One aspect of small business HR that's often overlooked is employee engagement. But getting your team members to invest emotionally in your company is a huge part of the equation for success. The benefits of employee engagement are numerous, and the strategies for achieving it are just as abundant.
Did you know that providing a chance for your employees to give back to the community boosts engagement? It may come as a surprise to you, but this theory is actually backed by science. It's all about the concept of prosocial behavior, or doing something for the benefit of someone else. Prosocial behavior positively affects the individuals participating in it, and in return, their workplaces.
Creating an Environment Conducive to Employee Engagement
Of all the methods for increasing employee engagement preached about from business coaches nationwide, workplace philanthropy is possibly the least common. But it shouldn't be. According to the 2011 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey of employed adults ages 21-35, millennials who frequently participate in workplace volunteer activities are nearly twice as likely to be very satisfied with the progression of their career. In a report from Network for Good, "Employee engagement through cause is a vital means by which to strengthen employee relationships, enhance employee morale and even build critical skill sets and expertise. Plus, employees are hungry for ways to get involved in cause."
Here are four ways that prosocial behavior through workplace giving and volunteering impacts employee engagement.
Productivity increases when employees work together toward a common goal. This creates the sense that each worker is an integral part of a bigger team. As a result, every employee feels empowered and inspired to do their part, to not let the team down.
Workplace giving and volunteering is an effective method for fostering that desired team environment and the resulting productivity. Through this sort of prosocial behavior, employees strive to meet a common goal for their community -- the community in which they all live and/or work. A common community equals a common interest.
Understandably, corporate pride is directly related to employee engagement. If an employee is ashamed of her company for whatever reason -- whether it's the culture, the lack of values, or management's philosophy -- she's not going to hang around for long.
People desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves -- now more than ever. In fact, last year the Huffington Post reported that Millennials care more about giving back than those who came before them. What better way to cultivate company pride and build employee engagement than by providing philanthropic opportunities for this social-conscious generation?
Gratitude is a strong emotion. It can change a person's outlook on just about any situation, including a work environment. Employees who feel gratitude toward their employers are more likely to build a strong emotional connection with their workplace -- and less likely to leave it.
We mentioned the desire of today's worker to give back to her community. If you're offering that as part of your company culture, she'll be forever grateful to you for providing an outlet for her prosocial thirst.
Philanthropic activity often results in a personal attitude that identifies with more ethical behavior. Think of it as do good, be good. Ethical behavior leads to ethical thoughts. Ethical thoughts lead to ethical people. And finally, ethical people lead to ethical businesses.
What happens when companies make a habit of practicing good ethical behavior as a whole? Employees begin to feel pride in their work, gratitude for their employers, and show a boosted level of productivity. See how it all comes full circle?
4 Ideas for Volunteer/Giving Opportunities
So you are convinced that volunteer or giving opportunities are a good idea for your business, but wondering what a small business can do? Your company's cause initiative should be integrated into your employee engagement goals, workforce diversity initiatives, employee interests, and your investment commitment in your community. Here are 4 ideas, but you can come up with better ideas if you and your team put your heads together:
- How about connecting with a neighborhood school and giving employees paid time to volunteer in primary grade classrooms, tutor in afterschool programs, or talk about career opportunities in your industry to a junior or senior high class?
- If you have a retail business, how about a "buy one/give one" campaign where customers buy a particular product, like books or blankets or a specific toy, and you give the same product to a local children's hospital, family shelter or inner-city school?
- If you have a coffee shop, pizzeria or sandwich shop, how about holding a fundraising event and donating the proceeds for the day to a local homeless shelter or a local college scholarship fund or a charity close to the hearts of your employees?
- Sponsor Organized Volunteer Days, that provide an experience with a low time commitment (1 day a year or a few hours every couple months) like a Habitat for Humanity build. Not every employee will want to take on big community investment projects, but many will want to feel a part of a corporate culture that values service.
Winning the Employee Engagement Challenge
When it comes to HR for small business, managers often neglect the philanthropic aspect of the job. Maybe you thought giving back only benefits the community -- maybe you never realized it encourages employee engagement, thus boosting your business growth. Or perhaps you were under the impression that giving back and volunteering aren't effective HR solutions. But science doesn't lie. So if you're not fostering prosocial behavior at your office, now's the time to start.
Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions, a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive. This article first appeared on the MJ Management Solutions blog.