By April Clark
In today's business environment, employers realize the need to engage their existing workforce in order to retain their best talent. We have entered "The Human Age," where human potential is a key driver of economic growth, and talent is the most important competitive differentiator. Clearly, recruiting and retaining the best talent is more important now than ever.
Volunteering as a Development Tool
When it comes to employee engagement and retention, the topic of staff development must be part of the conversation. A successful development strategy includes three pillars: exposure, education and experience.
To cover each of these three areas, both managers and employees often look for training classes, mentoring opportunities and stretch projects. Often overlooked, however, is using volunteering and community investment as a staff development tool. Volunteering can enhance an individual's career by honing soft skills such as:
- Communication - clearly sharing information, adapting messages for different audiences, listening
- Interpersonal relations - working in teams, working with diverse individuals, uniting for a common goal
- Leadership skills - directing teams, motivating others, managing difficult situations
- Project management - planning, delegating, training, managing expectations
Community Activities Yield More Than Self-growth
The beauty of investing in the community as part of a development strategy is that it yields much more than individual growth. Employees who are part of a company-organized volunteer program feel that their work is more meaningful, and that what they do really matters.
In addition, effective community investment promotes and enhances the company brand with clients and their employment brand with prospective employees. And finally, volunteering strengthens the communities in which a company does business, and where its employees live. As the saying goes, "a rising tide raises all boats," and all of these benefits have a residual positive impact on a company, and on a community in general.
How to Develop a Community Investment Program
For companies that want to offer volunteer opportunities to employees, remember to:
- Always begin with senior management buy-in and support. Without it, the program is unlikely to succeed.
- Formalize the program and put someone in charge of it. This will ensure that volunteering is properly managed and will create a single point of contact.
- Develop a community investment strategy that aligns with your business. At Manpower, our programs are focused on developing the workforce of today and the workforce of tomorrow, which aligns with our core business function of developing innovative workforce solutions. We donate our time and talent to help underserved populations develop their resumes, practice their interview skills and prepare themselves for the world of work. Determine your organization's core competency, and then find a cause that fits.
- Make it easy to participate. Consider the employee's perspective. Work/life balance is a key concern for most people, so allowing employees to volunteer during business hours is appealing. Also, make sure there is variety in the offerings so people with various skills and interests can find appealing options.
- Provide a way for employees to document participation in volunteer programs. An intranet-based form is ideal, and should track things like organization served, hours, type of activity, volunteer's key take-aways, recommendations for improvement and other feedback. As an employer, these forms help track your employees' contributions and measure participation. For employees, the form serves as a reflection tool and formal record of participation for annual reviews and development conversations.
Community investment and volunteering have been embraced by companies as the right thing to do, and are an integral part of corporate social responsibility programs. However, the benefits to the company and employees, especially as it relates to engagement, and professional growth and development, should also be strongly considered.
What has your company done for your community lately? Stay tuned for an upcoming article on JobsInMA.com's recent efforts with the American Cancer Society.