consequently, where they can help the most. The more prepared they are when they arrive on site to volunteer, the better work they will do, the greater sense of accomplishment they will feel, and the more likely they will be to come back and volunteer again. This kind of skills-based volunteering not only increases interest and employee engagement, it helps you maximize the impact of your program in the community.
6) Get friends and family involved
Create ways for your employees’ friends and family to join them at volunteer events. This will make it more fun for them and encourage them to volunteer more often. Find ways to give employees credit for the hours volunteered by their friends and family. Give awards to those who get the most people involved. Then you can go back and report those additional friend and family hours and share them as part of your whole story.
7) Encourage employees to develop new skills
Employee volunteering is a great way to let your employees develop new skills that will help them on the job. Let them manage groups of volunteers or coordinate entire events—it’s a great way to build leadership skills that will help them grow as individuals, and also perform better in their day-to-day jobs. Plus, it helps you reassure them that you are genuinely interested in helping them develop skills that will continue to benefit them throughout their careers.
Gabriel Swain has written extensively on social justice and volunteerism. His work has been published in the U.S. and Europe in a variety of capacities, including academic texts, government white papers, public policy recommendations, blogs and journals. For years he has spent his free time volunteering, supporting a wide variety of causes and organizations.
How to Learn More: MicroEdge has developed an entire library of free best practice articles for running highly efficient and effective employee volunteer programs. Access this resource library.
MicroEdge helps corporations to effectively engage employees with AngelPoints—integrated Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) solutions that enable companies to maximize employee engagement, streamline employee engagement programs, measure the impact those programs are having in the communities they serve, and share that story with company stakeholders and the community. AngelPoints solutions have helped some of the world’s largest and most respected companies increase their employee engagement; today, AngelPoints solutions for employee volunteering, payroll giving, matching gifts, disaster response, dollars for doers, and sustainability serve more than 80 corporations and millions of employees around the globe.