(This post is about a 4.5 minute read)
Consider for a moment the many not-for-profit organizations you know of who rely on volunteers to help them get their work done. These volunteers are performing essential roles within our communities. According to thephilanthropist.ca, Canadians volunteer so much each year, that collectively, their time has been calculated to be the equivalent of a million full-time jobs. While funding challenges ensure there’s a steady demand for more volunteers each year, we also see a shift in the way that people participate: the definitions and recognition of volunteerism are evolving. However, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the time challenge some people face when they want to volunteer but just can’t fit it into their schedules. That’s where workplaces are uniquely poised to help and in the process, realize considerable gains in the areas of attracting and retaining talent, developing strong and healthy workplace cultures, and cultivating increased productivity and profitability.
Wanting to volunteer, but juggling too much day-to-day
A 2017 Ipsos summary report on volunteering commissioned by Volunteer Canada, showed that a majority of Canadians (65%) feel, “they have a responsibility to those who may need help in the community.” The study found that a significant number of people (57%) say that they don’t have time to fit volunteering into their existing obligations. It may be that people are finding it more difficult to engage with their communities these days, or that within the activities they are involved in – anything from school activities to little league, to community theatre – more often than not, volunteering is mandated in a way that is turning it into more of a chore that doesn’t feel right. Time crunches mean that people are looking for opportunities to fulfill their volunteer aspirations as part of what they achieve through their employers, especially those that have formalized social responsibility and volunteerism programs. In fact, “68 percent of Canadians…said that, given the choice, they would choose a job with a company that has a strong volunteering culture over one that does not.” Further, employees who can volunteer either as part of a team-based activity or who individually, are sponsored by their employers, report feeling a greater sense of loyalty and pride in their workplaces over time.
Employers who support volunteering are highly prized
While Canadians want their employers to organize volunteer activities because it’s a perk of working for a great company, for workplaces this expectation is not just about giving people time off to participate. Companies who have well-defined goals and protocols around volunteering and frame the terms of engagement but also offer flexibility and choice of how their employees can volunteer are increasingly becoming more attractive. It’s a win-win situation. There is often a good mix of events – anything from walks and runs for great causes to healthy competition between rival companies for donations. However, there are also many quiet, more individualized opportunities, such as spending time helping people learn how to read. The bottom line is that for both participating companies and employees, they receive recognition and are well-regarded in their communities which in turn promotes a great sense of accomplishment and belonging.
Walking the talk, how we get involved
Our own office looks for opportunities to get involved in the community regularly. For instance, we participated in a team activity at the Ottawa Food Bank sorting donated food to prepare it for those in need. Our employees were enthusiastic and asked many questions about the Food Bank to get a better understanding of how it fits as community support. The time we shared was overwhelmingly positive, and people wanted to bring their children back to volunteer as well. The team felt they had made a difference and was eager to volunteer again. As an employer, we were thrilled. We provided a chance for employees to learn, putting their skills to work to help an organization who needed their time and labour.
One of Gallagher’s volunteerism goals is to have our employees give back to the community. This activity did so in spades since employees felt good about their contributions and so many of them also indicated that they wanted their families to get involved. It was a case of Gallagher giving back, but our employees paying it forward too.
There are a lot of gains for employers too
Employers are seeing sustained positive benefits of volunteer activities back in the workplace. Employees are feeling refreshed, more connected to their co-workers, happier and more engaged. They’re working harder and being more productive. Results show increased employee engagement. People are coming back more focused and reinvigorated. They are learning new skills, trying things that aren’t naturally part of their roles at work, and thinking differently about their jobs with a fresh perspective. Given all the positive returns, it’s good business to get involved!
If you have questions about how to get started with your volunteering program, feel free contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.