Here’s a question I love asking companies: Why is your employee volunteer program important? We usually end up talking about indicators: The amount of resources, money, and time companies invest in developing and maintaining employee volunteering programs. The depth and breadth of business alignment and integration are another. High employee participation rates and access to consistent, measurable community impact data. These all indicate importance. But what about inclusion?
This is second in a two-part blog series on employee networks and inclusion. Go here to see Part 1: The Evolution of Employee Resource Groups.
Much like Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), employee volunteering can be a mechanism to bridge divisive social and cultural practices. Your employee volunteering program’s ability to help employees understand and bridge social and cultural divisions is a big indicator of importance.
One thing we know for sure about diversity and inclusion practices: they are proven to contribute greatly to innovation and to profitability. In a 2018 Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study, they surveyed employees at more than 1,700 companies in eight countries (Austria, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Switzerland, and the US) across a variety of industries and company sizes. They found a strong and statistically significant correlation between the diversity of management teams and overall innovation, as well as better overall financial performance from more diverse companies.
“Companies that reported above-average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity—45% of total revenue versus just 26%.”
Employee volunteering, like ERGs, can be a way for employees to practice inclusion, and to bring that experience back to the workplace. Employee volunteering, like ERGs, can be profitable as well as impactful.
A guided volunteering experience that establishes purpose and creates opportunity for reflection and discussion can change how employees think, behave and act – at work, at home and in the community. If that sounds like a mantra, it’s because it is for us here at Realized Worth. Going beyond transactional employee volunteering experiences means companies must do volunteering better. When companies give employees the tools and learning material they need to volunteer better, and the space and ability to collaborate locally and across the company, it means employees who volunteer:
- Learn to connect and empathize better with others by encountering people and issues outside of their usual realms of experience, understanding, and (often) social and economic privilege.
- Feel more engaged at work: They can align personal purpose with professional goals and work experience.
- Become more inclusive, compassionate – and therefore more effective – people leaders.
Through volunteering, employees can grow as individuals, as workers and as community members. This is how movements begin: with individuals. And how do movements continue and thrive? Through collaboration.
In part one of this blog series, I introduced you to Kip Kelly’s building blocks of collaboration. This is how you apply them to company-wide employee volunteering
Building block 1: Trust
Trust is the foundation of effective collaboration. There are many facets to trust, but vulnerability is the aspect that most affects the collaborative process. Without vulnerability, people will not fully invest themselves or their ideas in collective efforts.
- Establish two tiers of volunteer leadership: Mentors, who organize and motivate people to become event leaders, and event leaders, who plan and facilitate events locally. These leaders act as trusted advisors that guide others through the volunteering process.
- Elevate localized, experienced mentors with a deep understanding of volunteering logistics, citizenship, local nonprofit partners and community needs. Mentors act as neutral sounding boards, advocates and problem-solvers.
- Apply Keystone Behaviors at all events: The Brief, Guiding Volunteers, The Debrief. These help volunteers safely reflect and openly share on their experience (contact us to learn more about these three key concepts!)
Building block 2: Communication
Effective communication requires a substantial level of self-awareness. Employees must understand their own preferences for how they approach a collaborative situation. They must also understand the communication and collaboration styles that other employees may prefer. It is this awareness that allows employees to recognize different communication and collaboration styles and to leverage them. This heightened level of self-awareness allows individuals to modify their behavior and communication styles, which paves the way for increased engagement.
- All employees who mentor and lead others in volunteering and citizenship are trained in how to manage and respect different communications styles, and to be aware of non-violent communication strategies. This is practiced during the event planning process, in recruitment, during events, and in the maintenance of local volunteer networks.
Building block 3: Shared Vision and Purpose
The best way to get employees invested in the collaborative process is to give them an opportunity to contribute to a shared vision and purpose. This is about taking the time to articulate the “why” to everyone involved in the collaborative process on a particular project or initiative.
- Apply Keystone Behaviors at all events: The Brief, Guiding Volunteers, The Debrief. No matter the event, volunteer event leaders are trained in and encouraged to hold The Brief, where not only company purpose is established, but the “why” behind the event itself. This helps employee volunteer participants understand why the tasks they complete during the event matter.
- Localized mentors hold regular meetings with volunteer event leaders to share challenges and successes, and to consistently establish the “why” behind volunteerism and citizenship and connect it back to company purpose.