Not much attention is paid to the fact that employee volunteerism programs often help a business and its employees as much as the community. The community benefit should always be the primary rationale for developing a program, but it is important to realize that these efforts truly are win-win scenarios.
As both a business leader at LPL Financial and a member of the board for the LPL Financial Foundation, I have a unique vantage point into the many benefits of such programs. I find there are two areas that often go overlooked.
First, volunteer programs broadly create higher levels of engagement and fulfillment with employees. There is an innate sense of pride and accomplishment in being able to help people outside of the office walls. This gives additional meaning and value to the work and gives staff a unique pride that comes with knowing they have made a difference (beyond doing a great job on XYZ project or report).
Study after study indicates that engaged employees are more productive, which leads to an uplift in business performance. This is a clear endorsement that employee time spent volunteering is time well spent.
RECRUITING & RETENTION
Second, volunteer programs can be critical to recruiting and retention of Gen Y workers, who now make up a significant portion of the workforce.
Among millennials (defined here as ages 20 to 34), 78% of workers want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society, according to a 2013 Cone Communications survey. And millennial employees who frequently participate in their company's employee volunteer activities are more likely to feel pride in and loyalty to their company, and satisfaction with the progression of their career, another survey found.
Employee volunteer programs are almost table stakes to this generation; without such programs, you very well might miss out from a recruiting standpoint.
So what can you do to get the most value out of an employee volunteer program? It is not as difficult as it might seem. In fact, it can be quite simple: Make sure employees are motivated to take advantage of the opportunities provided. Just start somewhere and lead from the top down.
At LPL, we empower employees to get involved by providing 16 hours of volunteer time off each year. LPL also creates volunteerism opportunities through the LPL Financial Foundation; among other efforts, we host volunteer activities as part of our larger advisor conferences -- creating opportunities for our advisors to contribute alongside our employees.
Taking a first step can lead to great things; leaders need to lead by example and encourage others to follow. As the number of employees begins to grow, the real value of these programs begins to materialize. There is a snowball effect: As we have seen at LPL, volunteerism is contagious.
From a personal perspective, I had the honor of leading a team that created a Tees for Tuition scholarship fund. I was given this opportunity through my work as a board member of Communities in Schools here in Charlotte, N.C.
If not for LPL's involvement with this great organization, I would never have been able to join their board, nor been given the privilege of joining my team as we presented a check to the inaugural winner of the scholarship. Seeing the tears of joy streaming down the face of the recipient's mother was far and away the highlight of my career thus far.
I challenge you to take that step to consider volunteerism as a critical component of your business. The value you create can be impactful in many ways, both inside and outside the walls of your organization.
Andy Kalbaugh is a managing director and divisional president for Institution Services at LPL Financial.
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