It’s that time of year when CSR budgets are being drawn for the year, and the unfortunate reality is that many companies will come up short.
While investing in corporate philanthropy – particularly employee-centered programs like volunteering and giving – is vital to remaining competitive in a business world that increasingly prioritizes good corporate citizenship, too many businesses still undervalue the bottom-line benefits of these programs. Executives who dismiss the importance of employee volunteer and giving programs shrug them off as “nice to have” charity cases (literally), more useful for nonprofit recipients than the corporate doers and donors. What they don’t realize is the direct connection between employee volunteering and giving and a host of tangible business benefits that include employee engagement, retention, recruitment, skills-growth, leadership training and team-building.
There’s not enough space in one blog to address each benefit one by one, but let’s talk about the connection between employee volunteering and employee engagement for starters. It’s a link that is particularly acute with millennials. According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, millennials who stay at their jobs for more than five years are passionate about their work and feel bonded with their co-workers by a belief in their company’s mission and purpose. This report notes that millennials want to volunteer together and feel connected through a shared passion for their company’s cause work, ideally through initiatives that help their surrounding community. Culture is everything; for millennials, the company’s philosophy around giving back must be integrated into its core mission.
Many of the same things that keep millennials at their jobs are what drew them there in the first place. For these young professionals, one of the very top considerations for applying for a job is the company’s work culture, involvement with causes, office environment, and attention to diversity and HR standards. According to the study, companies that are adapting their CSR strategies to attract millennials, and specifically incorporating causes into their culture, are more successful at attracting and retaining millennials as employees.
America’s Charities points out that most of the reasons employees leave their jobs are actually something employers can control. HumanResources.about.com cites the following as 10 critical reasons why employees quit:
- Bad or nonexistent relationship with boss
- Bored and unchallenged by the work itself
- Lack of relationships/friendship with co-workers
- Opportunities to use skills and abilities
- Contribution of work to the organization’s business goals
- Autonomy and independence
- Meaningfulness of work
- Organization’s financial stability
- Overall corporate culture
- Management’s recognition of employee job performance
Volunteer and giving programs deliver myriad solutions to these complaints, including camaraderie, a strong corporate culture and meaningful work, employee recognition and even increased financial stability.
Beyond employee engagement, let’s consider skills-growth. When companies spend time and money improving the skills of their employees, they send a message to workers that they want to invest in their future. And in return, companies expect to see increases in job performance, organizational commitment and job satisfaction from their workers.
I’ve observed before that employee training and development often focuses on hard skills; the basic proficiencies needed to perform one’s job duties. But good employee training also generally covers soft skills such as teamwork, leadership, problem solving and public speaking – the unquantifiable abilities necessary to give companies a competitive edge. This doesn’t come cheap: according to human resources think tank Bersin and Associates, the average training cost per employee in 2010 was $1200, with most of that money going towards developing soft skills such as management and leadership abilities.
Corporate volunteering and corporate giving programs not only help fulfill a company’s CSR mandate; they also offer workers a unique opportunity to participate in teambuilding efforts and develop job-related skills. On top of that, these programs are a bargain. According to the Trends Of Excellence In Employee Volunteering Series by Points of Light Institute, a company will spend about $416 on each person that participates in an employee volunteer program. That’s significantly lower than the $1200 that it costs per employee for one training program.
So if soft skills are as vital as hard skills – and pricier to boot – where can employees acquire and cultivate these talents without breaking the bank? Employee volunteer programs offer one excellent channel.
Those who invest in their employee volunteer and giving programs will see the fruits of that investment, and then some. So CEOs, CSR leaders, HR managers, and anyone in charge of employees: as you sit down with that annual budget in the next few weeks, don’t skimp on the line item that always gives more than it receives.
Ryan Scott, Contributor