Disengaged employees bring down morale, productivity and cost money – replacing an employee can set a company back more than three times the employee’s annual salary, according to a Gallup report.
Many companies have discovered a surefire way to increase employee engagement – corporate volunteer programs. These programs allow employers to connect with their employees by supporting charitable pursuits important to them.
How does workplace volunteering translate into better workplace engagement?
1. Employee volunteer programs lend purpose and meaning.
Commitment to one’s work gives employees a sense of purpose, and companies are learning that an excellent conduit to this feeling is involvement in cause. Seventy-one percent of employees who participated in an LBG Associates survey about employee volunteer programs indicated that they felt more positive about their company as a result of these programs. Many business leaders find that purpose-driven work through cause is linked to boosted morale and productivity, which inevitably affects corporate bottom lines. Organizations are realizing that if you give employees the opportunity to give back, they’ll have a renewed appreciation for the importance of their jobs.
2. Employee volunteer programs are a critical tool for employee recruitment and retention.
Employees want to take pride in their work and company, and when they do, they tend to stay. Volunteer programs are a superb channel to create an engaged corporate culture that attracts top talent and keeps them on the job. Corporate volunteerism report by Deloitte showed that workplace volunteer programs are important even to those who don’t typically volunteer in their private time; 61% of millennials who rarely or never volunteer would consider a company’s commitment to the community when making a job decision.
3. Employee volunteer programs provide strong platforms for leadership and skills development.
An employee volunteer program allows workers to expand skills, build upon strengths and connect with their community. Indeed, 90% of human resources professionals say that pro-bono volunteering is an effective way to develop leadership skills. Volunteering can also develop soft skills that are instrumental in a business environment, such as problem-solving, mentoring and communications. That’s why these programs are excellent breeding grounds for new talent, allowing a neutral space for employee training and growth at a relatively low cost to the company.
Some other important benefits include:
- Employee development
- Encouraging teamwork
- Improved communication
- Building brand awareness
- Improved employee retention
- Providing subject matter for corporate content creation
While company volunteer program strategies may vary, one thing is certain: engaging employees through volunteering infuses jobs with purpose-filled work that increases workers’ chances of remaining happy, productive and loyal.
The Power of Positive Feedback
Many business leaders miss a key opportunity to recognize great work and provide positive feedback. Why is it so easy to see what’s not working and so hard to celebrate when people get it right? Recognizing team members will not only enhance your organizational growth; but also helps retain great employees. Regardless of business size, correctly given; recognizing others early and often can help improve job performance, promote professional and personal growth, and ultimately increases overall morale.
Here are some tips to help you along the way
- Never hesitate. Share encouraging words often and loudly. Believe it or not… It is often worth more than money.
- Make it public. Constructive feedback can be given privately. Recognition is often more powerful when given in public.
- Be specific. Focus on exactly what was done right. We all know it is easy to call people out when they do something wrong, but what about calling out people when they do something right?
Positive feedback goes along way to growing and reinforcing any relationship. And, like smiling, it cost nothing.
Feedback Do’s and Don’ts
- Be Specific. What did the person actually say or do? Was the statement or action was effective or ineffective?
- When offering developmental feedback; provide or seek alternatives the person can use in the future. Discuss why the alternatives might result in enhanced performance. Provide support, but allow responsibility for developing to remain with the person.
- Provide feedback on both the “what” and the “how”. What are the results? What did the person say or do to achieve or not receive the results?
- Think of feedback as a learning opportunity that can lead you and others to better performance.
- Listen with full attention to the feedback people provide. Focus more attention on understanding their perspectives and suggestions than on defending your action or behaviors.
- When receiving feedback, ask for specific examples of what you did well and what you could have done better.
- Watch for trends in behavior to focus on high-payoff development areas.
- Don’t assume you are the only and best source of feedback. Encourage people to seek feedback from peers, internal partners, customer and other leaders.
- Don’t give vague feedback or feedback that cannot be supported with data or examples.
- Don’t say someone did something well when you don’t believe it.
- Don’t guess at someone’s motives.
- Don’t become defensive about your actions.
Feedback – What Works and What Doesn’t?
Do you like receiving feedback? How do you prefer to get feedback?
Think of a time when someone gave you helpful feedback. How did the conversation go? What did the person providing the feedback do to make it a productive conversation?
My guess is that you appreciated feedback that was:
- Timely – We tend to be more willing to accept suggestions that are timely. When we face difficult or challenging situations, we usually want to know how we are doing, and what we can do to develop. On the other hand, no one wants to hear what he or she could or should have done long after the fact.
- Balanced— I am sure you appreciated getting some positive feedback as well as suggestions for development.
- Beneficial— We think of feedback for development as information that helped me be the best I can be, not just comments that pointed out a performance problem.
- Sincere— The most effective feedback that I ever got was from someone that I knew really cared about me and took the time to share specific changes that I could make to be more effective.
- Engaging—They encouraged me to take responsibility for my own growth and learning by actively creating an environment that constantly helped me seek feedback from my leader, peers, and customers.
- Ongoing— Feedback shouldn’t be a one-time event. For top performers (like us!), ongoing feedback can address new challenges and achieve success FASTER!
Now, flip it and think of a time when you received feedback and you got defensive… why did that happen? How was the message delivered?
Next steps: Take 10 minutes to create your own list.
