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VOL. 129 | NO. 100 | Thursday, May 22, 2014

Encouraging Company Volunteerism

LARRY COLBERT | Special to The Daily News

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Boosting workplace morale may be as easy as leveraging your team’s talents outside the office via volunteer efforts.

Many times, these opportunities allow an employee to showcase skills and talents that would otherwise be unknown to their fellow team members.

For instance, we may all know that Sally in accounting is skilled at making spreadsheets. But we might not discover that she is also a talented mentor until we see her in action in a volunteer-based environment.

This untapped skill could be an asset to her and her employer. Her ability to impart knowledge and encourage mentees is something that could be leveraged to benefit new and developing coworkers.

Volunteerism positively impacts the volunteer, the employer and the receiving organization. These community efforts impact employees in tangible ways. Employees who volunteer are noted to be happier, have higher performance, have decreased absenteeism and have increased longevity with their employer.

So how can employers develop an effective employee volunteer program? Following these steps will ensure you are off to a good start:

Find the right cause(s). Ask your team members what organizations they would like to support and why. Perhaps they have volunteered there before, or maybe they have a family member or friend who has been helped by a particular nonprofit.

Prioritize and organize. Someone on your team likely has the skill of spearheading group efforts. Empower them to organize a calendar of service projects once the preferences of your team members are known.

Communicate your commitment. Let your team members know that giving back to the community is important to your company as a whole. Many companies arrange employee volunteer activities during work time, further emphasizing the dedication your organization has to supporting the community.

Participate. At times, key leadership may not participate in volunteer activities due to busy travel schedules and meetings. Make it a priority to not only attend volunteer events, but to participate along with the rest of the team. This gives organizational leaders a rare opportunity to engage with their professionals outside of the office, and can help executives get to know their team members better, enabling leadership to more effectively promote from within.

Show gratitude. After volunteer efforts are completed, thank your team for their participation. Challenge the beneficiary of your team’s volunteer work to provide you with tangible results you may share to your team. Let your team know you appreciate their part in giving back to the very communities that support your business.

Repeat. A one-time volunteer effort is not effective in communicating that your organization is committed to giving back. Allow your team members to give back regularly and challenge them find volunteer opportunities that are sustainable long term, while taking into consideration their workload. This will create a solution that can work for years to come, benefiting your company, your team member and the organizations for which they choose to volunteer.

Larry Colbert is the president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South. For more information, call 366-7800 or visit www.jamemphis.org.

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