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66,000 Employees Have Spoken: They Want To Work For Companies That Give Back

One of the largest employee surveys on community investment ever conducted makes one thing clear: Employees are more satisfied and motivated if their employers give back to the community.
volunteering and community investment

By Elizabeth Dove and Alison Grenier

Companies trying to unlock employee motivation should direct their attention to their community investment strategy. These were the conclusions reached by Volunteer Canada and Great Place to Work Canada in recently released research based on 66,000 Trust Index survey responses from 300 Canadian organizations. This is one of the largest sample sizes of employee perspectives on community investment ever studied.

The Business Case for Giving Back highlights the connection between corporate involvement in the community and key business metrics, including employees’ long-term commitment to the organization, positive brand promotion by employees, employees going above and beyond, and employees feeling that they make a difference at work. 

The findings provide undeniable proof of the increased benefits to businesses and showcase tangible ways to create a corporate community investment program that improves employee engagement.

When people “feel good about the way my organization contributes to community," they are:

  • 18 percent more likely to stay: “I want to work here for a long time.”
  • 45 percent more likely to be brand ambassadors: “I’m proud to tell people I work here.” 
  • 83 percent more likely to put in more effort: “People are willing to give extra to get the job done.”
  • 57 percent more likely to feel valued: “I feel I make a difference here.” 

The research also looked at companies in the top versus bottom quartile on community investment, defined based on average employee responses to the survey statement, “I feel good about the way my organization contributes to community." Top quartile companies enjoy the following associated business benefits:

  • 13 percent voluntary turnover in top quartile companies (versus 23 percent in bottom quartile).
  • 80 qualified applicants per position in top quartile companies (versus 61 in bottom quartile)
  • 19 percent revenue growth in top quartile companies (versus 16 percent in bottom quartile)
  • 72 percent introduced new methods in the past year (versus 54percent in the bottom quartile)

Employees give higher ratings to companies that involve them meaningfully in community 

Companies that involve their employees in giving back got the highest ranking by employees and the highest business outcomes illustrated above. Although there is no one right way to build it, a strong community investment program begins with a corporate commitment to sharing time, talent and money with the community. 

Here’s what the highest rated businesses did differently than other organizations:

Sharing time 

Best workplaces for giving back: 90 percent give their employees paid time off to volunteer, ranging from four to 100 hours per year, with 16 hours a year being the most common amount of paid time off.

Other organizations: Half offer paid time off to volunteer, 32 percent offer a set limit and 18 percent offer it on an ad-hoc basis.

How leading companies share time: 

  • Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas gives its employees five paid days off to volunteer each year and posts volunteer opportunities on its Intranet.
  • When Cisco employees volunteer on their own time, the information technology company supports them by donating $10 to the employee’s approved, chosen charity for every volunteer hour. 

Sharing talent 

Best workplaces for giving back: 83 percent align their community investment efforts with their unique products or skills to maximize employee motivation and community impact.

Other organizations: Only 18 percent align their community investment efforts with their unique products or skills.

How leading companies share talent

  • At accounting services company Grant Thornton, teams across the country organize volunteer tax clinics every January and February for community members who need assistance but can’t afford to pay for professional support.
  • Homebuilder Trico Homes partnered with the Chiniki Nation to help restore 159 homes that were badly damaged in a 2013 flood in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This evolved into a long-term Renewable Energy Project that will create employment, skills development and revenue for the Chiniki Nation.

Sharing money 

Best workplaces for giving back: 100 percent match employee donations or donate money or in-kind services to community organizations.

Other organizations: 60 percent match employee donations or donate money or in-kind services to community organizations.

How leading companies share money: 

  • ATB Financial matches donations to causes in Alberta through ATB Cares. People can donate to any registered charity in Alberta at ATBcares.com, with ATB matching 15 percent of every dollar donated. In 2018, ATB, its customers and its employees donated $4.8 million to local charities.
  • Medical technologies firm Stryker donates millions of dollars’ worth of medical devices and equipment to overseas humanitarian missions and lends or donates equipment to surgeons on aid visits to developing countries.

Boost employee engagement: Conversation-starters to ensure your giving back programs speak to employees

As you consider your organization’s community commitments and programs alongside these findings, you may be trying to determine your next step in advancing your activities in ways that create better employee engagement. The most productive conversations include multiple departments, such as human resources, corporate responsibility and communications, along with senior leadership and external stakeholders and, of course, employees. 

Start with the following questions:

  • What do we consider success for our community investment program?
  • What would employees consider success?
  • How do employees want to be involved?
  • What indicators will tell us if our programs are resonating with employees?
  • What is our program missing? What outcomes would justify increasing the budget?
  • How can we show employees that we value the time they take away from their work to support the community?

For more information, read the full report, The Business Case for Giving Back. The report was produced in partnership with the Corporate Community Engagement Council (formerly the Corporate Council on Volunteering) and with the support of CIBC, Deloitte, RBC, Symcor and TD Bank.

About Elizabeth Dove: As director of corporate citizenship, Elizabeth Dove is Volunteer Canada’s organizational lead on supporting companies in their employee/stakeholder community engagement programs. She convenes the Corporate Council on Volunteering, leads the consulting practice, and collaborates with companies and nonprofits to create thought-leadership on CSR practices that provide benefit to communities, businesses, their employees and other stakeholders. 

About Alison Grenier: Alison Grenier is Head of Culture & Research for Great Place to Work Canada.  With a decade of experience studying the Best Workplaces, Alison leverages GPTW’s unparalleled data library to uncover emerging workplace trends and insights. 

Image credit: ray sangga kusuma/Unsplash

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Volunteer Canada provides national leadership and expertise on volunteerism to increase participation, quality, and diversity of volunteer experiences.

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