First, think about the best feedback you ever received and model that style. Then, think about what not to do… and don’t do it.
Believe me … it’s easier said than done.
Simple Ways to Use Recognition to Power and Reinforce Success
With so many ways to recognize people for their contributions, we need to mix it up. Avoid getting stale and keep it engaging. As effective as it can be, this might go beyond a simple “thank you.” There are many ways to recognize people. You will find many ideas laid-out below.
General Approaches to Ensure Effective Recognition
Be timely–Recognition that has the most impact is timely and comes in close proximity to when the performance happened.
Be specific–Share specifics related to the accomplishment by telling the person what was done and why it was effective.
Link the recognition–Mention the specific performance or behavior that you want to reinforce. It is important that people know why they are being recognized.
Avoid multi-tasking when you talk with employees–Especially when the discussion is about their accomplishments and contributions.
Make recognition a set agenda topic–Place recognition on the schedule during team meetings. Make sure the recognition is meaningful or it will start to have no meaning.
Reward effort as well as success–Not everything is successful. Reward people for the obstacles and barriers they overcame or fought against.
Oh, Let Me Count the Ways to Recognize
Leverage the customer–If a customer says something good to you about your employees or a project. Invite them to share in-person or remotely with your team, particularly the people involved.
Utilize social networks–Post recognition on social networks. Before you use an outside site, check first to make sure it is company approved.
Grab It–Start building a supply of token gifts, such as candy bars, protein bars, etc. Place them in a box, or grab bag. When you recognize someone, let the person reach in and grab something, sight unseen. Add to the fun by mixing in coupons. For example, give coupons for a free lunch, or one item from the vending machine. If it works in the environment, you might even be able to wrangle a coupon for the parking space next to the door, or an opportunity to leave the facility an hour early.
Match the reward–The significance of the achievement should match the reward. The larger the accomplishment, the more significant the reward should be.
Make the recognition public–If others can learn from the accomplishments, or the employee would feel a greater impact from sharing the recognition publicly, by all means, don’t keep it a secret.
Chalk It Up–On a chalkboard, white board, parking lot, or driveway, write a message of appreciation.
Flip It Up–Write a thank you on a flip chart paper. Post it in the hall or on the person’s car.
Snack out–Supply the team with healthy snacks and juices for a week.
Get Symbolic—Find something that has meaning within the group to pass around. Use a super-hero for the person who really came through on a project. Or the “rock” for a person who has been impeccably dependable.
Make them laugh–Support a local artist or an art student by asking that person to draw caricatures of your employees during their break/lunch hour and display them in your facility.
Create a traveling trophy— Select an unusual item to use as a recognition award. The person recognized can display the trophy for a select period of time. Or the awardee can recognize someone within the team and pass it on. Consider an item that each recipient can autograph before it travels on.
Write a thank you note–Deliver this note to your employees’ spouse or children.
Spread the news–Place employee recognitions on your intranet. Share the news with higher-level leaders, or in a team management meeting. Arrange for your team or a member of your team to present an innovation or continuous improvement idea that has worked in your area to other facilities.
Perform a service–Take somebody’s laundry to the dry cleaners or wash the employee’s car in the parking lot.
Gift it–Create a basket linked to an individual’s interest. For example, if a person like to garden, create a basket with some gardening tools, a gardening book or magazine. If the employee likes to fish, put in a thermos, some fishing lures, etc.
Swap a task–Do another employees duties for a day. Let him or her decide.
Nominate the employee— Pick various employees for either a company or community award.
Provide points–Set goals for employees. If an employee reaches a goal, let them turn in their accumulated points for prizes or awards.
Create a space–Create a celebration board in the break room or team area. Post recognitions and thank-you notes. At a periodic meeting, count how many notes are on the celebration board.
Take the person into consideration–Don’t give a book to someone who doesn’t like to read. Avoid public recognition for someone who tends to get embarrassed. Tailor your form of recognition to meet the individual’s needs.
Are you concerned about your employees’ work ethic and do you wonder how to build it?
Go one-on-one. Managers should work to create the relationships needed to encourage employee engagement. Understand employees’ goals, aspirations, needs, home life, social circles and even hobbies to find ways to relate on an individual level in a way that increases trust.
Establish a target. If your front-line employees cannot articulate the core values of the business, everything else falls apart. Core values should be brief, bulleted statements that define the values each employee must hold dear, rather than long, jargon-laden mission statements.
Make instruction matter. Consistency in employee expectations is a key factor in successfully igniting the work ethic. Training programs designed around teaching expectations, organizational values and what happens when expectations are not met are critical to success.
Make your success their success. Get creative with public appreciation, incentives, perks and compensation that can be tied to shared goals to give employees a sense of achievement, which in turn increases their engagement on the job.
Listen, respond and engage. Continually ask for employee feedback on what will help them deliver better results for the brand and customers. Follow through and take action on their requests.
Light the path. Make the case that your business should be seen as not just a job, but a place to have a career. Communicate to employees about their opportunities for growth within the brand. Establish programs that guide high performers along a path that helps them to reach high status, responsibilities and compensation in the organization.
Always be canvassing. Managers should be able to articulate their ideal employee profile. Create a workforce with your ideal work ethic. Identify and reach out to potential employees by communicating benefits. Entice high-performing employees to identify others similar to them and communicate the brand promise.