Is your company plugged in to community service?

Employees who volunteer their services to nonprofits bring benefits back to the workplace


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Creating a company culture in which employees are highly engaged often involves opportunities for employees to participate in community service on company time.

When we think of volunteer work, we often picture people helping nonprofits during their personal time. However, companies who incorporate these altruistic activities as an added employee benefit help create a positive environment of giving, which results in direct and indirect benefits for everyone involved.

Engaged employees are typically employees who have regular opportunities at work to learn and grow, which are also benefits they receive while participating in community service. The personal benefits employees experience while volunteering their services are brought back to the workplace and become assets to their co-workers, supervisors and employers. Additionally, employers benefit directly by creating positive relationships with the nonprofit groups in their community and helping the people those organizations serve.

Here are some scenarios to consider:

1. Companies that do not support local nonprofits and do not allow employees to volunteer during company time. These businesses are missing valuable opportunities to contribute to the community, set a good example for employees and support employee participation. Too often, these businesses tend to be run with a drill sergeant mentality, believing that employees who stay hyper-focused on their work will result in increased productivity; hence, more company profit.

Typically, they are not aware of the countless tangible and intangible ways volunteering can benefit many aspects of their business, including their bottom line. Employees in this type of company culture tend to feel constricted and employee turnover is often higher compared to companies who support and encourage community service.

2. Companies that support local nonprofits through donations but don’t allow employee involvement. Companies that contribute to the local nonprofit community are definitely providing much-needed financial resources, but taking the next step by inviting employees to get involved can positively contribute to employee engagement.

Otherwise, the community support is not truly a team effort, leaving employees out of this important equation. Kudos given to the business from the nonprofit community don’t extend to the employees — just to the company itself.

3. Companies that support local nonprofits and offer paid time for community service but give employees resistance when they attempt to participate during work hours. This is typically a problem that lies with the employees’ direct supervisors. Supervisors are commonly concerned with maximizing productivity and view employees who are away from the workplace as providing zero productivity. However, these leaders are likely not looking at the big picture — a company culture that truly supports community service results in a significant return on investment for the company in the long run.

4. Companies that support local non-profits, offer paid time for employees to participate in community service, and positively encourage employees to participate. Think of this as the corporate trifecta of community service. This winning combination is commonly found at companies voted the best places to work. And what company wouldn’t want to hold this distinct honor? These are the same companies whose employees are the organization’s best advertising, as they are much more likely to speak highly of the company to others, especially when comparing employee benefits to those who work elsewhere. Word-of-mouth is priceless.

Here are some of the many benefits companies receive by embracing volunteer work:

 • Teamwork: Community service provides wonderful opportunities for your employees to work together, including employees who typically do not work together directly in the office.

 • Employee development: The more opportunities employees are exposed to, the more well-rounded they will be, resulting in a staff that is more valuable to your organization.

 • New relationships with local business leaders: Successful nonprofits stay plugged in to leaders in the business community and companies benefit from staying connected.

 • Promotional opportunities: Sponsoring nonprofit events, making donations and volunteering provide opportunities to promote your business through event marketing, print and online media and word-of-mouth. Think of a group of employees doing good deeds while wearing your company’s logo, and how that spreads your message.

 • Increased employee productivity: Employees want to feel purposeful. Allowing them to make choices regarding volunteer work, as well as supporting their efforts, will come back to the employer in increased employee engagement and productivity.

 • Reduced employee turnover: Companies that provide benefits to employees that help them grow and feel good about themselves tend to have lower turnover rates than companies that limit employee involvement.

Where to start? Survey your employees regarding the local causes they are passionate about and what work they would find valuable, exciting and fulfilling. Consider how much time they would need. Also, invite a few employees to research the current needs of these valuable nonprofits and the ways your company can best contribute.

After implementing a new plan for a period of time, notice the tangible and intangible results and survey your employees to document the value from their important point of view! 

Carol Phillips, author of “52 Simple Ways to Health,” is a Manchester-based health and wellness expert. She can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

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