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One Easy Way to Increase Employee Engagement

Human Resources icon5 min read


Company leaders are (rightly) preoccupied with the buzzy concept of “corporate culture” these days. While highly-funded tech companies provide splashy benefits packages, it can be tough for smaller organizations or companies in traditional industries to even think of how to compete.

But it turns out that wild getaway parties and beer taps aren’t the key to a healthy, thriving company culture. Your employees (particularly millennials and the newly-graduating Generation Z) aren’t looking for what you can give them; they’re looking for how they can help give back.

That’s why one of the strongest ways to improve your engagement and retention rates is also one of the simplest: providing volunteer opportunities in the workplace.

Why volunteering?

We’ve long known that giving our time, skills, or money can have a positive effect on not only the community we’re helping, but also ourselves. Studies have shown that volunteering can have major health benefits. Working to help an important cause makes people feel more connected to their communities and fosters a more positive outlook on life, resulting in decreased depression, anxiety, and stress levels.

But it’s not just great for mental health; volunteering can optimize physical health too. Multiple studies reveal that adults who volunteer on a regular basis are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. And these are just the personal benefits.

When your employees are mentally and physically healthy, it helps create a stronger organization as well. Providing volunteer opportunities allows employees to bond with each other in unique situations and across teams. As new connections are made and interpersonal tensions are put in perspective, creative problem solving and productivity can increase.

Staff will also be more likely to have a positive view of employers who provide volunteer opportunities. According to Deloitte’s Volunteer IMPACT survey 2017, 70% of respondents agree that companies who sponsor volunteer activities are a more positive work environment. They also believe volunteer activities are more likely to boost employee morale than company-sponsored happy hours. Did you catch that? Nearly three-fourths of employees believe volunteering together boosts morale more than drinking together does.

In previous IMPACT surveys, Deloitte has found that over half of millennial employees who volunteer report more company loyalty, job satisfaction, and pride in their workplace, and are more likely to recommend their employer to a friend. Millennial employees who take part in a company’s volunteer program are twice as likely to rate their work culture as “very positive,” compared to those who don’t volunteer.

Whether you’re working at a brand new startup pushing to get your product to market, a Fortune 500 enterprise machine, or anywhere between, employers should consider starting to provide opportunities for employees to get involved in volunteer efforts. It’s one small change that has ripple effects for the entire corporate culture, increasing wellbeing, morale, productivity, and employee satisfaction all at once.  

Kick off your employee volunteer program with Giving Tuesday

If your company doesn’t currently have a volunteer program (or a larger Corporate Social Responsibility program), Giving Tuesday is a great place to start.

Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving that began as a social media movement in 2012. In the thick of giant holiday shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the 92nd Street Y in New York City decided it was time to shift the focus from getting to giving.

While a lot of the giving activity happens online, more and more companies are opting to use the day as a way for their staff to give back to local organizations. Here are some ideas your company can use to give back on Giving Tuesday:

  • Spend a few hours (or the whole day) at a local food bank or shelter. These organizations can always use extra hands this time of year.
  • Host a food, school supply, or toy drive for a few weeks leading up to GivingTuesday. Offer prizes and incentives for a little friendly competition in the office.
  • Host a blood drive at your office. Sweeten the deal by offering a long lunch break to  employees who donate.
  • Find opportunities for service around your community like park clean-up, reading with school children, and more.
  • Visit community schools to offer workshops on careers and skills in the workplace.
  • Get employees and customers involved with a gift matching campaign. (Read this article from GivingTuesday.org for tips on running a donation matching program!)

This list is just a sampling of some ways your staff can spend time together, using their talents and energy to give back to a cause that matters to your company. Be creative, and look for local organizations to partner with that may need an extra set of hands around the holidays. Don’t stop after Giving Tuesday is over, either! Be sure to capitalize on the excitement to keep a robust volunteer program in your workplace year-round.

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