How to Encourage Community Service in Your Workplace
By Jori Hamilton
Image source Pexels
July 26 2021 - Your companyís connection to the community is an increasingly vital influence on your success. When you make consistent efforts to be a force for good in the local and global environment, there are positive effects. You build loyalty among local consumers. You bolster your reputation in ways that can be leveraged in marketing. Above all else, you strengthen the moral and ethical values at the core of your business.
However, to make a meaningful impact on both the community and your company, your staff must be fully on board, too. This must include engaging in activities in service to the community. While your staff is likely to be behind your commitment to causes, it can sometimes be a challenge to encourage them to be meaningfully involved. Yet, when you succeed it can forge stronger bonds for everyone involved. Indeed, one study found that 89% of workers polled felt companies that offer volunteer opportunities were a better overall working environment.
Weíre going to take a look at some key areas of focus to help you encourage community service in your workplace.
One way to encourage your employees to engage in community service is by giving them a certain amount of control of the situation. Yes, as a business youíll certainly have your own priorities when it comes to your philanthropy. However, you canít expect your workers to contribute in a meaningful way if they canít form a personal connection to it. Itís therefore smart to hand ownership of community service efforts over to your staff.
A good approach to this is forming a committee. This shouldnít just be populated by members of leadership. Rather, this committee should reflect diversity, with contributors from all levels of the organization. Indeed, it can be more effective if this committee is fluid, inviting new members and even rotating the primary facilitator of meetings. Give this group a remit to identify needs in the community and not just provide donations but connect to activities they and other staff members can get involved with.
One benefit of this is your staff are likely to be able to identify opportunities and organizations leadership is not aware of. This leads to your business making a greater community impact. But also, by giving your workers ownership over not just execution but the leadership of these endeavors, you are empowering them to form deeper connections with their service.
As an employer, encouraging community service among your workforce needs to be met with support from your business. This can include providing funding to events or paid time off for workers to engage in external activities. However, one approach that can demonstrate your businessí commitment to a cause and be more practical for employees to engage, is by hosting an in-house community service event.
Inviting local organizations into your premises has an impact on both the cause and those involved. On one hand, youíre providing a charity with resources - space, utility access, staff, potential media visibility - they may not otherwise have access to. But youíre also providing opportunities for your workers to engage more with causes in their local area they might not otherwise have time or energy for due to other personal or family commitments.
Itís important to remember, though, that any kind of in-house community service event requires significant planning. Yes, it can be a mutually beneficial activity for the charitable organization and the business. But, at the same time, to encourage engagement of both staff and the community, you need to put in the effort to ensure it is relevant to everyone involved. Work with the local organizations to understand what kind of event would be most impactful for the demographic of your community - a food drive, a concert, an informational seminar? Donít just make it about raising awareness, either. Your approach needs to practically address a community issue to be engaging, too. When you put time and effort into planning for potential hurdles, funding requirements, and even marketing needs, you have a better chance to bring everyone on board in a meaningful and effective way.
Your staffís engagement with community service can often come down to their individual motivations. As such, a good way to approach the matter is to explore how it can help your workers grow personally and professionally. After all, engaging in community projects helps to not just build practically service-based skills. Seeing how their actions impact the community helps to develop soft skills; particularly empathy.
You can, therefore, make community service engagement part of your talent development process. This doesnít mean dictating what volunteering your workers should adopt in their free time. Rather, during performance reviews, managers should make community service opportunities part of discussions about their onward progression. Talk about how you can work together to locate opportunities that both benefit community causes and help provide experiences that impact their career goals. As part of company support during this talent development process, itís important to provide paid time off for this engagement, in much the same way as you would for training seminars or certification courses.
Remember, part of this ongoing development needs to include a community service that reflects cultural diversity. Experiences and interactions with people of varied backgrounds will provide your staff with insights, relationships, and connections that will benefit your business and enrich their personal development. This also means you need to provide them with the tools to communicate respectfully on an intercultural level. Your workers need training on the common barriers here - ethnocentric attitudes and the assumption of similarities among them. Educate them on interacting with people of different backgrounds and not being afraid to ask for help if they donít understand an aspect of cultural nuance. With some guidance and introductions to diverse organizations, there are potential gains for everybody involved.
Community service can play an important role in keeping connected to your local consumers. Your staff will be an integral part of this, and the key to maintaining their engagement in the process is ensuring theyíre personally involved throughout. By giving them ownership over the process, moving activities in-house, and connecting service to talent development you can help make certain your business is a positive influence in the world.
Jori Hamilton is a freelance writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity, recruitment, HR, and marketing strategies. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.