Best Practices and up to the minute news on Customer Experience Management and Service Excellence

Volunteer Programs Bring Out the Best in Your Staff

Here’s why (and how) your employees can transform into on-the-job leaders while helping the community.

Volunteering makes a difference in more ways than one. When people donate their time and energy to worthy causes, it can benefit volunteers as much as the community members they serve.

Volunteerism has been known to improve brand image and connect staff. Another major benefit is how it prepares individuals for professional careers in hospitality, developing behaviors that are desirable in the workplace and beyond. A study on the relationship between volunteering and employability confirms that the act of volunteering fosters skills and abilities that make a desirable worker.

Individuals who volunteer in their community contribute to their success as well as that of the organization they’re helping – and any place they spend a significant amount of time, like their job.

In an increasingly competitive job market, it makes sense to utilize any chance to foster skills that can enhance employability. It makes even more sense to put effort into developing the employees you have, making them stronger leaders who will grow within the company and pass on valuable lessons to newer team members.

Some personality traits that can emerge from consistent volunteer work include:

  • Confidence – Volunteers gain confidence when they take on unfamiliar tasks and master new concepts.
  • Critical thinking – Volunteers use problem-solving skills to find solutions when unexpected situations arise.
  • Initiative – Volunteers learn how to work hard, seeking out what needs to be done and finding ways to do it.
  • Compassion – Volunteers gain empathy by being exposed to people from diverse backgrounds and circumstances.
  • Responsibility – Volunteers have a sense of responsibility because their actions have a significant impact on others.

When considering these characteristics in the service industry context, it’s easy to recognize their presence in exceptional employees. What manager wouldn’t want to have a dedicated team member who can handle guest situations thoughtfully and sensitively?

Getting your team motivated should not be a challenging task: Workers want to participate in volunteer programs.

Cisco, known as the worldwide leader in information technology, had 80% of its employees join its Community Impact program. Bombas, known for its established donation program that sends its products to homeless shelters, offers its employees 10 to 15 volunteering options every month. And 88% of CarMax employees say they “feel good” about how the company supports community efforts.

Most employees have an innate desire to do this kind of work, and the benefits far outweigh the costs and efforts associated with organizing these kinds of opportunities. Besides, every lesson learned from serving the community can be transferred to on-the-job training and enhancing the guest experience.

With all of the rewards that can be gained from volunteering – especially considering the essential professional development it can provide for new and established employees – it makes sense to organize volunteer opportunities that engage staff in serving the community.

However, volunteering is something that requires careful thought and planning. It’s not enough to throw money at toy drives and has staff pose for photo ops. Get your staff involved in volunteer programs – and get the most out of these experiences by applying what’s learned to creating positive guest experiences.

Here’s how to get started…

  1. Find local organizations, collect information, and start contacting resources. Network, and utilize any personal relationships you might have to establish a direct connection.
  2. Get employee input. What are team members passionate about? What causes do you think your guests will connect with most? Are there customers who can help with organizing these efforts? Reach out and make it a group effort.
  3. Figure out a schedule, and commit to a substantial amount of time for volunteer outings. Plan into the long-term future, and consider volunteer schedules when creating work schedules. Digital signup sheets are effective, as well as a shared calendar.
  4. Create a buzz on social media so your guests can know about what’s going on (and join in if possible). Make shirts, especially for this program so staff can have something to wear that reinforces the brand and unites them as a team.
  5. Make time for celebration! Don’t forget to reflect on these special experiences so they can create lasting memories for your staff. Consider making mementos like framed photos to hang in the lobby or guest dining areas.

Establishing a company volunteer program is great for brand image, and it also allows coworkers a chance to bond. The personality markers that can arise help employees become the best version of themselves. The lessons learned will contribute to invaluable professional development.

All signs point to volunteering as an excellent addition to corporate culture and hospitality training, so take the next step and start doing good in your community today.