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Give Employees What They Want: A Chance to Give Back

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives and livelihoods, completely upending the traditional workplace. Just as they pivoted to meet employee and customer needs as the virus spread, now companies are reassessing their business practices for a post-pandemic world.

A report from McKinsey & Company offers clues for employers who want to attract and retain the best and brightest. It finds that work-life balance, flexibility and mental health are front-of-mind for employees. Through my work at United Way, I know that many corporate volunteer programs help meet those needs. Workplaces must be flexible in developing programs that appeal to diverse interests and employee responsibilities. If there’s an opportunity to volunteer through the workplace, it leaves employees more time to find balance outside of work. Plus, people who volunteer experience a boost in their mental health.

Research from America’s Charities found that 88% of employers believe effective employee engagement programs help attract and retain employees; 71% of employees surveyed say it’s imperative or very important to work where culture is supportive of giving and volunteering.

The bottom line? Engaged employees tend to stay with their companies, which reduces costs. Another survey of professionals who volunteer found that more than 56 percent stayed with their current employer because of support for community engagement, and over 97 percent said that support for community engagement would encourage them to move to that organization.

The connection to employee engagement and volunteer programs is clear: according to the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s 2021 Community Involvement Study, of the 51% of companies that measure the connection, 96% of companies find that employees who volunteer are more engaged than peers who don’t volunteer.

Even during the pandemic, median participation rates in corporate volunteer programs held steady at 30%. This is in part due to the rise of virtual volunteering, now the most popular type of employee volunteering. More than 60% of the companies surveyed by the Center that did not offer virtual volunteering prior to the pandemic now allow employees such opportunities.

All these findings underscore what those of us who help companies develop employee volunteer programs already know. We’ve seen firsthand how engaging employees in volunteering – both in-person and virtually – and other forms of giving provide a highly valuable return on investment to the community, employees and the company itself.

Given how many people came to realize how dissatisfied they were with their jobs during lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions, and the wealth of research that shows what employees are looking for, I say, to recruit and retain good workers, give them what they want. Your local United Way can help explore what volunteer opportunities make sense for your workforce and your community.