As students return to school across the country this week, our education system continues to face a myriad of complex challenges, including training teachers for the new Common Core standards, preparing students with the academic and life skills needed to succeed in the 21st Century, evaluating teachers and developing strong principals who can effectively tackle these issues.
Fortunately, as students return to school, thousands of business volunteers are walking alongside them, putting their skills to work to help schools overcome many of these challenges -- with impressive results. In the last school year alone, nearly 80% of principals working with business volunteers through PENCIL felt more confident as school leaders; nearly 80% saw an increase in family engagement in their schools; and more than 95% saw an increase in student awareness about college and career awareness.
Because they see the impact they are having on our students, nearly 80% of PENCIL's business volunteers return to work with their schools from one year to the next. But they also return because helping our schools through skills-based volunteerism (SBV) is good business.
The facts are clear: promoting and providing employees with meaningful volunteer opportunities helps to attract top talent; engage, develop, and retain employees; boost public image; and improve the bottom line.
Recruiting and Engaging Employees
Increasingly, today's employees are entering the workforce with an expectation that volunteering will be a part of their professional careers. PriceWaterhouseCoopers discovered that 88% of Millennials gravitated toward companies with pronounced Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs, and 86% would consider leaving if their employer's CSR no longer met their expectations.
And according to the 2011 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey, 61% of Millenials said a volunteer program would be a factor "when choosing between two potential jobs with the same location, responsibilities, pay and benefits."
"Attracting and retaining great talent is the lifeblood of our business," says Gil Krakowsky, principal at global consulting firm A.T. Kearney. "So when candidates say that our volunteer work through PENCIL clinched their decision to join our firm over others, it makes our commitment to volunteering that much more beneficial to the firm itself."
Once on the job, employees also feel better about their corporations -- and themselves -- when they're presented with the opportunity to volunteer.
Deloitte found that over 50% of Millennial employees that volunteer are very loyal toward their
company, proud to work there, satisfied with their employer, and likely to recommend their company to a friend. And Millennial employees who participate in a company's volunteer program are more than twice as likely to rate their work culture as "very positive," as compared to those who don't volunteer.
In an SBV volunteer program -- in which volunteers use their professional skills in a different capacity to benefit a nonprofit or other organization -- the gains that a business' employees make are two-fold. First, they'll hone their day-to-day skills: employees who participate in SBV programs are 142% more likely to report job-related skills gains than traditional volunteers, according to a True Impact report.
Secondly, exposure to a new environment -- and new challenges -- will allow employees to break out of their 'comfort zone' and develop other skills away from the office. According to Deloitte, 91% of Fortune 500 HR managers said that "volunteering knowledge and expertise to a nonprofit can be an effective way to cultivate critical business and leadership skills," such as project management, communication, goal-setting and evaluation. These 'soft' skills might not be as easy to quantify, and they might not even be a part of an employee's daily work, but they can make all the difference in cultivating leadership and planning for future success.
Apart from developing their skills, SBV programs have the added benefit of being especially good at creating more engaged and fulfilled employees. According to True Impact, volunteers in SBV programs are 47% more likely to report higher satisfaction from their involvement than traditional volunteers, which means that in developing their employees' skills, businesses are more likely to retain their talent as well.
By 'public relations,' I don't just mean the good press in local newspapers (though that's likely as well).
Volunteer programs also help companies ingratiate themselves to their customers, who will see -- and respect -- a business' efforts to improve the community. It's something that consumers expect: according to the 2011 "Pulse Survey," 40% of a company's reputation is determined by volunteering and corporate social responsibility. And according to a McKinsey study of CSR, "CFOs, investment professionals, and corporate social responsibility professionals agree that maintaining a good corporate reputation or brand equity is the most important way [volunteering programs] create value."
The Bottom Line
Recruiting top talent, keeping them engaged and burnishing a business' reputation -- it all adds up to a bigger bottom line. In a recent Forbes article, Tim Mohin writes: "More engaged employees make for more profits...companies with highly engaged employees have three times the operating margin...and four times the earnings per share... of companies with low engagement."
And according to Deloitte's 2010 Volunteer Impact Survey, 64% of executives surveyed say that corporate citizenship produces a tangible contribution to the company bottom line. "CA Technologies has a long standing commitment to CSR and volunteer programs, particularly in education because we recognize it's a good investment for our business," said Erica Christensen, senior director, Community Affairs, CA Technologies.
When our employees are engaged in community activities that leverage their professional skills through volunteerism, we find them to be happier and better connected with their colleagues, which benefits the entire company. Doing good work in the community is its own reward, but there are positives for business, too. In short, everyone benefits from these efforts.
Every day, more and more businesses like CA Technologies, UPS, Starbucks, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Target -- along with nonprofits like PENCIL -- are joining movements like A Billion + Change, which is mobilizing companies across the country to engage in skills-based volunteerism.
But, there is still so much need. And that's why as children across the country sling on their backpacks, we need more and more businesses to get on the school bus as well.