Employer-Supported Volunteering | Calgary, Alberta

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January 2019 Newsletter
In This Issue
  • Thanks for Joining Us!
  • What is Employer-Supported Volunteering?
  • The Value of Employer-Supported Volunteering
  • Setting the Stage for Success
  • Matching the Service to the Employee
  • Quick Reference: How to Start an Employer-Supported Volunteer Program
  • Quick Reference: Great Examples of Canadian Employer-Supported Volunteering 
  • Video: Designing Employee Volunteer Experiences (Chris Jarvis)
  • Quick Reference: Four Ways Workplace Volunteering Can Drive Employee Engagement
  • Coach's Corner: Workplace Volunteering Snapshot Statistics
January 2019
Volume 6, Number 1

Thanks for Joining Us!

January already! We're off into a new year, with new beginnings and opportunities. Here at Wendy Ellen Inc., we wish all of you peace, prosperity, and health as we move forward into 2019.

One thing top employers have in common is a corporate-wide commitment to social and environmental causes. A culture of giving back is not only one of the most inspiring ways to engage employees, it also offers something even better than engagement: worker passion. That’s because, besides being good for the world, they know a robust philanthropic program is attractive to job seekers and clients, and keeps employees happy, fulfilled, engaged and productive.  

This month we are examining employer-supported volunteerism - what it is, how it can benefit your organization AND your employees, and what to consider when starting a program.

Keep reading for more learning!

According to the Points of Light Foundation, research shows that employee volunteerism has many advantages including:

• Improves corporate image and relations with stakeholders through positioning as a leader in giving back at the local and national level.
• Develops and enhances employees’ professional and leadership skills.
• Supports specific business functions, most often in the areas of human resources and external relations.
• Boosts employee morale, team building, loyalty, productivity, motivation and reduces
• Attracts new hires, especially Millennials.
• Reaches more clients and increases sales and therefore has a positive impact on
• Builds stronger communities by addressing social issues.
• Illustrates organizational values in action.
• Demonstrates corporate support for activities that allow employees to:
  • Spend quality time with their family
  • Be a positive role model and provide learning opportunities for children
  • Educate their families about their workplace, co-workers and the importance of good corporate citizenship
• Leverages contribution dollars and therefore enhances the impact of financial


What is Employer-Supported Volunteering?

Employer-Supported Volunteering (ESV) is any activity undertaken by an employer to encourage and support the volunteering of their employees in the community. Employers provide time, space, infrastructure and support for their employees to volunteer where they live and work. Employer-Supported Volunteering is typically one component of a corporate social responsibility strategy and ESV can be aligned with an employer’s Human Resources objectives, such as employee recruitment and retention and professional development. For ESV engagement to be effective, workplace leaders must actively champion a culture and structure that supports and values the role and impact of employee volunteerism. 

The Value of Employer-Supported Volunteering

ESV has a positive impact on communities, charitable and non-profit organizations, workplaces and employees. Workplaces build relationships to make a difference in the local and global communities where they operate.

Volunteering is fundamental to a healthy and democratic society in Canada
- It promotes civic engagement and active participation in shaping the society we want
- It encourages everyone to play a role and contribute to the quality of life in communities

Employer-Supported Volunteering builds relationships
- It connects employees and their workplaces to the causes they care about and allows personal and corporate goals to be met within the Spectrum of Volunteer Engagement
- It creates opportunities for charitable and non-profit organizations to accomplish their goals by better understanding and involving workplaces and their employees

Employer-Supported Volunteering helps workplaces achieve their strategic goals
- It strengthens the company’s image, brand recognition and stakeholder relations
- It results in higher revenue per employee, higher shareholder returns and higher market premiums
- It enhances employee engagement, leading to improved communication and recruitment, reduced absenteeism, lower staff turnover and increased retention
- It supports the development of core competencies and leadership skills in employees
- It builds new external relationships and networking opportunities with and between customers, suppliers and clients
- It helps create an engaged and motivated workforce and a positive corporate culture

Volunteer involvement is personal for employees
- It provides the opportunity for employees to engage according to their values, personal preferences and motivations, and helps build pride in their workplace
- It allows employee volunteers to build, develop and share their professional and leadership skills
- It builds relationships between work colleagues, between employees and clients or customers
- It recognizes employees for their personal contributions to the community

Employer-Supported Volunteering builds capacity in charitable and non-profit organizations
- It provides charitable and non-profit organizations with specialized skills, expertise and resources that can enhance their sustainability and ability to respond to community needs
- It provides charitable and non-profit organizations with hands-on service and support that help them accomplish their goals
- It helps organizations understand how corporate culture, values and core competencies can be leveraged to impact social change

Employer-Supported Volunteering contributes to strong, inclusive and resilient communities
- It allows business and employees to align and support their interests in contributing to the quality of life in communities
- Multi-sector collaboration and partnerships can address community challenges and maximize collective impact 
Working together as a team, side by side in a volunteer capacity, can forge stronger relationships between employers and employees than can ever be created in a boardroom or office setting; the rapport and morale generated from such activity is invaluable.
Cary Selby, Toronto managing
partner of Richter LLP
Setting the Stage for Success
 If you are ready to provide a program that increases engagement, lowers stress and strengthens your entire workforce, employ these best practices.

Make it attractive to all employees: Variety is the spice of life and the main ingredient for program success. While some employees may enjoy getting their hands dirty by planting trees or building houses, others may prefer to donate their professional expertise through skills development pro bono programs. Make sure you offer programs for everyone to participate in, no matter their fitness or skill level.

Communicate across multiple channels: If you want employees to participate, you have to spread the word. Think about the various ways your employees can receive information and tailor your message to best suit those platforms. For example: email alerts, SMS text, internal group messages or if you have a Human Resource Information System, post on the company page.

Provide alternatives to the main focus: Not only is it important to provide variety in volunteer opportunities, but multiple dates and times are also beneficial to accommodate as many employee schedules as possible. Consider alternatives to volunteering time by allowing people to make monetary donations. Providing options for employees to contribute even if they can’t physically be there, or find the time in their schedule to volunteer, will maximize employee participation.

Make it mobile: Today’s workforce is spending less time chained to a desk and more time on the go. Employees are more apt to miss volunteer opportunities if they can only access communications from their work computer. Utilizing  software that is mobile-friendly can ensure that your program gains company-wide traction.
Matching the Service to the Employee
There are many methods of supporting workplace initiatives. Consider the opportunities below; does one (or more) align with your organizational culture and employee values?
Day/Month of Service
Short-term activities performed by individuals or groups and completed within a set timeframe. These events are often company wide. 
Flex Time
Allowing employees to alter their work schedule to accommodate their volunteering.
Group Volunteering
Short or long-term activities that are organized by or for a group of
individuals. They focus on team building, social networking and/or
building communities of interest.
Paid Time Off
A policy which allows employees' time off for hours spent engaging in a volunteer activity. 
A program where a business matches, in full or in part, either the value of an employee’s personal volunteer time OR the employee's financial contribution with a financial contribution to a charitable or non-profit organization.
Pro Bono Service
A type of skills-based volunteering where volunteers contribute their professional skills. Often expertise directly supports a nonprofit organization’s internal oper-ations by strengthening their infrastructure and/or capacity.
Skills-Based Volunteering
Volunteering by individuals or groups that capitalizes on personal talents, core business skills, experience or education. It helps build and sustain the capacity of organizations to successfully achieve
their missions.

Quick Reference: How To Start a Employer-Supported Volunteer Program

Choose the Right Charity

As a business leader, no matter what your personal interests are, you need to make sure your employees have a vested interest in whatever volunteer program you choose. If you're the outdoorsy type, but your employees are not, a community gardening program would likely backfire. At the same time, you do need to make sure your volunteer program is in line with your ideals and goals as a company. Striking this balance between employee interest and what works for the business can be a challenge.

Determine the Level of Involvement

The amount of time your employees will spend on volunteering is a huge consideration. After all, time is money. Decide how much time you can afford to devote to volunteerism, and you will narrow down your search significantly. 

Get People Involved

Whatever the volunteer effort is, you really need to figure out how to educate your employees about the issue and the impact they're having, It's great to do hands-on projects, but ultimately, it has to ladder up to a learning experience.

The first step to getting people involved and educated is finding a point person to spearhead the program, or, if your company is national, consider forming leadership teams across the country. The employee doesn't have to work full-time on volunteerism, but when it's built into someone's job description, it really helps. Remember,  just because you have a designated leader for the project doesn't mean the company's management shouldn't get involved as well. 

Don’t Force It

Forced or even just coerced volunteering is a sure-fire way to sabotage your corporate culture. Technically, it may increase your employee engagement at that particular moment. But it will leave employees with a bad taste in their mouths about the whole experience and they may very well have zero interest in volunteering in the future.

Let the Office Choose

Don’t force your office to volunteer. If no one wants to participate in a Thanksgiving Food Drive, just don’t do it. Your employees have passions and concerns. There are causes and issues that they care deeply about. Don't ask them to invest time, energy, or money into something that doesn't ignite their passion.

Find out what your employees do care about and figure out ways to volunteer in service of those causes. Keep in mind, you don’t have to come up with the ideas all by yourself. Ask your employees. There is a pretty good chance that they will have a suggestion or two about how you can help the causes that matter most to them.

Quick Reference: Great Examples of Canadian Employer-Supported Volunteering

The Home Depot Canada
Through their associate-led volunteer program “Team Depot”, Home Depot inspires their employees to undertake leadership within their communities. Over the year, workers donate more than 60,000 hours of volunteer work to a wide variety of community projects, and Team Depot captains are recognized for going above and beyond.

Keurig Canada
At Keurig, the Community Action for Employees Program works to promote involvement within their workforce by encouraging volunteering during work hours. Each employee can donate up to 52 work hours a year to a non-profit organization of their choosing, for which they are fully reimbursed. Keurig also matches employee donations and sponsors trips to coffee-producing countries so their workers can learn more about the regions and methods that produce their livelihood.

Cenovus Energy

Calgary's own Cenovus Energy matches employee donations up to a total of $25,000 per employee per year through their Giving Program. Not only can employees double the impact of their charitable donations, they’re free to give to the organizations that are meaningful to them. Their Volunteer Program provides grants to the charitable organizations where employees and their immediate family members volunteer. And they also coordinate volunteer opportunities for staff and their families to volunteer together, provide charitable teambuilding activities for groups, and encourage staff to use volunteering as a way to build new skills.
Designing Employee Volunteer Experiences
Chris Jarvis
Quick Reference: Four Ways Workplace Volunteering Can Drive Employee Engagement
1. Productivity

Productivity increases when employees work together toward a common goal. This creates the sense that each worker is an integral part of a bigger team. As a result, every employee feels empowered and inspired to do their part, to not let the team down.

Workplace giving and volunteering is an effective method for fostering that desired team environment and the resulting productivity. Through this sort of prosocial behavior, employees strive to meet a common goal for their community — the community in which they all live and/or work. A common community equals a common interest.

2. Pride

Understandably, corporate pride is directly related to employee engagement. If an employee is ashamed of their company for whatever reason — whether it’s the culture, the lack of values, or management’s philosophy — they're not going to hang around for long.

People desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves — now more than ever. In fact, last year the Huffington Post reported that Millennials care more about giving back than those who came before them. What better way to cultivate company pride and build employee engagement than by providing philanthropic opportunities for this social-conscious generation?

3. Gratitude

Gratitude is a strong emotion. It can change a person’s outlook on just about any situation, including a work environment. Employees who feel gratitude toward their employers are more likely to build a strong emotional connection with their workplace — and less likely to leave it.

We mentioned the desire of today’s worker to give back to the community. If you’re offering that as part of your company culture, they’ll be forever grateful to you for providing an outlet for their prosocial thirst.

4. Ethics

Philanthropic activity often results in a personal attitude that identifies with more ethical behavior. Think of it as do good, be good. Ethical behavior leads to ethical thoughts. Ethical thoughts lead to ethical people. And finally, ethical people lead to ethical businesses.

What happens when companies make a habit of practicing good ethical behavior as a whole? Employees begin to feel pride in their work, gratitude for their employers, and show a boosted level of productivity. See how it all comes full circle?

Interested in exploring a volunteer program for your employees?

Contact Wendy Ellen Inc. for assistance today!
About Wendy Ellen Inc.
Wendy Ellen Inc. specializes in providing human resource and benefits management skills to small to mid-sized companies on an as-needed basis. From recruitment, Human Resource policy development and legislative compliance, employee retention and engagement, individual advisor/coaching, succession planning to employee development and performance, Wendy Ellen Inc. will help you protect your most valuable resource, your people.
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