The World’s Most Powerful (and Cost Effective) Employee Benefit

June 13, 2017 Bryan de Lottinville

This post was originally published by the Huffington Post on August 4, 2016 and published on Benevity on the same day. Updated on June 13, 2017.

Many believe that the relentless pursuit to offer the next compelling employee benefit that will attract and retain the talent companies need is a “race to the bottom.” And despite the prevalence and popularity, the data indictates that free yoga classes, the drink fridge or bring-your-dog-to-work Fridays probably won’t have the effect you’re looking for. In fact, a 2017 Gallup study says that measuring employees’ contentment or happiness levels, and catering to their wants, often fails to achieve the underlying goal of employee engagement.

Okay, so what does?

Although it may seem anomalous given much of what is going on in the world politically and otherwise, the answer is: Goodness. Expressed through the giving of time, money, skills and services to worthy charities or other prosocial initiatives via the workplace, Goodness is a proven way to engage your people while solidifying your brand and reputation to an even wider audience. And in examining the outcomes of our Fortune 1000 clients, we are finding that Goodness is even more powerful in a global context, as businesses continue to be challenged to create a unified corporate culture that transcends borders, leverages diversity and provides employees everywhere with an inclusive sense of broader purpose.  

“The employees of the present and the future want to work for companies that provide a sense of greater purpose”

Employee giving and volunteering are simply some of the best — and most underutilized — workplace benefits to unite global workforces. The utility springs from within employees themselves, their intrinsic desire to make a positive social impact and the power in bringing meaning and purpose to one’s work. By embracing the notion of infusing your corporate culture with Goodness, domestic and international businesses can transform cultural challenges into ripe opportunities for building a truly engaged and inclusive workforce. Global companies like Microsoft, Equinix and Nike are already figuring this out, as integrated international giving programs among multinationals like these is on the rise. Companies expect international giving rates to increase by 25 percent over the next two years, according to a recent study from the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship.

Today’s employees want a chance to give, volunteer and get involved in their company’s philanthropic and sponsorship efforts anywhere around the world. But this has proven difficult or even impossible for corporate responsibility and benefits managers who have tended to provide only U.S. or North American-centric programs. Doing it right (accounting for nuances like language, currency, domestically relevant charity validation, global payment disbursement to charities and more) is complex. It requires a single platform that unites functions and purposes into one experience under the company’s brand; it’s about being global and local at the same time.

Until recently, it was a struggle to deliver a similar experience to all your people. But with better workplace giving solutions now available, and a knowledge of geographic nuances, companies can invest in international Goodness efforts that will shape a more unified global workforce. Here are four key reasons why you should do it:

1. It’s One Thing Boomers, Millennials and Generation Z Can Agree On

Increasingly (and happily for society) your people are out there giving and volunteering in large numbers. If they are doing it outside your company’s program, you are missing a key opportunity to help them with “work-life integration” and to have some of that impact and goodwill enure to your employer brand and collective impact.

Companies have spent a lot of time thinking about how to cater to Millennials, but in 2016 an even younger cohort began to enter the labor force. The eldest of those born between the 1990s and early 2000s, dubbed “Generation Z,” have graduated college and are becoming your workmates. 

Like their Millennial predecessors, Gen Z wants to integrate work with life, and do Good in the world. This group tends to prefer a career that gives them a chance to help people, according to a study of 49,000 members of Gen Z across 47 countries. You can bet these employees will be attracted to — and stick with — employers that value volunteerism and giving back anywhere in the world.  

The key is providing a globally consistent experience that resonates at a local level

This aligns strongly with not only the demands of Millennials but Boomers, too, who are not all that different from the generations that followed them (at least in this sense). Across the board, the employees of the present and the future want to work for companies that provide a sense of greater purpose and support them in living the values to which they aspire.   

2. It Helps Make Inclusion More than an HR Buzzword

For international program expansion to be successful, companies need to tackle diversity and inclusion amidst evolving workplace demographics. As companies cross borders, they often can’t easily anticipate the nuances of employee needs in offices outside of headquarters. By creating consistent employee engagement benefits across all locations, people can rally around a single experience, have the opportunity to express their corporate values at the local level and build closer relationships with the company and each other. Having an authentically prosocial culture shows your people and other stakeholders what your company universally stands for in more than a lip-service way. Employees, whether they want to give to causes in their backyard or halfway around the world, need a trusted, convenient and tech-savvy way to support their organizations of choice. For example, an employee in New Delhi may want to donate part of her paycheck to a local Indian charity. She will need her company to invest in localized workplace giving solutions that support the right currency, language and charity vetting requirements, and ensures the company’s eligibility criteria have been met. Employee giving and engagement — and the technology that backs the program — need to be flexible, adaptable and global.

3. It’s Good for the Bottom Line

Successful employee engagement strategies are one of the greatest opportunities available to all companies, and there are numerous studies showing unequivocally that active and engaged employees improve the bottom line. Companies with well-designed corporate responsibility programs can reduce employee turnover by 50 percent and increase employee productivity by 13 percent, according to a report by Project ROI. And a 2017 corporate citizenship study shows that executives who employ corporate citizenship to meet key business goals are nearly twice as likely to report that they are successful in enhancing reputation and 1.7 times more likely to reduce employee turnover.

4. The Impact Can be Dramatic

Adopting a global Goodness program can help companies make a big impact in two vital ways. First, it lets them engage more of their employees in more locations while it inspires and enables support of a wider spectrum of causes in communities around the world. One of our clients achieved impressive results when they went global with their Goodness program. Participation in their giving campaign grew by 62%, donations increased by 50%, and volunteer hours jumped by 72%. And by making micro-donations of time and money easier, they even saw participation leaps in countries that are not traditionally “giving centric.”

Investing in global Goodness programs can also help companies empower their employees to achieve smoother operations in global markets, bolster internal and community relationships internationally, and improve their reputation with employees and customers outside corporate headquarter countries.

“Employee giving and volunteering programs are simply some of the best — and most underutilized — workplace benefits to unite global employees.”

To create solid engagement programs, companies need the technology and tools to scale workplace giving, employee volunteerism and grantmaking so that all employees feel invested, whether they are in Palo Alto or Paris. The key is providing a globally consistent experience that resonates at a local level, connecting individuals personally while knowing the impact may be felt a world away.

As people’s trust in government and other institutions to solve the world’s social issues wanes, the opportunity (if not the imperative) for companies to step up is significant. As an authentic and easily executable step in the right direction, a global approach to international giving, volunteering and prosocial behavioral change — delivered with a local experience — helps employees both inside and outside of headquarters feel heard and valued, while fueling their passions at work.

If you’d like to learn more, read our blog on international giving and volunteering, and their impact on employee engagement. 

About the Author

Bryan de Lottinville

Bryan de Lottinville is the Founder and Chairman of Benevity, Inc., the leading provider of cloud-based software that powers purpose-driven business for hundreds of iconic brands. Known for espousing a democratized approach to corporate ‘Goodness’, Bryan provokes ideas that provide better social and business returns, while simultaneously tackling some of the biggest struggles in the social impact landscape.

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