How Volunteerism Drives Human-Centric Belonging

Carol Cone

We are excited to welcome Carol Cone as the opening General Session speaker at the
virtual portion of our 2022 Annual Conference, Sept. 14-15, where she will be speaking on
The Power of of Purpose in a Transparent World.
Read on for Carol’s insights on the importance of employee engagement.

What does purposeful engagement with employees look like in a post-pandemic world? As employees reevaluate the role of work in their lives and what they want from employers, companies must develop new strategies for the modern workforce that prioritize flexibility and meaning.

For 86% of employees, having “meaning” in their work is more important than ever. They seek roles at organizations with values that match their own at the heart of the employee experience. Yet, with traditional office jobs on hiatus and employees growing accustomed to working from home, we’ve lost our human-centric approach to connection and engagement.

If employees are at the center of purpose, driving productivity by 13% and reducing turnover by up to 50%, how does an organization sustain engagement and open new avenues to cultivate meaning and connect to purpose for employees?

Even from home, human-centric communications can ground employees in a company’s Purpose. A culture of clear, human-centric communication builds strong internal relationships and boosts employee success, with 67% of employees saying they would go “above and beyond” in their duties if they felt more valued and engaged. But even so, employers must do more than simply tell employees where to find meaning in their work. They have to help them discover it.

Volunteering is an excellent avenue for employees to act on a company’s Purpose and develop a sense of ownership over their work and impact. Volunteerism deepens engagement across virtual and hybrid workforces, cultivates a more authentic connection to company Purpose, and benefits both employees and the business. We’ve compiled a list of benefits of volunteering and re-establishing human-centric behaviors to boost employee engagement and strengthen your organization.

The value of volunteering to the employee:

  1. Volunteering provides a sense of purpose: In a recent survey by IBM, 41% of respondents said an employer’s ethics and values were important factors in their engagement. Corporate volunteering can be a natural extension of a company’s Purpose and demonstrates an authentic commitment to company values; it has been shown to increase employees’ sense of purpose at work by 33%.
  2. Volunteerism provides a sense of community: A sense of community belonging and pride in company efforts to make a positive impact are two top drivers of employee engagement. Up to 96% of employees say volunteering in their community is essential to them. When done with purpose, volunteerism can address this need and build community to drive employee engagement.
  3. Volunteering provides a sense of accomplishment: Volunteering is rooted in doing. When the task is aligned with shared values across a company, employees, and nonprofit partners, a greater sense of purpose and achievement is derived. In one survey, 90% of volunteers reported a sense of personal achievement.
  4. Volunteering has been shown to expand empathy: Empathy is the ability to share and understand the behaviors and feelings of another. An empathetic work environment boosts innovation and engagement and strengthens employees’ investment in their work. Studies show a significant correlation between volunteerism and empathy, with those who’ve volunteered showcasing higher levels of empathy versus those who have not.
  5. Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety: Prolonged workplace stress is negatively correlated with performance. Research has shown that volunteering can lower rates of depression and anxiety. Volunteering can reduce stress and increase positive feelings, boosting productivity and performance in the workplace.
  6. Volunteering promotes leadership development: Employee-led volunteering can promote personal growth, develop leadership skills, and cultivate mutual ownership to align and activate company Purpose. When leaders help employees learn, grow, and connect their work to organizational purpose, burnout can drop by 58%.

The value of volunteering to the business:

  1. Volunteer programs can positively influence company reputation: On average, global executives attribute 63% of their company’s market value to their overall reputation, and those with a high awareness of a company’s volunteer efforts show stronger benefits toward reputation. In the United States, individual company reputation scores improved by an average of eight points when the public was made aware of corporate advocacy efforts.
  2. Volunteering programs induce customer loyalty: Loyalty is the highest form of consumer or employee engagement. When it comes to consumer loyalty, likelihood to recommend is the factor most strongly influenced by awareness of volunteering programs. When consumers see purpose activated via volunteerism, not only do they take notice and action, but they also share their positive feelings with others.
  3. Volunteering can improve customer trust: One-third of consumers today will stop buying products if they lose trust in a brand, and 66% say they consider a company’s purpose when making purchasing decisions. A 2021 CECP study shows a significant relationship between attitudes toward volunteering and trust in a company that nearly doubles when the consumer believes a company’s volunteering had a strong impact.
  4. Volunteering improves recruitment and reduces turnover: Less than 12% of employees are open to leaving their current company for new roles “if they believe their company is making a positive impact in the world.” A PwC study reveals, “employees most committed to their organizations put in [57%] more effort on the job—and are [87%] less likely to resign—than employees who consider themselves disengaged.”
  5. Volunteering improves business performance: Engaged employees produce better business outcomes. A Gallup study shows that business units with high employee engagement have nearly double the odds of success, with a 41% reduction in absenteeism, a 17% increase in productivity, and 21% greater profitability, among other positive outcomes.
  6. Volunteering bolsters ESG reporting: Hours volunteered, and philanthropic donations provide concrete data to measure a company’s commitment to purpose. With up to a quarter of consumer spending – an estimated U.S. $5 trillion of revenue – influenced by purpose, a strong ESG perception can improve willingness to buy a company’s products by as much as 37%.

As the role of work continues to evolve, employees will seek human connection and meaning on a deeper level. Volunteering enables employees to take agency in defining and guiding the meaning they get from their work. It boosts engagement and job satisfaction, strengthens employee connections with one another, and boosts overall performance. Companies that work to re-establish human-centric behaviors put employees at the forefront, reinforcing an authentic commitment to Purpose and spurring long-term success.

Carol Cone, CEO of Carol Cone ON PURPOSE, is internationally recognized for her work in Purpose and CSR. Carol Cone ON PURPOSE is the return to her entrepreneurial roots and life’s passion: to educate, inspire and accelerate purpose programs and impacts for organizations, nonprofits and individuals around the globe.

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