We are continually bombarded with analyses of the largest generation of employees bulging through the workforce. Millennials are described as entitled, demanding, self-absorbed and, above all, critical to any talent pool for a company. There is a reason for this.
“Millennials see where they work as an extension of who they are and what they stand for,” says Lisa Manley, executive vice president, CSR Strategy, Cone Communications. “For this generation, it’s important to work for an organization that gives them the opportunities to make a difference in all aspects of their lives, whether that’s in the office or out in their communities.”
Companies are similar to their millennial workforce in that they are equal parts about themselves and their beliefs. Attractive employers are about something. And if they want to demonstrate this, they need to have a way for their employees to demonstrate that they are about something too. It is very symbiotic.
This is why corporate volunteering is having its moment. When we started doing working in the social impact space 20 years ago, employee engagement was a zero-dollar business. Now, Deloitte estimates that employee engagement is a $1.5 billion business. The only reason that happens is because a generation of employees is demanding that it happens.
And, they aren’t wrong. Corporate volunteering efforts make things better. According to Taproot, a third of employees cite improvement in multiple skills areas like communication, networking, leadership, and more after participating in a volunteer effort.
United Health Group says that 80% of people who have volunteered within the past 12 months say they have more control over their health. They stress less, feel better about themselves and become more connected to their communities. Four out of five people who volunteer through their workforce say they feel better about their employer, and 64% say that volunteering with co-workers strengthens their relationships.
And for Millennials in particular, the impact is even more impressive. Seventy-six percent of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. Ninety percent expect employers to have hands-on volunteer activities in place, and 83% would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental causes.
With this mountain of data, the pressure to JUST DO SOMETHING is huge. BUT, don’t just do it. Do it well. The risks of creating a poor corporate social responsibility program outweigh the risks of not creating one at all.
For 20 years, we have been inventing, designing, and executing real experiences that allow people to exercise their fundamental desire to help those around them. Here are a few secrets to creating these experiences that others may not be so willing to share…
First, do not under-invest in the experience. Volunteering is not free. Your employees’ time is valuable. It takes resources to ensure that the work is planned, the space is prepped, and that the right amount of supplies, transportation, music, food and water is on site. We had a company once ask us what we could do for $5 per volunteer. I told them we could deliver a lame box lunch to their office (no drink). No one would assume that an off-site sales meeting would be free — it’s the same here. As you see good volunteer experiences unfold, you will know it’s worth the investment.
Second, the non-profit community is not there to serve you. There aren’t any non-profits in your area sitting around hoping that a group of 50 people show up this afternoon looking to help. Non-profits know how hard it is to mobilize volunteers, and they are leery of companies asking if their department can come over to paint a gym. Non-profits are the bridge between your desire to help and your opportunity to help. Value that and learn what specific value you can bring to them.
Third, when looking for a cause to get your team behind, look at your own sustainability report. Whatever you want your people to do, tie it to the larger mission and direction of the company. We are always surprised at this disconnect. Alignment usually unlocks funding, tells a larger story that motivates larger participation and gets the attention of the C-Suite. Your CEO wants the company to have a purpose. If you can align your people behind that purpose, rewards follow.
None of this is easy, but it is more than necessary today.
“This generation wants to get their hands dirty,” says Manley from Cone Communications. “Companies that give Millennials opportunities to get involved will be rewarded with a more engaged and invested workforce.”
Don’t just do it. Do it well.
Grady Lee is the CEO and Co-Founder of Give2Get, a production company that mobilizes volunteers through cultural experiences. He is also the Founder and chair or IMPACT 2030, a global collaboration between the United Nations and the business sector to help achieve the United Nation’s Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals by means of corporate volunteering.