It might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but helping employees volunteer can benefit your company on several levels. Research has shown that two hours of helping others a week results in higher satisfaction with life, and everybody knows happier employees are more productive than unhappy ones. Volunteering can also turn disengaged employees into motivated ones. And according to one nationwide chain of premium Verizon stores, it can also be a valuable employee retention tool.

A Culture of Good

Ryan McCarty, director of customer and employee relations at The Cellular Connection, has seen this phenomenon firsthand. The pastor was hired last year to foster a "Culture of Good" and implement programs in which each store receives $500 a year to spend on local philanthropic activities. Employees receive two paid days off a year, which can be used to volunteer however they want. They're given special T-shirts to wear and encouraged to share photos on social networks with the hashtag #cultureofgood.

Last August the company bought 60,000 backpacks, which employees stuffed with school supplies and gave to students in need. The company also gave school supplies to 10 teachers in each of the 350 communities in which it has stores. "We had some stores with people lined up for three blocks that morning," McCarty recalls. Giving back like this "brings a lot of purpose and fulfillment to our employees' work experience."

Survey Findings

McCarty recently polled 864 employees to find out how they feel about all this do-gooding. Here's what they told him: 

  • 86 percent said the company's "culture of good" gives them a sense of fulfillment in their work.
  • 65 percent said it has encouraged them to stay with the company.
  • 53 percent said their store gained new customers because of the efforts.
  • 52 percent said the culture improved their communication with colleagues. 

So can companies look at these numbers and assume that promoting a culture of philanthropy will improve their retention? Not if those are their only motivations, McCarty says.

Authenticity Counts

Companies can't force a culture of good; it has to be a natural outgrowth of its values. And while it's easy for a company to identify what it does, a more important question to ask is, Why do we do what we do? 

"It can't be 'Okay, this is proven to work as a method of employee engagement or helping our reputation or because of employee retention,'" McCarty says. "I think that needs to be a byproduct, and I think the motivating factor ought to be, What do we value as a company?' Then it will be authentic."