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:
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.
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.
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:
Hattie E. James, MBA, is a writer and researcher.