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Volunteering: A key to unlocking personal purpose at work

Volunteering: A key to unlocking personal purpose at work

This blog is part of a series of blogs ‘Momentive’s continued dedication to DEI and social impact’ that centers around the principles of DEI and Social Impact, our learnings as a company, as well as the tools and templates to help you Ask, Listen and Act when it comes to DEI and Social Impact.  

Why is corporate volunteering so important?

There is now a direct link between employees' desire to work for a company with a purpose that aligns to their values, and a workplace that empowers them to make a positive impact on the world. For example, a Momentive|CNBC survey found that feeling work is meaningful impacts employees’ happiness at work more than any other factor–beating out being well paid, autonomy at work, and having opportunities to advance. 

The McKinsey April 2021 article “Help your employees find purpose – or watch them leave” echoes this phenomena. Their research shows the workplace is increasingly becoming a place where individuals look for, find, and shape their purpose. For example, nearly two-thirds of US-based employees surveyed said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life—and 70% of people say they define their purpose through work.

As an employee engagement veteran, I’ve developed volunteering programs many times over, and I’m closely familiar with both the challenges and the rewards.  Here’s how I’ve grown to think about building and maintaining those programs.

The pressure of creating personal purpose

The pressure of creating personal purpose in the hands of the workplace can be daunting. However, with the right opportunities and a strategic approach that ties back to a company’s vision, mission and values, purpose only strengthens. Employee volunteering is one of the best ways to connect to purpose, allowing employees to give back, in ways large or small, to the causes they care about. 

Many times, this is leveraging the best of what they and their companies do every day, translating to greater personal satisfaction, but also a stronger connection to the company they work for. Research by author and social impact thought leader Bea Boccalandro shows 13% higher job satisfaction, on average, in employees whose work experience incorporated social purpose than in those whose work did not. 

Employee volunteering has grown immensely over the years from one-off, adhoc initiatives to strategic global approaches that leverage the talent and resources of each employee to bring it to the nonprofits who need it most. Done right, it’s helping companies stand out, attract and retain top talent, identify new opportunities and channels of innovation, and reach their social impact goals. 

Establishing a volunteering program that sticks

While a successful volunteering program is bespoke, there is one best practice I’ve learned to center any program on–employee feedback. Your company may expand, evolve, downsize, but to have a successful program it must be flexible and stay connected to the diverse perspectives of your employees. If we can ask, listen, and then use their feedback to act, we can create programs that address inequities in society and honor social impact priorities and the unique values and passions of our employees. 

Here are a few places to focus. 

Ask questions to meet your employees where they are.  

Creating an employee volunteering program that sticks must start with knowing what your employees want. Which topics or nonprofits are they passionate about, how would they like to volunteer (e.g. in person, virtual, hybrid, skills-based, as a group, individually, etc.), when is the best time of year or time of day, do they need time freed up through paid  time off or permission from a manager, and more. When programs are developed from the top-down, with little engagement upfront, you may find employee uptake sluggish and disengaged. 

At Momentive, we design our products and technology to collect and analyze human sentiment at scale, with the purpose of broadening the world’s perspective. Through SurveyMonkey’s volunteer feedback, employee satisfaction and Engage survey templates it’s easy to get started right away. 

You can also create your own survey to get at the specific questions you need. For example, Vanguard Charitable, one of the largest donor-advised fund providers in the country, used SurveyMonkey to gather donor preferences and found that donors wanted to get hyper-local with their giving, and do it as quickly as possible. With SurveyMonkey Enterprise, Women’s March Global launched Global Count in 15 countries gathering responses from across the globe, and providing an in-depth look at the issues women face and how challenges differ by country.

Provide a way to listen anytime, anywhere. 

A mechanism where employees can contribute and shape your ongoing program is crucial for a global company looking to engage local employees. For example, employee committees such as Green Teams or employee resource groups in key locations are extremely helpful in rallying employees together to give back while also serving as an earpiece locally year round. At Momentive, our voluntary and employee-led Diversity, Inclusion, and Impact Groups (DIIGs) and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) bring together allies across our offices and frequently volunteer to support equality and racial justice initiatives. 

Act and offer what your employees want. 

Use these insights coupled with your corporate purpose and social impact strategy to create a cohesive volunteering program that includes: a predictable cadence as well as opportunities for employee-led volunteering, a variety of volunteering types, and opportunities to connect to causes locally. At Momentive, our employees are passionately committed to

volunteering through a variety of in-person, virtual, and hybrid opportunities. They take part in our annual Week of Service and can volunteer any time, for any cause they choose through Dollars for Doers that provides $20 per hour volunteered with an eligible charity (up to $3,000 a year per employee). We also offer one-off initiatives for important events such as International Women’s Day, Juneteenth, Pride Month, Earth Day, and more. These types of events help create awareness of the inequities underserved communities face, and our employees' engagement help organizations achieve their goals and increase their impact within the communities they serve.

Skills-based volunteering has also continued to flourish in many companies with pro bono volunteers offering expertise and support to nonprofits in areas such as IT, human resources, marketing and communications, operational strategy, and more. In a research study by author and social impact thought leader Bea Boccalandro, she concluded that volunteering correlates more strongly with employee engagement when it is conducted with work colleagues or applies workplace skills. A win-win for skills based, company led initiatives. 

It all connects back to purpose.

What I see time and time again is that a strong purpose-driven culture has a huge impact on the uptake of volunteering. It makes sense. Employees who enjoy each other want to volunteer together, employees who like where they work want to go above and beyond, and employees that are happy are more likely to want to help others. 

At Momentive this is definitely the case. Our annual company-wide global Week of Service honors the legacy of our late CEO Dave Goldberg. We continue to see the excitement and engagement as our employees connect to such a meaningful purpose and in 2021, our team volunteered 885 hours, at a value of over $17,000. Throughout the year our employees are connected to our belief that together we can drive real progress for equity, sustainability, and social justice—to help improve the world we currently live in and shape a better future for everyone.

So what comes first you may ask? I argue a strong culture does, but it’s definitely the case that a commitment to volunteering from the start can be the driver in creating a purpose-driven culture. Whichever it may be for your company, you can’t go wrong having both.

Check out the introduction to this blog series here and our article about the importance of DEI in talent integration here