Days of Service: Unlocking a Key to Employee Engagement

Company-wide days of service are a staple of engaging employees in volunteerism. Companies around the world like PwC*, Samsung, JetBlue and Timberland* kicked off the summer season by hosting volunteer service events to rally employees around a common cause, even setting records. And employees are embracing it. In fact, our 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study shows that 67 percent of employees want employers to offer company-wide days of service.

Earlier this month, Cone hosted its own annual day of service, where our New York and Boston offices joined together at the Charles River Esplanade to beautify a stretch of land along the river in partnership with the Esplanade Association. When planning your organizations' day of service, keep in mind four lessons we learned at our own annual service event.

More than half (53%) of employees want to share photos, videos and experiences on social media. Find ways to encourage posting during your day of service, like through the use of a hashtag.

1.    Build internal ambassadors: Today's employees want to get engaged and invested in a company's CR commitments. In fact, 71 percent want their company to provide opportunities for them to help make a positive impact on the company's social and environmental commitments. This is an opportunity that cannot be ignored in planning a day of service. At Cone, our human resources team tapped employees across the agency to plan our 2016 event –from selecting a nonprofit partner to organizing the day's activities. Instantly, this type of engagement creates a band of ambassadors who are invested and willing to spread the word across the organization to build excitement for the event.

2.    Make it meaningful: Employees want to make a difference to causes personal to them. As an agency headquartered in Boston, Cone decided to make a local impact by volunteering with The Esplanade Association to beautify land along the Charles River by removing invasive plants that have overrun the ecosystem. At the end of the day, employees stepped back and saw the difference made in their own backyard. As today's employees view employers as facilitators of their own philanthropic and volunteerism efforts, companies should prioritize issues and causes that are relevant across their footprint, but flexible enough to make a meaningful impact in each location.

3.    Avoid a one-activity-fits-all approach: When it comes to volunteerism, employees crave options. More than half of employees prefer activities that are a balance between skills they use every day and skills that are not related to their job – meaning companies can't check the box with just one activity. At our day of service, beautification of the Charles River took many forms. While some employees rolled up their sleeves to weed invasive species, others flexed their creative muscles to paint. Cone also offers an "Hours for Good" program that encourages and supports staff to pursue volunteer opportunities, offering employees four hours of paid time off per month to engage with a nonprofit of their choice. By providing further opportunities to partner with nonprofits, employees can customize the experience with an activity that's right for them, whether they prefer skills-based opportunities or not.  

4.    Highlight executive commitment: Employees today want to work for a company that has strong values and clear corporate responsibility commitments. Before a service event, don't miss the opportunity to reinforce how service is valued at all levels of the organization. Prior to our annual day of service, employees at Cone are reminded by leadership of the importance of taking a step away from work responsibilities for a day to honor and celebrate our community. Reinforcing the value of service starts at the top – and builds a culture of engaged, passionate and fulfilled employees.

While company-wide days of service remain a staple of volunteerism, today's employees want more. More than half of employees are interested in alternative models, such as micro-volunteerism (63%), paid service leave (61%) and after-hours opportunities (58%). To build a more dedicated and fulfilled workforce, companies should approach volunteerism with flexibility and options. To learn more about the new world of employee engagement, download our employee engagement research or test your employee engagement know-how with our 10-question quiz.

-    Catalina Quintana, Account Executive, CR Strategy

*Cone client


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