Celebrating National Volunteer Week: Three Ways To Engage And Inspire Employees To Make A Lasting Impact

By:  Kiva Starr, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility & Devika Narayan, Senior Account Executive, Corporate Responsibility

Increasingly, today’s diverse workforce is looking for employers to provide purpose in the workplace and to help them make a difference at work, at home and in the community. And, for good reason, more companies are taking notice: highly engaged employees are 38 percent more likely to have above-average productivity and 87 percent less likely to leave the organization.

In the midst of National Volunteer Week (April 23-29), it is an important moment in time for companies to reflect on how to best lend their time, talent, voice and support to the communities they operate in. For businesses, it is a chance to stop and reflect on the year-round opportunities they provide employees to make a positive impact. But don’t be fooled: while volunteerism is an important part of a company’s employee engagement strategy, there is much more you should be doing to unlock greater engagement across your organization.

Only planning a day of service or providing a few hours of paid time off for volunteerism per year isn’t going to cut it anymore. According to the 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study, employees want companies to go deeper in terms of volunteer opportunities offered – whether it’s a quick activity they can do at their desks or an after-hours opportunity they can do on their own time. And nearly three-quarters (71%) want their employers to provide opportunities for them to help make a positive impact on the company’s social and environmental commitments.

Today, more companies are making strides in extending beyond just volunteerism to engage employees around the issues they care about the most. Best-in-class organizations are focusing on the following employee engagement trends to deepen the impact:

  • Creating Deeper Engagement: Today’s employees are seeking to leverage their skills and knowledge when engaging in more immersive programs at work, at home and in the community. In an effort to offer a spectrum of engagement opportunities, leading companies are creating more robust employee engagement experiences to satisfy employees who serve as champions for their company’s social impact story. Credit Suisse’s Global Citizens Program, for example, allows employees to volunteer with the bank’s microfinance and education partners in local communities around the world, utilizing their skills and expertise to help the organizations grow and succeed.
  • Simplifying the Issues: When it comes to CSR, some issues are easier to explain than others.  To get employees invested, brands are focusing on simple calls-to-action to make complex issues relatable and digestible. For example, instead of tackling the immense scale of the global water crisis, VMware developed an online gamification platform that focuses on inspiring employees to reduce their own water consumption in their California-based offices and in the surrounding local community. The initiative uses Bki’s WaterGenius app to track employees’ progress toward various goals and recognizes participants who reach them most quickly. By simplifying the issue to a personal level and providing employees with easy calls-to-action and fun incentives around personal water reduction goals, VMware employees saved nearly 1 million gallons of water.
  • Inspire Action with Personalized Impact Goals: Companies are learning that oftentimes the best way to operate more sustainably is to ask employees to play a part – and that personalized performance goals make a big difference. Virgin Atlantic saw this first hand when it educated pilots on what behaviors they could do to save fuel. The pilots saved approximately 21,000 tons of carbon across 40,000 flights. And interestingly, the pilots who were given personalized performance goals to meet after receiving educational tips performed the best, revealing employees are motivated by having clear goals to reach.

National Volunteer Week is just one moment in time for companies to reflect on the engagement opportunities they offer their workforce. Simple volunteerism is now table stakes, and as the workplace continues to evolve, so do employees’ expectations. Companies that respond to this demand with thoughtful, innovative employee engagement programs will reap the benefits of a loyal and productive employee base that is ready and willing to go the extra mile in advancing the company and society at large.