February 11, 2020

How Community Involvement Reinforces Your Employer Brand

Employees want to work at organizations that support their communities.

When people see their company cares about social upliftment — and when the company allows them to participate in volunteer projects during work hours — they feel more engaged.

Engaged workers tend to be happier and more fulfilled in their jobs. That’s a natural boost for the company. What’s more, that happiness and fulfillment radiate outward from the team, which reinforces the organization’s brand as an employer. That’s how committed organizations retain their best talent and attract promising recruits.

HR teams are uniquely able to create this virtuous circle of community involvement and employer brand by using the former as a potent recruitment and retention tool.

Create the Virtuous Circle

A great company that looks after its customers, looks after its employees, and provides an attractive work environment develops a strong employer brand. That strong employer brand entices more people to apply to work there, which gives hiring teams bigger talent pools to tap into, says SelectSoftware and NextWave Hire Founder Phil Strazzulla.

Having the best people in turn makes the company a more attractive place to work, enticing more talented workers to join the company. The result is a virtuous circle.

A key way to close the gaps in the virtuous circle is to make employees the champions of employer branding efforts. Strazzulla says one of the first places to start is to engage employees about what their daily experience is, how they’re developing, and how they see their careers evolving. Find out what is relevant to them and how the company fulfils those needs.

A useful point to remember, says Elizabeth Dukes, co-founder of iOffice, is that businesses don’t assume what their customers want from a product or service. They find out the needs of their customers and accommodate them. The same should be true for employees. HR teams should find out about what resources, technologies, and spaces employees need from the employees themselves. After all, they know best.

Set Up Volunteer Schemes to Boost Well-Being

Volunteerism is good for employee morale, engagement, and employer brand perception. These were the findings of a 2017 Deloitte volunteerism survey. But only 38 percent of employers provide company-sponsored or supported volunteer initiatives.

Employers that don’t enable employees to volunteer are missing out on a more engaged workforce. But they could also be missing out on happier workers.

Those who help others improve their own physical and mental well-being. Leadership and performance consultant Malachi Thompson says helping others leads to the helpers experiencing reduced activity in the part of the brain that is activated by stress.

Lower blood pressure is another health benefit of volunteering, according to a 2013 study by Carnegie Mellon University.

But volunteering can also help to mitigate feelings of loneliness and isolation in volunteers. Amy McGarvey, research manager at the UK’s National Council for Voluntary Organizations, says 68 percent of respondents to a survey said volunteering has made them feel less alone.

So, not only are volunteering and social upliftment initiatives beneficial to the recipients of the support, but employees giving their time and energies benefit, too. In an age in which employee well-being occupies the agendas of many executives, and staff expect more from corporate social responsibility strategies, volunteering meets both of these requirements.

Volunteer Group Clearing Litter In Park; community involvement concept

Match Employee Skills to Volunteer Efforts

Good corporate citizenship requires organizations to assess their economic, environmental, and social impact on the communities in which they operate.

David Logan, co-founder of Corporate Citizenship, gives the example of the London-based LBG corporate partnership group, which comprises organizations that want to build a reputation not for giving but for successful accomplishments in their communities.

These companies focus on the areas where their particular skills and reach can deliver the most impact. For example, banks will provide employee volunteer time on financial literacy, while food companies might provide healthy food to those who cannot afford it, or educate people on healthy eating.

Such an approach empowers employees to lead a company’s community efforts. All the while, the company shows its commitment to socially responsible behavior.

Enable Employees to Give 

Organizations needn’t focus on volunteer efforts alone. An employee giving program can be an effective means through which workers can contribute to charity.

Jim Starr at America’s Charities says such a program can facilitate employees’ giving and can be done through payroll deductions, fundraising, or crowdfunding, and in-kind giving, as examples.

Starr says to set up an effective employee giving program, HR teams need to keep it simple. Start with one giving method to see how employees regard it. Payroll deduction is one of the easiest and more cost-effective ways for employees to give, Starr points out. It’s also more convenient and financially manageable, as employees can commit to a sum of money that is donated incrementally each month. An added perk is that donations will be tax-deductible.

group of happy volunteers with garbage bags cleaning area in park; community involvement concept

Examples: 3 Employers That Prioritize Community Engagement

There are organizations that understand the link between community involvement and employer brand. These three examples below have seen how enabling employees to involve themselves in community and environmental projects can have significant benefits for retention.


Nicole Gutierrez, a senior associate at public affairs firm Clyde Group, says Starbucks launched a program in 2018 that allows employees to devote half of every work week to community initiatives — while still being paid their full salary.

Gutierrez says this approach is more than traditional corporate social responsibility. Rather, Starbucks is empowering individual workers to give substantial time and energy to a good cause. Employees understand their employer wants them to do good, and will support them while doing it.

CSAA Insurance Group

CSAA Insurance Group in California also pays employees to do good. And volunteers get to camp in natural splendor while doing it.

Career counselor Arlene S. Hirsch, writing at SHRM, says that CSAA employees and their families travel to Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Zion national parks 10 times a year to assist with cleaning, maintenance, and other projects.

Employees are paid for the Friday they’re away from work, and get to enjoy the parks for the weekend.

Hirsch says CSAA has a 99 percent participation rate in the six years since launching the volunteering scheme. Employees are more satisfied, and some can volunteer to be leaders of volunteer groups.


Some employers offer paid sabbaticals for employees to contribute to social and environmental initiatives. One example is the clothing brand Patagonia. Nadia Pearl at Sabbatic writes about how the retailer launched its Patagonia Employee Internship Program way back in 1993.

Employees can take a paid sabbatical of up to two months to volunteer with an environmental group of their choice. In turn, those employees return to the company with a fresh perspective and a new set of skills.

Highlight Your Company’s Social Responsibility Credentials

Employees are attracted to organizations that serve the greater good — whether that’s through environmental sustainability programs or contributing to the community in which it operates. It makes sense, then, to share the good work that a company does, explains Alessandra Cavalluzzi, author of “A Million Dollars in Change: How to Engage Your Employees, Attract Top Talent, and Make the World a Better Place.”

Companies that support their communities enjoy higher levels of engagement than organizations that don’t, Cavalluzzi says. Create opportunities for employees to volunteer through fundraising, launching food and clothing collection drives, or giving their time to plant trees or beautify public spaces.

Organizations should communicate the work they’re doing so prospective employees are aware of the strong social credentials they have.

The result of volunteer efforts, donation schemes and, generally, a commitment to society rather than just organization success will be an engaged workforce. Happier employees who find value in their volunteer efforts and a sense of purpose from working for a socially responsible company tend to remain loyal to that employer.

Social responsibility, then, is good for retention, reputation, and revenue.

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