The effects of corporate volunteering can go far beyond merely doing good or spontaneous acts of help. There is a reason that over 90% of Fortune 500 companies have integrated a volunteer program into their operations. Studies are continuing to show that by subsidizing employees’ involvement with community service, businesses can stand out in a myriad of ways. Unlike with passive monetary donations, corporate volunteering can be harnessed, developed, and finetuned to be a strategic tool for differentiating your company from the crowd.
The Civic 50
The Civic 50 awards provide a framework for good corporate citizenship and showcase how committed companies with U.S. revenues of $1 billion or more are moving social impact, civic engagement and community to the center of their business. Since 2011, The Civic 50 has provided a standard for superior corporate citizenship and showcased how companies can use resources, time and skills to improve the quality of life in the communities where they do business.
The Civic 50 survey and recognition includes four pillars for engagement:
- Investment – How extensively and strategically a company applies its resources to community engagement, including employee time, skills, cash, in-kind giving and leadership.
- Integration – How a company’s engagement program supports their business interests, and integrates into business functions.
- Institutionalization – How a company supports community engagement through its institutional policies, systems, and incentives.
- Impact measurement – How a company isolates, measures, and finetunes the social and business impact of its community engagement program.
The four pillars for engagement are far from distinct entities as the continued success and uptake of a corporate volunteer program is intrinsically linked to these pillars being woven together throughout every facet of a company’s operations. Toyota Financial Solutions is recognized as a Sector Leader for Financials by The Civic 50 in 2020. Elena Sacca Smith, the Group Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility, notes that “we are moving the needle on manager perception on the impact of our work beyond just ‘it’s the right thing to do’ or ‘it helps people.'” “They [management] are finally starting to understand that it [CSR] is a critical component of our business, specifically with regards to H.R. goals.” Consider how your company harnesses the power of corporate volunteering to maximize the potential of your employees to the advantage of your business.
Corporate citizenship is about marketing to your clients, but it is also for recruiting new talent. Social impact has become an essential point of differentiation for employers during the recruitment process. This becomes particularly evident when hiring millennials, where competition to attract this labor force can be fierce. In 2013, LinkedIn reported that of their ten million members, 60% of those noting their volunteer efforts were millennials. As millennials lead the way in showcasing their volunteer efforts as a point of professional identity, businesses will have to keep up and follow suit to be competitive.
Robert Half identified a similar trend with their own survey, which found that the lure of firms that highlighted their philanthropic efforts was incredibly strong for the youngest generations in the workforce. They found that most respondents aged 18 to 34 were enticed by organizations involved with charitable outreach. As Robert Half’s community relations manager states, “Many job seekers include the charitable activities of a prospective employer among their priorities when making a decision on a job offer and as competition for talent heats up, volunteering can offer you and your company an edge”.
Current research has also backed up this claim. An article published in an NBER Working Paper Series in September 2019 was done on ‘what effect does being community-minded have on employee recruitment and productivity?’ In this instance, researchers set up an online company and found that they got 24% more people applying for the job when CSR was mentioned compared to the control group. Perhaps even more interesting, there was a 27% increase in pay expectation for those that didn’t have any mention of CSR in the recruitment process.
The effects of good corporate citizenship go far beyond the recruitment phase. The same NBER Working Paper found that the CSR hires were more productive than their control group counterparts: they produced more per hour, slacked off less, and had 25% lower per-unit production costs. This is empirical evidence that a company can be more competitive by allocating funds to integrating CSR into their workplace. Moreover, a separate study done by OfficeTeam found that 61% of U.S. employees believe that taking part in charitable activities outside of the office enhances their wellness, resulting in them being more effective while at work.
This phenomenon doesn’t seem to be limited to US employees. A 2018 study carried out in Slovenia found that employees are more engaged and have higher support and autonomy from their supervisors and coworkers when employers implement volunteering programs. International companies like Deloitte, a 2020 The Civic 50 honoree, guarantee their employees 48 hours a year of paid time to volunteer. Perhaps more importantly, their management motivates and encourage employees to take part.
The benefits of corporate volunteering can be seen through all levels of employment. A senior 3M manager, collaborating with D.C. Water & Sewerage on a project, stated that “Our client organization made us realize, as leaders, we cannot be concerned about only our performance. To truly be a leader, we need to accept leadership in our communities as well. Had it not been for this initiative, I don’t think I would have made this connection”.
On the other latter end of the career spectrum, some companies are using their employee volunteer programs to prepare and ease their employees into retirement. For example, AXA offers their employees the option of taking part in paid volunteer programs with their charitable partners for six to thirty-six months within three years of retirement. Employees and management that feel they are working for a company with a true social conscience are likely to remain more engaged and enthusiastic throughout their careers.
We need corporate volunteering to invest in measuring the impact, and then the numbers can inevitably shift the mindset from corporate volunteering being simply for public relations to being a valuable human resource management tool. Leaders in CSR, such as Toyota Financial Services, have stated that they can prove that year on year they have increased their targets for employee retention and satisfaction, and much of this is due to supporting the relationship between their CSR and H.R. departments and recording the impacts. Corporate volunteering efforts will have a more robust application with measurement. If your company does not yet have the means to allocate resources to measurement, consider inviting academic institutions to your company for research as there is generally no financial outlay.
Hogan Lovells, an award-winning Civic 50 company, states that “When recruiting new talent, we weave citizenship into every step of the process. From the first introduction at job fairs or on our recruiting website, potential hires learn about our citizenship commitment through reports and case studies, and our recruitment team is well-versed in conversations about our citizenship program and expectations. Once welcomed to the firm, new hires meet with a member of the citizenship team to ask questions and learn about next steps for getting engaged.” Volunteering is about doing good, but it is also about being a differentiating point for both job seekers and employers to stand out in a positive way.