For the last two decades, Make a Difference Day has put a spotlight on volunteerism. It’s the biggest day of the year for community service, with millions of people across the country taking the time to devote their day to others. As individuals, volunteerism and philanthropy can have a significant impact on our lives, so much so that it can actually improve our health.
Community service is just as beneficial for a business, and the benefits go well beyond the bottom line. There is a growing interest in companies that make corporate social responsibility (CSR) part of their business platform. This interest is coming from the community, customers, employees and job seekers.
Community Service and Job Seekers
It may come as a surprise to find that many job seekers take a company’s CSR into account when applying for and accepting jobs. If all things are equal, a highly desirable job candidate could decide between your company and a competitor based on your work in the community.
CSR programs are so important to generation Y applicants that in a PricewaterhouseCoopers study 86 percent said they would leave a company if the CSR program started to slip. Clearly volunteerism in the workplace is impacting employee recruitment and retention now, and it may become more critical as generation Y moves up in the workplace ranks.
Community Service and Employees
At Keller Williams, employees have multiple opportunities to participate in volunteerism and help their community. One example is the annual RED Day in May, which is a day dedicated to service in our communities. At the corporate headquarters, individual departments participate in pet projects throughout the year, and everyone is given the option of donating to charities using direct deposit from their paychecks.
This kind of community commitment from a business makes the employees feel proud to be associated with the company, and it also makes them feel better about their work personally. Volunteerism helps to build and promote a positive culture within a company and can also influence teamwork in the workplace. The more employees you can bring onboard a CSR program the bigger impact it will have, since those that participate are more likely to rate their job satisfaction as high.
When employees put their job skills to good use in a volunteer capacity, there’s an opportunity for those employees to improve and exercise their workplace skills. In a new environment, employees get more creative, troubleshoot problems in different ways and gain additional skills that they might not have an opportunity to utilize within the office. A True Impact report showed that job satisfaction skyrockets by 47 percent for employees who take part in skills-based volunteer (SBV) programs.
HP is a prime example of how volunteerism boosts job satisfaction. The company has thousands of workers across the globe that have a lot to offer in the way of skills-based volunteer work. HP’s work with organizations like A Billion+ Change has led to 1.6 million hours of volunteer work, and their employee job satisfaction has jumped from 60 percent in 2012 to 71 percent today.
Community Service and Customers
In a time of social media, it’s no surprise that customer perception has a huge impact on a business’s brand. Word of mouth has gone digital in a big way, and people aren’t just taking a company’s products and services into account. When companies show a commitment to their communities and CSR, customers notice.
Today, customers have more choices than ever and much of the time they aren’t limited to what’s within their physical location. A company’s ethics, employee satisfaction and community involvement are beginning to become important factors in which brand a consumer chooses. The Reputation Institute has reported that consumers give more weight to a company’s reputation than their products at a rate of 60 percent to 40 percent respectively. Additionally, 41 percent of consumer perception is based on three CSR-related factors: citizenship, workplace and governance.
The Walt Disney Company has had a stellar reputation for decades, not just because they bring smiles to the face of children with toys and movies, but because the company is deeply rooted in giving back. Volunteerism and philanthropy has long been a part of the company culture, and their genuine interest in improving the lives of as many people as possible is palpable. From their Heroes Work Here program that makes a commitment to hiring veterans and helping their families to creating one of the most substantial environmental policies, The Walt Disney Company is almost as well known for its citizenship as it is for Mickey Mouse.
Community Service and the Community
It’s not just the customers that make up a community. Other businesses, local government and neighbors all take note of how active a company is in the community. Despite the presence of the Internet, the health of a local community greatly influences the well being of the businesses within it. Community service not only creates goodwill, it can improve a business’ prospects and employee recruitment by making the area a better place to live and work.
Corporate social responsibility is the right thing to do on a spiritual and emotional level. The fact that it significantly adds to the bottom line should be a residual benefit for a company, not a driving factor. Yes, engaged employees generate more earnings for businesses. Yes, CSR builds a good reputation for a business. Yes, volunteer programs will give a business a leg up when it comes to hiring. But above all else, CSR will help a business make a positive change in the lives of many people who aren’t tied at all to profit margins.
If you want your business to get involved with the community but aren’t sure how to begin, we suggest you start by determining what your purpose is. What propels you to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself? Once you know what drives you, you’ll be better equipped to use this knowledge to find an area of the community you feel passionate about getting involved with. Where do you want to make a difference?