From the Blog:

How your company volunteer program can help you recruit and retain employees

The benefits of volunteer work are clear when it comes to furthering an important cause, helping those less fortunate and working to build a stronger society. And anyone who volunteers can tell you about the improvement in their OWN well-being. We know it feels good to give back, but the American Psychological Association found that people who volunteer even live longer.

Recent research reveals the upside of corporate volunteer programs – and it’s REALLY good news (and great timing, as April 6-13 is National Volunteer Week). Here are five benefits that resonated with us:

1. Recruiting and Retaining Millennials

The latest generation is sharp, quick, agile and a force to be reckoned with in the digital and social media space. In short – you want these people on your team. They’re also a benevolent bunch and expect volunteering to play a role in their career. In fact, in 2011, Deloitte’s Volunteer Impact Survey revealed that, for 61% of millennials, a corporate volunteer program is a deciding factor between comparable job offers.

2. Leadership and Team Building

Working together for a good cause often helps develop qualities and skills that are great for corporate culture. The UnitedHealth Group’s Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study found that 87 percent of people who volunteered in the last year developed teamwork and people skills, while 81 percent agreed that volunteering together strengthens relationships among colleagues.

3. Increased Employee Engagement

Here’s a stat that surprised us: an organization’s reputation for social responsibility is the third most important driver of employee engagement. In fact, UnitedHealth Group’s study found that four out of five people who volunteered in the past year say they feel better about their employer because of the company’s involvement in volunteer activities. And the 2011 Deloitte study found that employees who participate in corporate volunteer programs were twice as likely to report being “very satisfied” with the progression of their career and rate their corporate culture as “very positive.”

4. Healthier Employees

We mentioned earlier that those who volunteer often live longer. And this may be why: studies show that volunteering lowers depression levels, stress levels and the risk for heart disease. Indeed, UnitedHealth Group found that 78 percent of people who volunteered in the last year reported lower stress levels, and 76 percent say that volunteering has made them feel healthier overall.

5. Bigger, Better Bottom Line

If company volunteer activities lead to employee retention, a positive work culture, increased engagement and a healthier workforce – well, then it shouldn’t surprise you that volunteering can also contribute to the bottom line. In 2010, 64 percent of executives surveyed by Deloitte said corporate citizenship creates a tangible contribution to the bottom line. That same year, Towers Watson reported that companies with the highest levels of employee engagement see more than a 19 percent average annual increase in their operating income.

Volunteer Activity Ideas

Now that you know the benefits of company volunteer programs, how do you sell employees on these perks? Don’t worry – 73 percent of employees wish their companies would do more to support a cause. And 75 percent want to get involved with those efforts! Here are some ways to make that happen:

  • Day of Caring. Designate a weekday when employees can knock off work (with pay) to volunteer as part of a corporate team. It could be painting a mural at a local school, cleaning up a community park or serving meals at a homeless shelter. If your company isn’t aligned with a particular cause, choose one that fits your corporate culture and values.
  • Skill-based Volunteering. Offer a volunteer matching program where employees can donate their professional expertise to at-risk children or underprivileged adults.
  • Matching Gift Program. Ask employees to report the time they volunteer outside the office – then match those hours with a cash donation to the cause.
  • Charity Walk. Form a company team for a local fundraising walk. Build excitement by providing team T-shirts and hosting a social event (breakfast, lunch, picnic) before or after the event.