Volunteerism in the Information Age

volunteeringMany organizations encourage their employees to volunteer outside of work or offer employee volunteer programs. For example, Novartis Pharmaceuticals hosts an annual Community Partnership Day (CPD) for its employees to offer services to local causes in the community while Booz Allen Hamilton encourages employees to volunteer 40 hours for any nonprofit organization through a Volunteer Service Grants (VSG) program. This demonstration of corporate citizenship efforts not only increases employee morale by allowing employees to make a social impact, but it also helps employees gain professional skills and may create a philanthropic reputation for the organization.

Additionally, making a difference in society or having an “impact job” has gained momentum according to Ariel Schwartz. In a survey of college students and current workers, both groups desired a job that provided opportunities to make a social or environmental impact more than a job that resulted in a higher degree of status or wealth. However, college students showed a stronger preference for obtaining a job that “helps make a better world.”

Although providing resources and assistance in community-centered business practices may not be a core motive or interest for all individuals in the workforce, technology innovators are taking notice of this socially conscious trend by creating more effective ways to tap into the service sectors. Rachel Chong’s blog on fastcompany.com, a leading business media site, provides insight into how companies, such as idealist.org, VolunteerMatch.org, and Catchafire.org, are using innovative strategies to support service projects. These companies allow organizations to customize volunteer activities based on factors such as areas of interest, time commitment, and employees’ skills, interpersonal style, and motivations. This modern approach to volunteering provides a tangible way for employees to cultivate their leadership and relational skills while matching them up to a service activity that truly captures their cause interests (otherwise known as skills-based volunteering). In addition, organizations can tailor these programs to ensure that business goals, objectives, and competencies are integrated into their service projects as a basis for talent development.

Furthermore, many employers may use volunteer work experiences as additional criteria in evaluating candidates in the hiring process. Volunteer work demonstrates an employee’s willingness to actively participate in the environment and accrue new experiences and skills. As noted by Chong, more and more professionals “consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience” so participating in volunteer activities may give job seekers a competitive advantage.

Whether it is a primary motivator for employees or a company’s mission to give back to the community in meaningful way, volunteering can benefit businesses, employees, and the community in numerous ways including building a service-focused image, promoting employee leadership and skill development, and providing a positive impact on society. Now, with the help of online technology, organizations have a more efficient and accessible way to leverage service and cause tools and give back to the community.