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Community engagement increases workplace morale

August 5, 2013 | Posted at 10:25 am

While some companies look to maximize their employee workplace environment with free pizza or an endless supply of coffee and donuts, there are an increasing amount who see community interaction as vital to worker engagement.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a growing number of employers actively encourage their staff members to become involved in philanthropic ventures, many of which can be undertaken while on company time. Recent studies have show that allowing employees time to volunteer can not only give workers the chance to improve their self-esteem, but also the opportunity to give back to those who may be less fortunate and improve the quality of their lives.

Employee engagement
On average around 50 percent of all volunteers at community projects are in full-time employment and, according to Jessica Rodell at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, 32 percent of these workers are encouraged to do so by their employer while still on the company clock. For companies with a workforce of 10,000 staff members or more, the number is even higher with 53 percent of volunteers coming from large firms, compared to 25 percent from those with less than 10,000.

“Such corporate generosity – which can vary from financially supporting employees’ own initiatives to get involved to coordinating a company-level volunteering day – is increasing,” said Rodell, an assistant professor of management at the university. “”In general, employees who volunteer tend to have higher levels of self-esteem and are happier with their lives. At work, employees who volunteer receive more help from colleagues and resources, such as pay and promotion, from supervisors.”

Steve Delfin, president and CEO of America’s Charities – a nonprofit organization based in Virginia, agrees with Rodell. He cites the fact that employee engagement is crucial in ensuring that turnover of staff members is reduced, a situation that he estimates costs U.S. employers over $11 billion per year.

“We are experiencing a paradigm shift in workplace giving with a new model emerging that empowers employees to participate in the giving experience inside and outside the walls of the workplace,” he said, in an interview with the news source. “From a bottom-line perspective, every recent study shows that engaged workers are far less likely to leave an employer and they are more likely to develop new skills than disengaged employees.”

Society cares
This move toward community engagement is reflected in how potential employees view a company when considering their job search requirements.

A recent survey by Deloitte of employees aged between 21 and 35 showed that 70 percent of respondents were more likely to favor firms that had philanthropic programs in place, while it was felt that volunteering gave those staff members the chance to connect with the company philosophy in a non-workplace environment, with staff engagement seen to rise as a result.

However, employees can only become involved in a community project if they know of its existence. A recent blog post on stressed the need for companies to highlight such programs, especially as they are considered to have a knock-on effect in terms of workplace morale and employee happiness.

Writing on the website, Gabriel Swan suggested that firms need to make sure that current and prospective staff members be encouraged to provide feedback on what they have achieved so far in terms of volunteering, with learned skills essential to fostering that sense of community achievement and emotional well-being.

“Start by communicating your company-wide commitment to giving back to the community,” Swan wrote. “Appeal to your employees’ altruistic nature. Show them you genuinely care about making the world a better place, and that you need their help to make that a reality.”

After all, charity may start at home, but there is nothing to stop it having its roots in the workplace.