"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." This quote from David Viscott may ring true for many of you on a personal level, though in the business world, giving anything away (time, earnings, or otherwise) may not mesh with your profit-driven nature.
However, incorporating volunteerism into your company culture will certainly reinforce its deserved role in your company's overall values and esprit de corps.
For the business owner or executive with bottom-line responsibility, office-wide volunteerism may feel like a frivolous waste of valuable company resources and billable hours. Certainly, having half (or all) of the office off the clock for any portion of the day is a direct hit to the bottom line.
But if we look past hourly billings and productivity reports and consider overall culture, the cost to replace employees, the strength of a tight and collaborative team, and the fulfillment that comes along with volunteering, the business case for carving out dedicated time for volunteerism becomes clear cut. Here are a few benefits to consider:
Company-wide volunteer efforts allow your team to interact and connect with other employees who they may not often work with in the course of regular business. The personal connections that are forged during volunteer efforts create lasting bonds that build interdepartmental relationships and general camaraderie. The respect and human connection from that bonding will positively impact future collaboration, problem-solving, and crisis management.
Identifying volunteer efforts that are aligned with company values helps to reinforce the all-important purpose of why the team shows up each day. This is especially important for employees in roles that focus on a micro-aspect of the bigger picture, so that they are reminded of the bigger "why" around company purpose. For example, here at Greenleaf Book Group, we might choose to support the local public library by volunteering to clean and re-shelve books, reminding everyone on staff, from the receptionist to the technology team, of the value of making knowledge and growth available.
Your team cares about career advancement and anything that helps to make their résumés a bit shinier. This can be a hard pill to swallow for a leader--you don't want them to focus on the next step towards leaving! But realistically, career advancement is important, and even if you can't promise an outcome, you'll come out ahead if you can help boost your employees' overall chances of demonstrating growth and contribution.
Volunteerism on a résumé is a strong indicator of someone who walks their talk. Your staff will value this résumé booster and will likely show more loyalty to you because of it.
Certain volunteer opportunities can open a door for your staff to learn new skills that make them more valuable on your team. For instance, a volunteer role that requires someone with no management skills to oversee a project or launch can provide an experience for them to develop in that area, if it's attractive to them. That experience may help them gain clarity around their future development goals without you having to take a risk on it in the day-to-day operations of your company.
Recruitment and Fulfillment
Getting out of the office to do something completely different is generally welcomed as a fulfilling benefit for your team. Breaking monotony, trying new things, doing work with purpose, and feeling like a part of a greater goal is important to any employee's satisfaction. If you can't compete on salary, offering up a culture ripe with the opportunity to give back may be the tipping point required to recruit the talent you need.
A company-wide volunteerism program may look like a waste of resources at first glance, but once you quantify the value of the benefits outlined above, it's clear that giving back transcends the bottom line to create an environment of dedicated, purpose-driven teams supported by strong interpersonal connections.
Whether you think your culture is strong or in need of repair, consider the benefits of volunteerism and how you might use it to build a culture that is fulfilled, aligned, committed, and productive.