The workplace is the ideal environment to promote volunteerism and recruit volunteers, whether activities involve the entire team or simply encouragement for individuals to engage in their communities. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service Volunteering in America, “The volunteering rate increased in 2009 to 26.8 percent, up from 26.4 percent in 2008.” The results of this national poll proved that the higher volunteer rates are among married women, who are employed, especially individuals working full time. A big percentage of these women are between the ages of 45 and 54. In 2009, states with higher unemployment rates were more likely to have lower volunteering rates.
In Hampton Roads, I think volunteer initiatives within companies seem to be strong, and the leadership is probably more equally matched between genders. This may be driven by our relatively low unemployment, positive influences of our military community and broad bank of non-profit organizations.
In our dental practice, working with patients gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction because I get to change and improve people’s lives. In the same manner, community involvement is important to me because this is the community that I call home, and I want it to be a better place. As a result of that philosophy, we seek like-minded employees for our team, people who are dedicated and passionate both in the office and in the community.
There are numerous potential benefits from encouraging your employees to volunteer. The most obvious is increasing employee morale, whether you plan opportunities to team together or simply recognize employees for their individual volunteer efforts. We have found that the opportunity to practice leadership and other skills by supporting a non-profit can be invaluable in our employees’ professional development. We typically select team activities, such as participating in the March of Dimes and Susan Komen walks/runs and hands-on participation in Children’s Dental Health Month. Most everyone enjoys the opportunity to volunteer as a group. The only real challenge I have faced in getting employees to participate is that in some cases our activities have taken time away from their families. For small businesses like ours, you may find that doing an activity occasionally which involves employees’ families and friends gives the balance which everyone appreciates. Besides that, everyone seems to enjoy interacting outside the workplace and feels good about giving back.
From discussions with peers across the country in the dental industry and through our consulting locally with small businesses, I have compiled the following benefits which may assist you to formalize or improve your community involvement program:
- Employees who are passionate about being involved in their communities are excellent ambassadors for your company. They give a face to your brand. Besides the positive impact on communities and stakeholder opinion, employee volunteerism can generate secondary benefits such as positive media coverage and great word-of-mouth about your business.
- Employee community involvement can also be used as a strategic HR tool for recruiting, retaining, and developing qualified and motivated talent.
- Work-life balance is a priority with younger generations today. Companies are positioning work-life balance as part of their company’s EVP (Employee Value Proposition).
- Community involvement offers employees both personal satisfaction and development. You may be helping them to experience a clearer match between corporate and their own personal values.
There are many opportunities in Hampton Roads to serve so you may ask where to begin to put together your own program. We began by asking our employees their interests and then researching the organizations that would give us opportunities for working as a team and for meeting needs related to our industry. The best results involve planning and attention to details by someone in your organization for each volunteer activity. It is also important to motivate employees during your staff meetings, get their feedback on activities, and recognize them for their efforts in leading or being involved in the volunteer activity
We also use our social media to promote the volunteer activities we are doing and provide additional support for the nonprofits. For example, to support the March of Dimes, we set up a promotion on Facebook for people to like our page and we would donate a $1 for every “like”. Such efforts reinforces to our team that what they are doing and our desire to promote the nonprofits online is important to the community and our patients. They also like to see their pictures of our volunteer activities used on our website and social media!
The days when companies just wrote a couple of checks to the owner or an officer’s favorite charities are long gone. Employee community involvement should be an integral part of what you do to give back to your community. It is the personal involvement of employees in the communities where they work and live that will make your community involvement have true value.
Dr. Tanya Brown, a leader in dentistry and dental management, founded The Center for Cosmetic & Restorative Dentistry in 2001. She is actively involved in helping employees & employers make better choices for their health care decisions. Dr. Tanya Brown can be reached at DrBrown@tccrd.com or 757-546-5262.