Winston Churchill once said, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." A number of employers are now combining "getting" and "giving" by offering employee volunteer programs (EVPs); in fact, in March of 2016, more than half of the companies on Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For" list offered paid time off for volunteering as part of their benefits packages.
Employees are increasingly seeking opportunities to give back to their communities and feel a sense of purpose; Cone Research reported that "79% of people prefer to work for a socially responsible company." In addition, by their very nature, EVPs are able to address many of the dissatisfiers employees cite as reasons for leaving their positions.
One of the main advantages of EVPs is that they increase employee engagement. Engaged employees put forth more effort on their jobs, are more loyal and less likely to turn over, and help increase their companies' profitability and productivity.
Because volunteering meets community needs, these programs also help companies' reputations in their communities. They provide opportunities for employees to build relationships that can be valuable to their companies in terms of networking and developing clients. EVPs also increase brand recognition for companies, as well as allowing the companies to promote the specific type of branding they want to portray to others.
Volunteer programs strengthen companies by improving overall morale and encouraging teamwork, with employees across the organization having the opportunity to work together and strengthen their relationships with one another. Employees develop leadership skills that can translate back to their own jobs, and skill-based volunteering allows employees to share their skills with others, which helps them to develop and grow their own professional skills. Research done at the University of Georgia indicates that volunteering employees tend to not only work more collaboratively and support their companies more, but are also less likely to waste time on the job.
As the Millennial generation becomes the vast majority of the workforce, it is important to recognize that values have been shown to be of particular importance to this group, making EVPs an extremely beneficial recruiting tool. These programs help HR to be viewed as more credible and proactive, and help fulfill companies' missions.
From a financial standpoint, EVPs offer two tangible benefits: the ability to monetarily represent the amount of community benefit employees are providing, which can be more concretely considered by shareholders, and the cost of providing a volunteer program compared to the cost of replacing an employee who is dissatisfied. The Independent Sector estimate of the 2015 worth of one volunteer hour is $23.56; if 100 employees contribute 40 hours per year, this translates to $94,240 of community benefit on the business's ledger. The amount of money the company puts into the creation of an employee volunteer program has been estimated to be most successful at approximately $179 per employee per year; for a company with 100 employees, the cost to implement such a program would be approximately $17,900, compared to the cost of an annual 10% turnover, estimated at $15,000 per employee, which would equal $150,000.
Creating an employee volunteer program is a strategic undertaking – it is important to choose the right type of program that will meet the company's goals and align with its values, as well as address employees' interests. However, EVPs have the potential to create a strong return on investment for a company.