Every CEO wants to see their company grow—otherwise, what’s the point? Without a steady revenue, however, there would be no company to grow. Yet, companies make a grave mistake when they believe that the fast-track to success lies in focusing on their main source of income: their clients.
Getting new clients through the door, as well as retaining existing clients, is an essential part of company growth, but even more important are the people who work for you. Your associates are the foundation of your company; if you want that foundation to hold up, you need to hire the right people—and to do that, you must differentiate your company from others in the industry.
Today, associates are used to a much larger menu of corporate benefits, with perks like healthcare, a 401(k) savings plan, and ample vacation time becoming mandatory components of a potential employer. Yet, these benefits aren’t all associates look for anymore—they also want to work for a company that prioritizes corporate social responsibility. When you take a look at Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, this becomes quite apparent, as the majority of companies share one striking similarity: a spirit of philanthropy.
Paid volunteering: the next associate benefit?
Community service is as deeply-rooted in my background as it is in my company’s culture. I started participating in breast cancer walks a few years ago in memory of my grandmother. Walking alongside others who shared the same goal of raising awareness and funding breast cancer research made me feel like I was a part of something so much bigger than myself.
Supporting this cause evoked a new energy in me, so why wouldn’t I extend that opportunity to the rest of my company? So I did— in 2015, my company, Pacesetter, ,started fulfilling a part of my Vivid Vision and giving our team members paid days off to volunteer. We also formed the AACE (Associates Achieving Community Enrichment) committee, who presents volunteer ideas, holds fundraisers, and encourages community involvement. Since then, I’ve noticed how impactful community outreach has been on our team and our company culture as a whole.
While corporate philanthropy isn’t a new concept, it hasn’t always been a priority—until now. As more workers, especially millennials, look for socially conscious companies, CEOs must continue to evolve their policies. Take Starbucks, for example. The popular coffee chain made headlines after announcing, last August,, a new program that allows their team members to split their time between working at a store and volunteering at a local nonprofit.
Starbucks’ vice president of Global Social Impact, Virginia Tenpenny, told CNN that the program was implemented with workers’ best interests in mind. They believe that people will be much happier if they are able to spend 20 hours a week giving back, and when workers are “engaged in communities and they feel connected, they’re going to stay with Starbucks longer.”
Starbucks isn’t the first company to do this, and they definitely won’t be the last. Paying your associates to volunteer is not another fleeting trend, it’s becoming a business model. 1 in 4 U.S. companies now offer volunteer time off (VTO) to their team members, and its benefits are threefold: you foster a healthier company culture, you better your community, and you build a stronger brand.
Volunteering leads to happier, healthier associates
Fostering a positive company culture isn’t just about the amenities, or even the money. If you want your associates to feel fulfilled, you need to give them a reason to be proud to work for your company. By encouraging your team to volunteer, you’re giving them an opportunity to take part in a cause they are passionate about, which reinvigorates their sense of purpose. When that enthusiasm is brought back into the office, it boosts team morale and promotes a working environment that associates are excited to walk into in the morning.
In the same way, volunteerism also positively impacts your associates’ mental and physical wellbeing. The UnitedHealth Group found that 75 percent of people who volunteer report feeling less stressed, while also noticing significant physical improvements as well.
Socially conscious businesses reconnect with their communities
It’s easy to get stuck in a routine when work takes up such a big chunk of your day. You wake up, go to work, run errands, then come home—and this cycle repeats itself. And as a parent, I have a whole other routine waiting for me after my work day is complete. With such a hectic lifestyle, there isn’t always time to do everything you want to do in a day, so you’re sometimes forced to sacrifice certain tasks, like volunteer work. Yet, why should we have to choose?
Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, said it best when he told Times that companies shouldn’t be “individualized units that are separate from society.” Your company is as much a part of your community as you are, yet so many businesses detach themselves from what is happening right outside their front doors. By embracing VTO, we begin to bridge that gap. Volunteering your time is becoming more valuable than writing a check; whether you participate in a cancer walk, organize a blood drive, or serve food in a soup kitchen, you are making a difference in the lives of your community.
It pays to pay your associates to volunteer
By investing in your associates’ happiness, you reinvest in your company. When you encourage your team to engage in the community (and reward them for it), your associates will feel empowered. Not only will associates become more engaged at work, it also strengthens relationships within the workplace. When your team is working in harmony to achieve your business goals, productivity levels will rise, which means increased sales, and, ultimately, profitability.
Volunteerism also supports a person’s professional development. Associates will begin to evolve their ‘soft’ skills and, in turn, become better leaders, communicators, and project managers. CEOs that pay attention to this progress will be able to place associates in roles that make sense for their specific skill sets, which will continue to improve internal processes.
Companies that prioritize VTO are more likely to retain their top talent, which means lower turnover rates. If your team is happy, there’s no reason for them to want to leave the company. And if they’re proud of the company they work for, they will tell others about it.
If you want to see your business thrive, you need to focus on what’s really important. Every CEO should have to ask themself this question: “If your company didn’t exist anymore, would there be a void?” If you put your associates and your community first, that should be an easy question to answer