“No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.” – Aesop
Adding ‘Volunteering Time Off’(VTO) in the workplace is a tricky subject, especially if it’s paid time off. The thought process behind the perk is that, by having employees spend time outside of the office, it will positively affect the employee in the long run. Usually the benefits of this perk falls under team morale, retention, engagement, or productivity increase. While it may seem like a superfluous desire for Millennials to have in the workplace, in the same category as bean bags, companies have found this perk to have a surprising positive effect on their employees. In fact, many companies are starting to offer these benefits because they are seeing the long term effects.
However, it’s a nearly impossible investment to prove return-of-invest (ROI) on.
To truly know if VTO is effective, an employee would need to live two futures, one where they volunteered, the other where they didn’t. By comparing the two employee tenure, one with volunteering and one without, you would then truly know whether volunteering time off is worth your time.
It’s the same paradox that arises when someone asks , “When should I give up on a startup idea?” You will never know for sure because you cannot live the same future twice. You can only guess, approximate, and infer through external variables.
However, researchers can put together different studies to help people understand how VTO can help in the long run. It helps the community, but it also helps Millennial retention in the long run.
Below are a series of stats regarding VTO, its impact and use in the workplace.
On the surface, this does not seem to tell us too much about Millennials and their level of retention. However, digging a bit deeper, you can infer a bit more about statistics if you look at the history of San Jose and Silicon Valley. First off, (slightly biased here because I grew up ten miles from this city), San Jose is apart of the old Silicon Valley, South Bay Area. Here, a lot of the earlier 2000s tech company that were popular during that time: Intel, Cisco, Oracle, Adobe, reside. As San Francisco started to become a central hub for talent, not only for location purposes (living in big cities) which reins true in a lot of Millennial circles, but it also gave birth to a lot of new up and coming startups like Uber, Lyft, and Twitch. With the location prime and the technology companies booming, the war for talent power began to shift.
With South Bay losing ground in the war for talent, the city needed to focus on aspects besides just location. Typically, in Silicon Valley, younger employees would work in San Francisco, then move down to South Bay when they are a bit older. South Bay became known as the ‘less cool’ part of Silicon Valley. Hence, if the South Bay is going to attract younger talent, they would have to offer better perks and benefits than San Francisco, one of them was VTO. Hence, South Bay companies had to offer more opportunities than San Francisco to remain competitive on the job market which is where they put their money on the VTO hand.
What is bizarre about this stat is how few Millennials actually volunteer. Usually it averages around 25%. So the paradigm is, I hope this company is active in the community, even though I am not. In case you are wondering, I am one of those Millennials. On this note, another benefit arises besides retention or team morale for volunteering, which are, public relations and social causes.
Now, how would social cause have an impact on the Millennial demographic and make them want to stay at a company? Answer: association and peer pressure. In the digital world, you will obtain likes and social rapport for things your peers approve of in the physical world. By belonging to a company that is active in the community, employees can associate with this cause showing their employer’s social consciousness efforts that they too, social consciousness. For people skeptical about this conclusion, the same can be concluded from going to a college or a school that has a great brand. By association with a particular brand the employee/student is now associated with the cause.
Stat 3: Employee Engagement Increases 7.5%, Increase Employee Productivity By 13%, Reduces Employee Turnover By 50%
I cite this stat quite frequently when doing my talks because of how black and white its benefits are. While this may seem far fetched, the benefits of VTO going beyond just the dopamine kick for helping a social cause. When getting out of the office and working with coworkers, both parties start to deploy cognitive empathy. In psychology, this is one’s ability to understand another person’s reality. Employees who feel empathy for one another tend to work better together. It also turns out to be one of the most valuable leadership skills someone can have is cognitive empathy. By that note, the culture improves, and consequently the team morale and sometimes the employee engagement get a bump as well.
While executives believe VTO has a strong correlation between purpose, fulfillment, and VTO, is that really true? Also, if it is true, do Millennials want to stay at a company where they are able to volunteer? The answer to the first question is undoubtedly yes. There are numerous studies suggesting that people feel they are contributing to something greater than themselves’ when they volunteer. Consequently, leading to fulfillment. With that now true, do Millennials want to stay at a company where they are able to volunteer?
Deloitte’s famous Millennial study concluded that 88% of Millennials who stayed at a company for 5 years or longer, were satisfied with their sense of purpose. Hence, executives who believe volunteering to help with Millennial retention, definitely have the right hunch to believe so.
Why this seems more like a statistic for management, VTO can also leverage this stat. Essentially, as we pointed out in the previous stat, people who volunteer are able to feel purpose driven. People who volunteer at companies are at times, given lead way in order to volunteer in the cause they are passionate about. In addition, they are able to best use their talents for that project.
Volunteering gives employees flexibility to explore these passions and talents outside of the workplace, but under the corporate brand.
At this point, the war for talent has pretty much become common knowledge. The economy is great (soon to be updated), allowing Millennial employees to switch jobs due to the market. In addition, technology enables job switching to happen faster than ever before. Due to this incessant change in the workplace, companies are trying all different kinds of measures in order to attract talent. The days are gone where companies can just put up a job ad and put no further thought into social media presence, and brand reputation. Reason being, their competitor is probably on social media and monitoring their reputation. Hence, a sort of pressure builds between companies where candidates (the consumers), are looking to join companies (purchasing the product), that has the most benefits. In this competitive landscape, companies offer more and more perks to seduce candidates into joining, but most importantly, staying.
Paid VTO has become one of these benefits, leading it to increase in value, not only from the competitive pressure, but also from its widespread effectiveness.
Stat 7: 92% of Millennials Felt They Were Actively Contributing to a Company Having a Positive Effect on the World
Again, with VTO being so closely link to ‘positive effects in the world’, VTO can be used as an outlet for this cause. Many companies are able to position themselves as a social conscious company by consistently posting about what their employees are doing in the community. Since, 73% of Millennials, according to Post Beyond, found their past job through a social media platform, companies being active on these platforms can use this as a great way to showcase corporate social consciousness. Again, this social media presence can help Millennials feel that they are having a positive effect in the world, and also show their friends that the same is happening. Technology by consequence, has enabled companies to increase retention by displaying a positive imagine making employees more likely to stay.
Jeff Butler Internationally respected speaker and consultant, Jeff Butler helps bridge generational gaps between Millennials and companies looking for their talent and patronage. Butler has quickly built his reputation as a memorable presenter with tangible solutions for attracting, retaining, and engaging Millennials as employees and customers. Within just the past three years, he has spoken at two TEDx events and multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn.