You may not have heard, but there’s a controversy brewing across the pond, as the re-elected Conservative UK government has mandated that all companies must provide at least 3 days of paid time off (PTO) to their employees to volunteer. UK Prime Minister David Cameron said during the campaign: “What I want to do here is help people who want to do more to help their communities, to help others to volunteer, to build a stronger society.”
The policy, which applies to both public and private sector companies with more than 250 people, is part of a broader conversation playing out in many countries around the world.
You can put the reactions to this policy into the following three categories:
You Can’t Make Volunteering Mandatory
On the surface, it would seem as if the policy is another example of the heavy hand of government forcing the private sector to become more benevolent. When you juxtapose the words volunteer and mandatory, the knee-jerk reaction is to scoff at the concept. You may even sing a few lines from an Alanis Morrissette song. But if you stop what you’re doing, put down your phone and think for 10 seconds, you realize that there is nothing mandatory about the policy. In fact, it could not be more voluntary – if you give enough space for people to get involved in the community, then you’re increasing the chance that they will voluntarily do something prosocial.
A well designed PTO policy sends a strong signal to employees that the company cares about the many causes those employees care about. It also helps to build what Mary Kunnenkeril of Three Hands (a leading UK company specializing in skills based volunteering) calls “a culture of volunteerism”. According to her, “getting business to a point where they acknowledge the key role they play in society is an important first step. Leveraging the policy to drive business is the next logical step.” In other words, without the key structural conditions, volunteer programs can’t succeed to their full potential.
OK, so let’s turn our attention to argument #2 …
The Policy Doesn’t Matter; No One Takes Time Off to Volunteer Anyway
Enter stage right: the clinic cynic. This argument actually holds more water than the first, but focusing on it too much can lead to those days when you’re ready to pull your best Pete Townshend (see how I kept with the UK theme, there?), but the trends don’t lie. According to the CECP, corporate leaders say that a PTO policy is the most effective socially motivated tactic to increasing employee satisfaction. In fact, 80% of the world’s largest companies offer it, representing the fastest growing engagement program.
Like so many things in the corporate world, a policy does not necessarily lead to participation, and even less so to engagement. The best programs in the world see volunteering participation rates hover around 30%, and most are well below 20%. Participation and engagement happen when a group of passionate individuals (what we call “Stage Three Volunteers“) are given the space to get their peers to fall in love with volunteering. Strong policies are key, but the cynics may be right on this one. The government’s utopian vision of a world of millions of new volunteers will not magically appear. Unfortunately, we’re not all Kevin Costner in the cornfield on this one. Which begs the question …
If it benefits employees, companies, and society, then why does the government need to be involved at all?
This is where psychology matters more than the stats. We live in a world of the all consuming Nudge. More often than not, we are unknowingly nudged to change our behavior. Companies around the world have legions of data scientists conceiving the perfect price point for our products, moving us up the consumer chain to evermore blissful purchases. And they do this regardless of the benefits of the product. Why do they do it? Because we as human beings typically ignore the benefits of things, and tend to choose the path of least resistance. It is quite simply just easier to not do it. While we inherently know about how great volunteering is – to the beneficiary of the cause, to ourselves – that next episode of your favourite show will win out every time. The nudge from governments, companies, or from your closest friend will always help.
Should the government be in the Nudge business as well? By extension, should they be nudging us to do things that we know are good anyway? And if they do, will they be successful? With the Conservative election win in the UK, we’re about to find out.
According to a new study, Canadians like to help out; official stats suggest 43% of the Great White North volunteer. Sure, the stats may include activities like shoveling our neighbour’s driveway, but you can’t deny our love of volunteering. And we like to give money, too. in fact, more than 80% of Canadians give to charity, ranking us 7th in the world (according to Charities Aid Foundation).
As it turns out, Canadian companies are generous as well. According to Manifest Communications, corporate citizenship programs are thriving in Canada. Many of these companies regularly make Corporate Knights’ list of Top 50 Corporate Citizens.
Yet, despite the continued sophistication in corporate volunteering and giving programs, few practitioners are able to determine the real business impact of community investment. Groups like LBG Canada and Volunteer Canada provide great avenues for data collection, industry best practices, information sharing, and benchmarking, which are excellent, invaluable resources. But to date, not much has been done to examine a company’s return on investment (ROI) of their corporate sponsored volunteering programs.
The ROI Project
With this in mind, Realized Worth and VeraWorks are proud to announce the launch of the ROI of Corporate Volunteering research study.
And we’re looking for 8-10 Canadian companies or affiliates to join us.
The objective of the project is to better understand the business return on investment of corporate volunteering programs, allowing practitioners to make more strategic community investment decisions.
This project will seek to address the following questions:
What does an ROI approach for corporate volunteering in Canada look like?
How can it be applied to your workplace?
What can we learn about corporate volunteering from it?
How can corporate volunteering programs be improved through it?
How can applying it help to increase the scale and impact of corporate volunteering programs?
And what do you get out of all this? Well …
The project will produce the following products:
An ROI framework for measuring the business value of corporate volunteering using key HR and sales indicators.
Confidential, individual ROI findings on the business impact, including the estimated monetary value of corporate volunteering for your company based on its impact on employee engagement, retention, and customer loyalty.
Collective ROI findings based on research conducted on 8-10 companies on the business impact of corporate volunteering, its impact on employee engagement, retention, and customer loyalty.
Drivers of impact findings on specific programmatic elements of employee volunteer programs that augment business value.
It’s not free hockey tickets or a case of beer, but how about joining your peers in this groundbreaking study?
While a recent unnamed Boston Globe article may have suggested that corporate volunteerism isn’t always easy or effective for nonprofits, one could also argue that it’s often the NGO that won’t be ready to host corporate volunteers.
But hey, can’t we both be at fault?
Because often we are; expectations are high while logistics are merely inferred. The day’s goal is identified, while the tasks associated are never fully disclosed. Vision is highlighted, while mission is sidelined. So as the old saying goes: when one doesn’t know how to act, one must rely on good graces and manners to take the lead.
What if we examined corporate volunteerism like someone would a dinner party? Everyone knows a good dinner party should have a talented host, but for the sake of argument, let’s look at how one can be the very best guest. Just in case. Just for good measure. We know the meal will be stellar … it’s often everything else that needs a little attention.
1. Why a dinner party?
This question is all about the tone and intention. It’s not “Ugh, why a dinner party?” But anyone invited to such an event will typically ask something like “Ooh, what’s the occasion?” Anyone who doesn’t ask is either family or isn’t coming anyway. My point? What is this event about? Who is it for? A retirement? A birthday? To build a house? To build a home for a deserving family? To provide a home for the Johnson family of five who recently lost their home to fire? (See how I transitioned there, reader? Get used to that.) A good host should take the time to make the invite clear, informative, and above all, engaging and meaningful. If you’re taking a day off from work to volunteer — no matter how exciting that might seem all on its own — your employees should know what their involvement will provide and who it will impact and how. If they’re not already, the NGO should always be prompted to provide any tools or information to that point. And then, like at any good dinner party, the host should begin the evening by thanking everyone for coming, followed by a compelling story to remind everyone why this party, of all parties, is the party.
A good host excels in telling you why their efforts to invite you are critical and invaluable; a better guest will often ask for more information than needed to enjoy the party as thoroughly as possible.
2. What time is dinner?
Of course you want to know when to arrive, but you also want to know when the main event is taking place: when is dinner? Or in this case, when will we start volunteering? Just like allowing time for guests to arrive and to put out a few cocktails and hors d’oeuvres ahead of the meal, most volunteer events have some form of organizational welcome, orientation, and potential training. A person who just walks into a dinner party and begins to eat is either early enough to help the cook prep or fairly late to the party. So, just as you understand you won’t hit the door and be eating right at the top of the hour, you shouldn’t assume your employees will immediately walk off the bus and begin painting that mural. A good host will always provide a bit of an evening’s outline; a better guest will anticipate a few pre-dinner rituals.
3. What is the attire?
Formal? Casual? Is there a theme, like a luau or garden party? Everyone knows you can almost always trust your best J. Crew khakis for most events, unless you were the only one that didn’t get the message to wear tux and tails. That’s just Party Foul 101. When volunteering, knowing whether you should wear steel-toed boots or if flip-flops will do just fine is often the difference between getting to hammer nails and passing out said hammers. A good host will tell you what to wear for the evening; a better guest will double check so they can be best dressed for the party.
4. Do you need to know about my food allergies?
A good host will always inquire with potential guests about food allergies and dietary restrictions before throwing a dinner party. Why? Because a good host never wants to offend or inadvertently kill a guest. In the same manner, do volunteers need to bring their own water bottle? Will there be long bouts of standing outdoors in the sun? Will volunteer be placed in groups? Essentially, is there anything that people might have a literal or social allergy to within the day’s events? Good hosts will let you know; better guests get confirmation so they can enjoy themselves to the fullest or prepare for the inevitable.
5. Can I bring a guest? Who else will be at dinner?
Of course, there is likely to be other people at the event (program staff, NGO volunteers, logistics specialists) but is there anyone you won’t know? Will the media be there? Will the mayor be on site? Were you planning on bringing your CEO for a photo shoot? Do you have anyone coming with any accommodations necessary? And don’t ask just for the sake of getting a head count, ask because this often has implications with topics such as liability waivers, media release forms and logistics. Can you add more people to a dinner party? Sure, if you can make the portions smaller and no one minds sitting at the “kids’ table” because your dining room was only expected to hold 8. A good host will walk you through the guest list; a better guest will know to ask who’s in attendance and about plus-one potential.
