5 Ways Companies Can Make the Most of Community Involvement Programs
For many years, intrinsic to the notion of being a "professional" (such as a lawyer) was public service in some form. That idea has spread well beyond professional services; now, a wide range of companies who value reputation and good citizenship put a high priority on giving back in some way.
The best workplaces see this as much more than a routine obligation, and put a great deal of thought and heart into community involvement, and these companies accrue great benefits in terms of employee commitment and contribution.
This week, Great Place to Work® published a list of the Best Companies for Giving Back and the experience of employees is nothing short of inspiring. Wrote one employee at a company we recently recognized for excellent community involvement: "Everyone we volunteer with loves us. It truly is the BEST place to work, and I can't be more proud."
Community involvement programs can have a huge effect in demonstrating and strengthening the sense of values alignment between the company and employees – especially when the programs are thoughtfully structured
Our research shows many best practices for making the most of corporate community involvement programs. Here are some:
- Give employees power in setting direction. Like many other aspects of corporate life, employee expectations are evolving toward empowerment, and community involvement is no exception. Allowing employees to decide in groups or individually about where to focus efforts is empowerment in a realm of intense personal significance to many people.
- Build community involvement around professional skills. Serving meals can be inspiring and humanizing, but when employees use their professional skills in community involvement it is more valuable to the recipient organizations and a great opportunity for professional pride and development. A financial analyst, for example, in relatively few hours could help a non-profit organization strengthen its management or financial accounting.
- Tell the whole story. Recognition for community involvement is motivating, but it is powerful to talk about the receiving organization: how their work is important, how their purpose and values fit with the company's, how the company's people grew and learned as a result, and what the ongoing involvement will be.
- Set an aspiration. Measured in terms of dollars, time or impact, an aspiration for community involvement is an exciting commitment and a challenge. It is one thing to do it and another thing to set accountability with a high bar.
- Spread the word with new communication approaches. Short videos, tweets and the like are inspiring and a great opportunity to challenge participants with new kinds of communication practices that transcend the usual, overwhelmed channels of corporate communication (talking about you, email).
Companies can strengthen ties with employees (see our recent report on the purpose-retention connection), accelerate professional development and do much more with thoughtful community involvement strategies. It does not necessarily cost more money; it just takes vision and leadership. Giving back absolutely can help communities, people and companies – a triple win!