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The Value of Paying Your Employees to Volunteer

“Rewarding Reads” is a space for articles and personal essays meant to be thought-provoking and informative for human resources professionals, from sharing the “human” perspectives on workplace issues to book reviews of business titles we find inspiring. Have an essay or blog post to share? Contact us at workspan@worldatwork.org.

More and more, I’ve been hearing about organizations paying their employees to spend a day volunteering. I think it’s one of the most underrated and underutilized benefits that an organization can offer to differentiate themselves from the competition and position themselves as an employer of choice — something that is even more crucial in today’s employment market.

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According to WorldatWork’s 2018 Total Rewards Inventory of Programs and Practices, underwritten by Korn Ferry, 48% of organizations offer paid time off to volunteer. Considering the fact that 75% of employees between the ages of 18 and 34 expect employers to take a stand on important social issues, one would think that at least that many employers would be seriously considering adding or expanding this benefit. If you layer on the wrinkle that the average worker estimates they’re only productive for about two and half hours per day, and reducing the work week to four days actually increases productivity, it doesn’t really seem like employers have much to lose by paying their employees to volunteer, especially when you add in the good press that you’re likely to get as a result.

It’s also important to consider the ways in which your organization can offer the most value to any non-profits that you partner with in order to facilitate volunteerism of your employees. Packing food boxes and park beautification projects are incredibly valuable, and that work absolutely needs to be done. But if you are organizing a volunteer activity for your employees, consider the ways in which you can best utilize their skills and talents to get the most bang for your time-off dollars. Can you lend your IT department for the day to help update the website? Does your sales team sell ice to Eskimos in their sleep? Can you give them a call list and tickets to a gala or fundraiser and set them loose? Is your social media director Insta-famous? Can they train others on the best ways to increase engagement and awareness?

Don’t forget to consider the alignment of your organization with the organization you are helping. There are literally thousands of charities and it is impossible for everyone to help all of them. It’s critical to do due diligence to ensure that the charity you’re working with is utilizing their time, resources and capital effectively (Charity Navigator is a great resource for this) and to also ensure that the nonprofit aligns with your organization’s views as much as possible (for example, trying to get a steakhouse to partner with PETA is probably a non-starter). Ask your employees for recommendations — it’s likely that many of them are already volunteering with organizations that they are passionate about and would be more than willing to recruit others to the cause.

Does your organization offer paid time off to volunteer? Do they advertise this benefit? Is it done on an individual basis, or does everyone come together for a day of service? Tell us your stories!

About the Author

Alicia Jenkins is a senior specialist of survey research at WorldatWork.

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