Here’s an idea whose wisdom some business owners might question:
Give each of your employees the opportunity to do several hours of volunteer work each month for a local charitable or civic cause on paid company time.
But wouldn’t that possibly reduce productivity and require adjustments to work schedules? Why would any company want to do that?
The fact is, many companies, large and small, do exactly that, and for excellent reasons. Community volunteerism under corporate auspices has been found to impart benefits to employer and employee alike. For example:
Development of new skills. Working as a volunteer for a worthy cause gives employees an opportunity to develop new skills and become involved in new experiences. These often include event management, fundraising, team building and managing diverse groups. Equally important is that these skills and experiences emanate from real-world situations as opposed to hypothetical training sessions.
Natural networking. Volunteering enables employees to expand their contacts, some of whom may become prospective clients or customers. And because your company volunteers have a shared interest with the other volunteers, the cultivation of these contacts occurs in a more natural setting than it would in conventional networking groups.
Goodwill within the community. Given a choice, most people prefer to give their business to companies known to be good corporate citizens. In some cases, entities even require their vendors to demonstrate some form of corporate citizenship. Therefore, it makes good business sense for a company to be perceived in that favorable light. Furthermore, helping to strengthen the communities where a company is located makes equally good business sense.
Some businesses organize and sponsor companywide volunteer efforts. Businesses also may allow employees to organize their own efforts on an individual basis, with the employer supporting the efforts financially or allowing employees to take time off for community involvement.
Employee engagement. Helping others, especially in one’s own community, is a source of pride and good feeling. Many people in the business world have a cause of particular interest to them. If their companies support such involvement, employees will feel good about themselves and their employers. Such positive feelings, in turn, lead to increased motivation and engagement.
Of course, there are common sense guidelines to follow. If a charitable cause is involved, employers should have a due diligence process in place to make sure the charity is legitimate. For civic causes, a company may want its employees to avoid involvement with controversial projects under company auspices.
But the modest administrative effort involved is worth the trouble. Companies that enable, support or participate in volunteer efforts are encouraging employee engagement and contact within the community, which can result in higher – not lower – productivity and new business opportunities. They also are enhancing their reputations for corporate citizenship. Last, but definitely not least, they are contributing to building a better world.