Guest Post by John Gower
Employee giving programs may be thought of mostly as charitable or seasonal altruism such as food drives at Christmas, but they are also a significant part of an organization’s work culture and identity. Here are just a few of the ways that corporate giving boosts morale.
- Identifying emotionally with their company – Employee volunteer programs can help workers identify emotionally with their organizations, because they experience a collective commitment to a higher purpose or cause. Though it may seem like a waste of money or time, encouraging employees to volunteer at a local charity or community center has been shown by research to help employees bond with the company and with their co-workers. Research from Gallup has shown that the majority of American employees are not engaged in their workplaces. This means they are not emotionally connected to their work or in their relationships with co-workers. Disengaged workers tend to be less productive, take more time off work due to illness more often. The annual costs in lost productivity, absenteeism, and low morale are counted in billions of dollars.
- Enhancing Company Culture - A Deloitte survey focused on workplace volunteers found employees who participate in such programs were more likely to rate their company culture as positive. They were also more likely to feel proud and loyal to their company. These feelings of pride and loyalty are directly tied to employee engagement. The more positive a worker feels about their place of employment, generally the more committed, productive and healthy they are.
- Social Interaction – Interacting with volunteers on various sites may open the door to future openings within the volunteer organization. Employees find kinship with volunteers who are impressed that the company lets their workers contribute to a larger purpose. Hiring from a pool of volunteers at charity events may result in more successful employment, because the volunteers have already established a positive connection with some of the company’s employees and have knowledge of the organization, instead of being a job applicant who is motivated by money or careerism. (These are not bad incentives, but emotional connection is a big part of employee engagement.)
- A Sense of Belonging – Another important part of it is how well the applicant fits the work culture. If they experience an overlap between their own personal value of giving through volunteering and the company’s commitment to community support, they are already partly onboard, and could be a very good match. Company culture can be so important today, because it is associated with happier and more productive workers. Also, employees that fit well into a company’s culture tend to stay in their positions longer, thereby reducing the high cost of employee turnover. Replacing an employee can cost a company tens of thousands of dollars in lost productivity, recruiting and training, if it is necessary. High turnover also reduces employee morale which can be a severe drag on productivity as well.
- Learning New Skills – Sometimes volunteering outside the office requires an employee to learn new behaviors, procedures or technology. Once they have learned something new, they may be able to incorporate it into their existing job.
Ultimately, it may be that what people crave in a society where individuality is overemphasized, is human connection. Volunteering to do some good with co-workers you may not know very well, could be just the thing to create that connection.
John Gower is an analyst for NerdWallet, a personal finance website dedicated to helping you save money with tips on everything from corporate giving to the best online stock trading.