6. Can I bring anything?
Wine. Always wine. Unless your host doesn’t drink alcohol and then ice. Usually ice. But you’re the guest! Why should you offer to bring anything at all? Because a wise guest is a thoughtful guest, and asking what one can bring reminds the host to again relay the logistics aloud, that there will be water on site, work gloves available, and bathrooms within a hundred feet. Or it’s a great time to inquire about that presentation check for the photo-op again. Or it’s a reminder that weather looks crummy on Friday, so don’t forget that people need to bring umbrellas. “Can I bring anything?” is the logistical equivalent to “What else do we need to cover before we show up?” It should be asked. Every party needs ice.
Now look, while this analogy might leave you a little tired by the time we get to dessert, I honestly feel that talking about corporate volunteerism like you might approach a dinner party is the best way to be not only a better guest, but help your host be the best host possible. The comparison allows those involved to hopefully leave no stone in the stone soup unturned. When you can think like an expert dinner guest on behalf of your employee volunteerism, you’re on the path to contributing to the success of the party, not just attending the party. Good volunteers, like good dinner guests, never just arrive—they know why they’re invited, how to arrive, when to engage, where to indulge, and who the party is for. And if the party is as good as everyone had planned, everyone in attendance will hope for a future invitation to the next event.
Hosting a dinner party volunteer event? Reach out to Realized Worth on Facebook or Twitter, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or just leave a comment below! Got a question for Ben? Email him.
When employees are given the opportunity to “do good” through their work, they are more likely to feel that their well being is valued by their company, and will reciprocate by developing affective commitment. You’ve never heard of affective commitment? Not only is it the key to effective management strategy, but it’s the secret to understanding what’s going on with your employees, your families, and the world around you.
In this context, commitment refers to the degree of attachment an individual feels toward the organization he or she works for. If you’re a manager or the leader of a company, this is something you obsess about. Do my employees want to stay? Will they stick it out through tough times? Do they believe in this organization as much as I do?
While nothing is going to stop us from obsessing about those questions (not necessarily a bad thing), let’s at least organize the conversation into three types of commitment and then – perhaps – make our way to better questions.
1. Normative Commitment
“Son, we don’t quit.”
Did your dad ever say that to you? If so, you understand normative commitment, which builds upon a sense of duty, obligation, and/or loyalty. This type of commitment is common in the older generation that remembers when it was very difficult to get a job. They fundamentally believe that once you have it, you keep it. And you thank the Lord the whole way. You may find normative commitment less – ahem – normative in the millennial generation who have the opportunity to experience many lines of work throughout their lives.
Here’s the key: you can only depend on normative commitment if the intrinsic sense of loyalty in your employee is unbreakable, and that’s a difficult metric to gauge.
2. Continuance Commitment
From a cynical perspective, continuance commitment can sometimes be seen in marriages where it would be more of a pain to break up than to stay together. Things aren’t that great, but leaving would be just so terribly inconvenient. Essentially, continuance commitment boils down to a cost analysis. Would leaving cost more time, energy, money, and resources than staying?
The key here is that if your employees are only staying because it’s too much work to bother to leave, then you may have a problem.
3. Affective Commitment
To continue the analogy, affective commitment is the marital ideal. It’s when it becomes delightful to serve what you love, as stated in a recent, highly recommended article by David Brooks. In business speak, this is when in exchange for receiving support from organizations, employees reciprocate with emotional dedication. Adam Grant suggests in his study, Giving Commitment: Employee Support Programs And The Prosocial Sensemaking Process, that employees who are enabled to act pro-socially (give, volunteer, and otherwise “do good” for their colleagues or communities) are likely to respond with increased affective commitment to their organization.
Affective commitment, or how much an employee actually likes or feels part of an organization has a tremendous effect on employee and organizational performance. High levels of affective commitment in employees will not only affect continuance commitment, but also encourages the employee to try to bring others into the talent pool of the organization. An employee with high levels of affective commitment acts as a brand ambassador of the organization. On the other hand, an employee with high continuance commitment (due to lack of alternatives), but poor affective commitment may harm the organization by criticizing it in his/her social circles.
Are your employee volunteering and giving programs producing affective commitment? How are you measuring the results? Adam Grant’s research is heavy, but it’s worth digging into. We also recommend his book Give and Take, for a high level look at the success of people who behave pro-socially.
Realized Worth works with companies to design and implement employee volunteer programs. We want to see your employees develop affective commitment to your organization! Give us a call, email us via email@example.com, or reach out to us on Twitter and Facebook to talk about the programs that work best for you.
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