Companies today may feel pressure to provide employees with fun perks like trendy office spaces and free snacks, on top of benefits like health care and paid vacation. However, some businesses are going a different route to attract employees: offering volunteer time off (VTO).
VTO is additional paid time off outside of sick and vacation time that may be used to participate in community service or charity efforts. Offering VTO has gained popularity recently, especially with the Millennial workforce, who believe in allocating time to give back to others.
As companies are turning their sights on recruiting skilled workers, they’re finding that, to be competitive, they need to create similar offerings. But how can VTO help you recruit top talent?
Recruiting Top Talent with VTO
A Glassdoor survey from 2017 showed that employees place a high value on giving back: 75% expected their employer to provide volunteer efforts or make donations to those in need, and 51% expected their employer to allow them to allocate work time and resources to advocate for positive social change.
For the Millennials who currently make up the majority of the workforce, 72% expect their employer to allow them the freedom to use time and resources to give back in a positive way. This statistic builds on a prior Fortune survey from 2016, which found that Millennials are more likely to either work for or buy products from a company that contributes to charity, over other generations like Gen Xers and baby boomers.
As if that wasn’t enough, employees who are able to volunteer “on the clock” feel a strong sense of loyalty to their companies. Monster reports that employees involved in their company’s volunteer efforts are 28% more likely to be proud of their company’s values. They are also 36% more likely to feel a strong sense of loyalty towards their company compared to those who do not participate in the company’s volunteer program.
Volunteering also allows employees to hone skills integral to their job, no matter the employee’s position or industry, according to Harvard Business Review. Volunteering alongside colleagues strengthens team-building skills, camaraderie and leadership abilities. Offering VTO attracts those who have these inherent qualities, or those who will improve these skills by volunteering in the company’s name. It can also help keep those great employees for the long-term.
Retaining Employees for the Long-Term
Fortune’s Best Workplaces for Giving Back survey highlights just how important VTO can be in retaining top talent. In the anonymous survey, employees shared that the dedication their companies put into VTO and other philanthropic initiatives was a source of pride for them. Salesforce was ranked the #1 company by its employees, who shared that philanthropy “is an important part of our culture from top to bottom.”
Salesforce employees clearly feel proud to be associated with a company that makes giving back a fundamental part of their work culture. This sense of pride, among other things, is one of the top predictors of workplace satisfaction — not including pay. The culture and values of a company, followed by quality of top leadership and career opportunities, rated higher over factors of workplace happiness such as compensation and benefits.
Being part of a company that values generosity ultimately pays off — not only for employees, but for management and decision-makers at the top, as well. Offering higher pay can be a challenge, but luckily for company executives, Princeton University studies have shown that having a higher income increases happiness only marginally.
In the long run, a positive work culture, quality management, and benefits like VTO alongside fair pay will increase workplace satisfaction over high pay. With higher workplace satisfaction comes stronger company loyalty and pride, a lower turnover rate, and reduced costs to find and hire new employees. Angela Fang from Wordbank, a marketing agency, shares: “Having regular VTO hours shows me that [my employer] encourages employees to be active volunteers within the local community and actually cares to make a difference outside of the office.” Ms. Fang and her colleagues are just a small portion of a new workforce that is benefiting from VTO, and they’re a prime example of how employees thrive when offered the chance to give back.
“Having regular VTO hours shows me that [my employer] encourages employees to be active volunteers within the local community and actually cares to make a difference outside of the office.”
How to Offer VTO to New and Current Employees
Creating your own VTO or Employee Volunteer Program (EVP) for your business takes a little time and effort to create proper infrastructure — especially for businesses hoping to attract top talent with their new offering. We recommend starting a VTO program by asking: What is your ultimate goal?
For many businesses, the ultimate goal is strengthening their reputation within the community and improving the pool of prospective employees. Benchmarks and strategies for an employee volunteer program should be considered as well. Directors of employee volunteer programs must also decide if volunteer goals will be measured via:
- Funds raised
- Hours volunteered
- Projects completed
- Satisfaction surveys
- Employee retention
- Some combination of all the above
Strategies and goals for both marketing and leadership should be created, collaborators and partners decided upon, and volunteer hours tracked. Lastly, it’s important to consider how program leaders will encourage and celebrate employee efforts through the program. Wordbank, for example, offers a “list of recommendations for personal volunteering… but everyone has the choice of where they would like to volunteer.”
Planning and implementing your own EVP or VTO benefits can seem overwhelming, but it helps to remember the ultimate reason you’re offering volunteer programs. Giving to others increases happiness, improves teamwork and people skills, and strengthens the sense of loyalty and pride an employee will feel towards your company and the initiatives it chooses to take. Offering a volunteer program will also attract job seekers who align with these values and, in the end, can improve the quality of your employee roster.
Gearing Up Your VTO Offering
In addition to supporting nonprofits and organizations, the internal benefits of offering VTO are clear. From a marketing standpoint, companies who prioritize VTO have a chance to build their reputation and brand image, bring positive attention to the company, drive profits, and promote a better reputation within their communities.
Ms. Fang, who receives five hours of VTO from Wordbank each month, loves using her hours to make a difference in her community. “I recently spent half of my work day volunteering at a local organic farm in Boulder, CO. Two other B Corp companies and ours harvested 557 pounds of produce in three hours.” The food was donated to local shelters that same day to feed the food-insecure community in Boulder County. “It was not only fun to pick jalapenos, but it was rewarding to be of service to these farmers who are dedicating their lives to feeding the hungry in Boulder on a daily basis.”
Companies who prioritize volunteering in their work culture also have higher rates of employee happiness and stronger loyalty. By offering VTO, companies attract employees with desirable skills like emotional intelligence, team-building, and empathy. Working for a company aligned with their own values will create a sense of kinship and pride in employees.
Feeling proud of the company they work for, plus high job satisfaction, and sense of accomplishment, equals a lower turnover rate. Employees happy with their work are less likely to quit, lowering costs associated with acquiring and onboarding new employees. Providing VTO is a fantastic way to find talented employees who will give their best — not only to the company who hires them, but to others through volunteering.
Do you want to learn more about how a VTO program can help you attract and retain top talent for your business? NobleHour can help you get started.
Since 2007, NobleHour has proven to be the volunteer management solution for organizations across the nation. With its robust online platform, NobleHour enhances community engagement with a variety of innovative and transformative tools for finding, tracking, and measuring volunteer, service‐learning, and community service initiatives. With offices in Lakeland, FL, and Portland, OR, the NobleHour team is dedicated to empowering good in communities across the country.
By NobleHour Special Contributor:
Latasha Doyle is a writer and long term care volunteer living outside of Denver, Colorado. When she’s not writing or volunteering, she enjoys crocheting, Netflix marathons, and planning her next trip.