It’s no secret that community involvement is good for business. The exposure you can gain through a charitable initiative could earn you new customers and a support your reputation as a good corporate citizen. The benefits, however, can extend beyond those you serve or your bottom line. Your employees can also develop new skills and learn to work better with one another.
The evolution of team building
In the past, traditional team building activities often involved games and problem-solving activities. At some point in our careers we’ve probably all been huddled in a conference room with tinker toys and apathetic co-workers. The idea was to demonstrate to participants how vital communication and cooperation were to a project’s success. Today, smart organizations have recognized how such learning sessions can be made much more fulfilling—and far less awkward—through community involvement events.
The foundational components of a community-based teambuilding activity mirror a traditional one: communication, planning, consideration of others’ views and problem solving. But the opportunities for professional development through volunteerism are far greater. Consider, for example, an employee who aspires to take on project management or planning responsibilities but has little opportunity to become involved in her current role. Allowing her to spearhead a community project will provide her with the hands-on experience she craves and allows her manager to delegate the management of the event. Consider, also, an employee who generally follows direction and rarely displays leadership skills in his day-to-day job. Positioning him in in a new environment, perhaps supporting a cause for which he has a passion, could provide him the opportunity to manage tasks and share his opinions.
Skill development and engagement
Developing such professional skills enhances employee engagement and could be good for employee career advancement. Some skills that can be developed through volunteerism and community efforts include:
- improved listening skills
- project management and planning
- effective teamwork techniques
- accepting mistakes
- influencing skills
- building trusting relationships
- creating followership
- budget management
- providing feedback
Selecting the right team activity
A global 2014 Randstad study found that 72 percent of Millennials and Generation Z believe it’s important for their companies to focus on giving back to the community. With social responsibility now a requirement in the eyes of young talent, integrating community events into your team’s schedule is a smart idea. But how do you select which type of project would be best for your team?
- Consider your mission. At Randstad, our mission is to shape the world of work. As such, we’ve partnered with great organizations that look to develop individuals for work readiness and create career opportunities within the communities in which we serve. We have held very successful volunteer projects with Junior Achievement, an organization that delivers career-readiness curriculum for students in grades K-12. By aligning our business with partners who have complementary goals, our employees are already invested, comfortable and motivated.
- Identify what your team is great at. Similar to the point above, you should also consider what expertise your staff can best contribute. Many of Randstad’s staffing consultants have shared their professional knowledge of the job market and employer expectations through our Hire Hope program, which provides career-readiness programming to underserved women in the Atlanta area. The volunteers feel a sense of satisfaction as they use their professional insight to assist others, and the community benefits from the team’s core skills.
- Recognize your team’s passions. Engagement typically increases when employees feel they have a voice. Ask your staff how they believe they could best benefit the community and involve them in determining the project scope. Their assistance in planning will allow them to practice that skill set. Also consider providing a paid volunteer day to your staff, especially if you have team members who work in remote locations or who cannot leave their positions during a sponsored event. Whether with their fellow employees or with other members of the community, the benefits of a group activity are worthwhile.
Success starts at the top
While delegation and staff-led activities can have great professional development benefits for your team, leadership involvement is absolutely critical. Employees need to feel connected not just to each other, but to the company and those who run it. Management needs to act as role models and demonstrate that community involvement is supported, even if it means a few hours away from revenue generation.
It’s a win-win
According to UnitedHealth Group’s 2013 Doing Good is Good for You report, four out of five people who volunteered through their workplaces in the previous 12 months say that they feel better about their employer because of the employer’s involvement in volunteer activities. In addition, 87 percent of people who said that volunteering helped their careers responded that volunteering has developed their people skills and teamwork skills. Let’s get out of the conference room and into the community. Your employees, and your bottom line, will thank you.