In today’s Daily Telegraph a full-page advertisement for Citi really took my eye. Like many people, I often skim the adverts, but this one was different. This piece of marketing was celebrating the bank’s 200th Anniversary. The photograph shows two Citi employees volunteering on what looks like a construction project. The caption: “We commemorated our 200th anniversary by not taking the day off”. In fact, on Saturday June 16th, Citi tells us that: “tens of thousands of Citi volunteers in 92 countries marked the anniversary by participating in Global Community Day, offering their time, talents and passions to improve the communities in which they live.” Click here for further information.
This is another great example of high-profile multi-national organisations demonstrating their commitment to creating purpose beyond profit, and choosing to compete on values and ethics, not solely on price on profits. Employee volunteering and community engagement can be incorporated into any business strategy – it is not the preserve of large global corporations. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can derive significant measurable benefits too.
The value of volunteering
When considering an effective strategic approach to (Corporate) Social Responsibility, community engagement and employee engagement are important considerations. When objectives are clearly identified, and a responsible, sustainable approach taken, community volunteering can make a real difference. Programmes that are well-designed have a win-win-win outcome for the employee, the community, and of course the employer.
Interestingly, whenever I am discussing a client’s interest in Social Responsibility with them, employee community engagement is always an area which genuinely inspires them. Most businesses that are keen to develop their Social Responsibility strategy are very enthusiastic about making a positive difference to their employees and their communities. Often, a strong sense of it being ‘the right thing to do’ will inspire employers to engage with the community and encourage their employees to volunteer. But beyond this values-driven motivation, employee community engagement may deliver many tangible benefits for employees, the community and the employer. Here are just some of the advantages of employee volunteering and community engagement:
- Reduced HR costs
- Improved productivity
- Increased loyalty to the company
- More engaged
- Better ambassadors
- Team-building skills
- Leadership development
- Cultural awareness (especially when volunteering internationally)
- Improved relationships
- Shared skills
- Learning through collaboration
- Financial support
- Improve morale
- Increase reciprocal relationships and trust
- Positive environmental impact
- Enhance reputation and brand value in communities
- Competitive advantage
- Better understanding of and engagement in community
- Easier to attract future employees
- Enhanced employee retention and loyalty
- Increased productivity
- Skills development
- Attract new clients
- Cultural awareness (particularly with international volunteering)
- Press and PR, including social media engagement
What does ‘good’ look like?
When planning a strategic employee community engagement programme, it’s important to consider the following :
- Where are we now? Has the business already developed a foundation of community engagement which can be built upon? What resources do we have available (funds and time)?
- What are our objectives? These should be agreed with your stakeholders and be allocated an appropriate period of time to demonstrate genuine commitment. Three to five years is average.
- How are we going to achieve our goals? Resources required? How much influence do we have? How significant will our contribution be? What impact will we have? Where are the gaps?
- Monitoring, Reviewing, Reporting and Managing – It’s important to measure the success of your initiative against your agreed objectives, and to manage any changes where necessary. The measurements you use may be financial, and non-financial. For example, you may focus on how the confidence of one of your mentees has improved.
Finally, communicate, communicate, and communicate. In order to derive the benefits of employee community engagement outlined above, it’s important to communicate your progress to all your stakeholders. Using a range of media, including traditional PR, internal and external communications, and of course social media, employee community engagement provides a unique opportunity to differentiate your company and engage your stakeholders.