There’s nothing like a good team-building exercise to increase trust and enhance collaboration in the workplace. Managers typically plan games, special meals or recreational sports to help build camaraderie among employees in their organization. But as fun as these activities are, many finance leaders seek more meaningful ways to engage and develop their staff — and create more positive benefits for the business, as well.
One reason for this trend is the growing emphasis on corporate social responsibility programs, such as charitable giving or volunteer community service. For many businesses, philanthropy and volunteerism are now integral parts of their organizational culture as well as cornerstones of environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives. In a recent Robert Half Management Resources survey, 80% of finance leaders said that corporate social responsibility programs are important for their firms.
When well-organized and supported with appropriate resources, corporate social responsibility programs like volunteer community service can create significant benefits for companies and their employees. Here are six examples:
1. Bonding with colleagues
Planting trees alongside the company’s chief financial officer (CFO) or picking up roadside litter with the payroll director is a great way to break down silos and bring management and employees closer. Collaborating on a worthy cause is often a better way of really getting to know one another than making a minute or two of polite small talk during an all-company picnic or holiday party.
2. Skills acquisition
Untangling a human knot or breaking out of an escape room is a fine way to refine soft skills in problem solving, communication and leadership. But wouldn’t it be much more rewarding for employees to boost those skills while laboring together on real-life issues and helping people in need? Your team can expand their abilities while building affordable homes in your local community, for example.
Volunteerism also enhances your employees’ sense of empathy and customer service — and adds positivity to your company’s reputation in your community.
3. A sense of achievement
Jobs in accounting and finance are rewarding. So, too, are nonprofit projects. They also have a tangible and satisfying end goal, be it to collect a certain number of toys for children in need at the holidays or remove invasive plants from a nearby park.
A shared accomplishment outside of day-to-day duties can really help to boost team morale. In the Robert Half Management Resources survey mentioned earlier in this post, 71% of CFOs said increased employee morale was a key benefit of corporate social responsibility programs, like volunteer community service.
See an infographic of the survey results here.
4. Health benefits
Volunteerism can have a positive impact on a person's health and well-being. By volunteering, you and your employees can increase your activity levels if you opt for physical service projects like cleaning, building or planting. What’s more, when you help others, your brain releases endorphins that create a host of positive feelings, and these natural substances help you de-stress.
5. Recruitment and retention
An organization that embraces corporate social responsibility sends the message that it values compassion, citizenship, integrity and environmentalism — which is the type of company that many professionals today seek to be a part of. Corporate culture can be a make-or-break factor when people choose where to work — and whether they stick around for the long term.
6. Enhanced reputation
Many consumers consider a company’s philanthropic activities when deciding where to spend their money, as they feel better about supporting businesses that reflect their values and give back to the community. By publicizing your corporate social responsibility or ESG initiatives, you’re letting your current and future customers know just what your brand stands for.
Tips for setting up a volunteer program
A commitment to volunteerism at your company needs to be supported by appropriate focus and investment to be successful. Don’t simply chase trends or leave the effort to interns. So, before signing your finance team up for the next fun run or beach cleanup you hear about, take the following suggestions into account:
- Find suitable causes. Work on service projects that align with your company’s mission and core values. A good partnership, for example, would be between a supermarket chain and an organization that works to reduce food waste. For companies in just about any industry, volunteering at food banks or collecting school supplies for disadvantaged children are rarely the wrong choice.
- Give time and money. A great way to double your impact is for the business to donate both labor and dollars to the causes you choose to support, such as through a corporate sponsorship of a philanthropic event. You could also give employees the option of contributing money in lieu of — or in addition to — their service.
- Offer flexibility. The biggest barrier to volunteerism success is finding enough time to devote to giving back. So, if you want your employees to have the chance to get involved, offer a choice of opportunities whenever possible. Also, make sure your team members know how much you would like to see them participate.
- Make it a group effort. Volunteering is a worthwhile activity on its own. But to reap the most value from it, you’ll want to get your entire team involved. Holding service projects during workdays is one way to maximize participation. Also, consider giving your employees paid time off to do volunteer work. A recent Robert Half survey found that nearly half (49%) of U.S. businesses embrace this practice.
- Think local. There are needs all over the world, to be sure. But to help drive employee involvement in your company’s volunteer program, consider aiming for projects that your team members can easily participate in, in person, and which make a difference in the local community.
While corporate social responsibility initiatives require time, effort and other resources to be successful, they are a worthwhile investment. They can generate many positives for your business — including a more-connected finance team that works better together. So, if important soft skills can be honed through helping others rather than paying for off-site corporate getaways, the question CFOs should be asking themselves is not “Why should our team volunteer?” but “Why on earth wouldn’t we?”