May 14, 2014

Volunteering - It’s a Culture

It starts at the top

Volunteering has always been a part of my life, so naturally I have created a culture at The Applied Companies that supports that activity. It is the right thing to do. The business benefits are numerous too, although it is not with dollars in my eyes that we move forward. If money is your motivation for participating on volunteerism, your efforts will fall flat. We have experienced positive outcomes including increased employee productivity; lower absenteeism; higher retention; more successful recruitment rates; greater skilled workforce; improved attitudes and teamwork; overall happier employees that are proud of their company; presence in the community; advertising and outreach through sponsorships; perception that we are a socially responsible partner; and  professional networking. One of the most unexpected results is that volunteering opens up a dialogue with like-minded individuals which open doors to business opportunities with people who match your values. That’s huge.

How to choose what is important with so many options

As a best practice, define both a budget and focus. Create a corporate social responsibility statement based on your company values and perhaps even name the types of activities in which you participate, even going so far as to naming the exact organizations you will support. Incorporating these activities into your company’s vision will strengthen your commitment as a leader as well as increase the employee participation rate. Keep it flexible and evaluate other options as they present themselves. For example, we just joined It’s My Community Store in order to save money on office supplies and in doing so the organization donates a percentage of the sale to a charity of our choice, which we can change monthly!

How to encourage your employees to give back

Promote people who volunteer over an employee who does not. Promote volunteering as career and skills development. Create opportunities for large-scale volunteer events or projects through team building. Invite non-profits that you support – and those you don’t – to come and give a presentation to your employees about their mission and opportunities to donate time and money. At The Applied Companies, we provide 40 hours of PAID volunteer service to a charity of one’s choice. Interestingly enough, only 20 percent of our employees participate – and that’s ok! We know that people are volunteering more than they are claiming. Simply having this policy stimulates employee engagement and contributes to winning competitions like the Best Places to Work.

We literally “talk” to our employees more about volunteering than our health benefits. Do you?

Written by Jim Annis President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

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