Other than quick morning greetings or lunchtime conversations, how do you connect with your employees or colleagues on a personal level? A few days throughout the year dedicated to team-building activities or corporate outings provide an excellent context for developing relationships within your company. One activity in particular is gaining momentum: corporate volunteering. As companies are seeking ways to invest in charitable causes and to establish corporate social responsibility, corporate volunteering provides a way to integrate these goals with facilitating employee relationships. The benefits to these volunteer projects are multi-layered: the positive effects that start within your company reach outward to your community presence, your impression on investors and shareholders, and your corporate image.
On an internal level, volunteering provides an opportunity for professionals to step out of the office and to engage in an activity with their colleagues – one that does not involve deadlines or meetings, but which also has more structure and inclusion than an after-hours social outing between colleagues who have already formed friendships. The memories and results of team building activities last long after everyone has returned to their desks, whether staff demonstrated new ways of strategic thinking, colleagues worked together to solve an unusual problem, or an employee stepped up as a leader during a group challenge. And when the team building activity is a volunteer project, the participants can see clearly the results of their work and know that their performance had a purpose beyond a staff exercise.
Corporate volunteering also enables your company to connect with the local community. Volunteering is a two-way street: a charitable organization will benefit from the extra labour and will continue to progress toward its goals, while your company will engage with the community and present itself as a conscientious business. In addition, your employees too may appreciate the opportunity to make a difference within their community and meet new faces outside of work.
Finally, corporate volunteering can boost employee retention and company loyalty. A recent article in the Globe and Mail reveals research, which supports the case for active corporate engagement with social needs:
Potential employees view companies with strong community involvement as more attractive than those without. Employees who are able to access corporate-sponsored volunteer experiences report higher job satisfaction and a greater commitment to their company. And employees say that volunteer programs help enhance their leadership and professional skills.
“Helping Companies Do the Right Thing”
The Globe and Mail, January 26, 2012
The study proposes that employees generally view corporate volunteering as a constructive and positive experience, while companies clearly benefit from the skills and lessons that participants take away from the experience.
Many municipal or charitable organizations offer customized corporate volunteer events and opportunities. Here in Toronto, for example, Habitat for Humanity (one chapter of hundreds across Canada and the US) offers training and sessions for corporate teams, while the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) runs a Corporate Volunteer Program, which includes special events and renovation projects. In addition, many cities provide corporate volunteer opportunities in municipal parks, a great excuse to get out in the sun and fresh air with colleagues.
Company volunteer projects do not need to be intensive or time consuming. A couple hours of corporate charity work or even an optional staff volunteer day can make a significant difference – for staff relationships, skills and morale; for your company’s image and presence; and finally, for your local community.