The outlook looks positive. With businesses starting to move towards a decentralized office and workers working from their homes on flexible schedules, more time can be made available for workers to spend with their families and in their communities.
The move to a decentralized work place will require traditional employee volunteer programs to adapt to new working conditions. Employee volunteer programs will have to adapt to the 21st century volunteer who gives not only of their time and talent, but lends their voice and dollars to the causes they believe in.
While community volunteering will likely remain an important part of employee volunteer programs, payroll giving programs and fundraising opportunities should become part of a business' social responsibility planning.
Businesses with robust employee volunteer programs gain more than just a boost to their public relations. A strong employee volunteer program can make a company develop employee skills, develop customer loyalty, improve relationships with the community, and spur innovation and creativity.
When a company invests in a community through its employee volunteer program, employees gain access to new networks and perspectives that help them keep in touch with rapid social change. The company can gain insight into new market needs, explore different ways of working and encourage employees to use their initiative and foster inter-departmental cohesion by enabling new teams to work together and create a sense of common purpose.
The public expects companies to give back to their communities, and often has a negative view of companies that don't actively support the communities around them. In the long run, community investment helps build community capacity, creating a stable, sustainable and healthy local community that will often supply a large proportion of the company's employees and customers.
As the price and quality of products and services become increasingly standardized across many industries, community investment can help to differentiate a company from its competitors and make for more loyal customers. Consumers are increasingly using their dollars to support causes, not only through direct donations, but by purchasing products from companies that support causes that they are passionate about.
Many employee volunteer programs can help to increase employees' skills. Volunteering and other forms of employee involvement can help to develop a variety of competencies, including teamwork, planning, communication, project management, problem solving, budgeting, listening skills and customer focus. Volunteering can challenge employees by taking them outside the confines of their usual 9-5 job, encourage innovation and creativity, promote respect for difference and affirm their personal contribution and confidence.
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