Leaders: Give back to boost employee productivity

Let employees know their work is making a difference. Enter corporate giving.

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Being helpful feels good. Besides the extra bit of dopamine, there’s simply something satisfying about making a difference in the world. That’s why it’s so important for progressive-minded companies to get serious about giving back.

The case for giving back

According to labor statistics, the average rate for employee turnover across all industries is 15.1 percent. That’s an uninspiring figure, but one that could see improvement from an unlikely source: corporate giving and volunteer programs.

According to a PwC study and a Gallup poll, respectively, U.S. workers put in 57 percent more effort, and deliver higher earnings per company share, when they’re engaged in the workplace and feel their efforts are going toward something meaningful. What this means is retaining the best talent for your organization can be difficult, but might become easier with the help of a well-designed program that gets your employees involved and invested in their communities.

What does this look like?

You probably won’t have to look very hard to discover places where your workers’ efforts might be appreciated in the communities you serve. America does an OK job taking care of her own, but there are always opportunities to provide the less fortunate with clothes, resources, opportunities, food, shelter, water or any of the many other things most of us take for granted.

If you’re looking for a way to bring a spirit of “giving back” to your own office, here are a few suggestions to help get you started.

Organize a day of service for your office: Hands-on experience is incredibly important for a variety of reasons. For one, it eliminates the barriers between the volunteers and the work they’re doing, rather than relying on donations alone, which can start to feel impersonal. Get your workplace involved with charity drives, or even building projects for Habitat for Humanity or other initiatives.

You’ll be amazed by what a few afternoons each year can yield in employee happiness and engagement. Research performed by UnitedHealth suggests that 64 percent of employees who do volunteer work found their workplace relationships were strengthened by the experience.

Host a giveaway: Although hands-on giving is especially engaging, sometimes it’s enough for employees to know their employer gives back in its own way. For example, Ford Mustang parts retailer CJ Pony Parts offers two $500 scholarships for college-bound students each year. Winners are determined based on video entries they submit. It’s a fun way to give back, and it's driven by the infectious spirit of competition.

There are lots of other ways to go about doing this, as well. You might set up a matching funds initiative where, for example, you’ll match the dollar amount of every new sale for a week or a month, and then give the matched funds to a charity chosen by your employees. Have fun with it, and don’t forget to involve the whole team when it comes to selecting a recipient.

Revisit your mission statement: This route is not to be undertaken by the faint of heart. Reimagining your company’s mission is a big deal, but it might be the missing key to rehabilitating your public image and taking a stance to become a stronger pillar of the community.

Consider this: nearly 80 percent of surveyed U.S. workers indicated that they prefer working with a company that prides itself on social responsibility. Millennials lead the charge here, but workers of all ages are questioning the meaning of their careers if they’re not a part of something that makes a difference.

Think about what it means that Kickstarter revised its corporate charter to become a “public benefit” corporation. That’s a top-to-bottom makeover that goes far beyond profit margins — it’s a literally legally binding indication that Kickstarter wants to make the world a better place through strategic giving and ethical business practices.

You don’t have to be quite so dramatic with your own company — you can take some inspiration from the greats and draw up a new company mission statement or a set of values that describe how you want to “own” your place in the larger world. The sky’s the limit — and your employees will have fun being part of the process, if you invite them to do so.

Become citizens of the world: From lowering employee turnover to creating a positive public buzz, there are plenty of self-serving reasons to get your company involved in giving back. But the less selfish reasons are even easier to find.

You and your team members will get the satisfaction of knowing that your work serves a higher purpose, and you’ll rest in the knowledge that those things you most often take for granted — your money and your time — have helped make somebody else’s life a little brighter.

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