Volunteer PTO Is the New Raise

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“Kindness is contagious.”

“You get more than you give.”

These age-old sayings are particularly appropriate today, given that more than 60 million Americans take time to volunteer at least once a year.

Like most activities in which one has a personal interest, volunteering has historically taken place outside of work hours. However, that paradigm is starting to change, partially in response to employee demands for increased work/life balance. According to Gallup, 53 percent of employees want a job that allows them to achieve greater work/life balance.

It’s clear that simply offering more PTO won’t cut it. More than half of US employees leave vacation days on the table every year, suggesting they don’t simply want time off from work. Rather, what employees really want is a chance to do some good. In fact, many workers today would take a pay cut in exchange for meaningful work that makes a positive social impact.

For many, volunteering isn’t a chore, but a way to feel fulfilled, connect to a purpose, and give back. This change in priorities has challenged companies to take a hard look at their current cultures, reputations, and benefits in order to determine whether they are meeting the needs of today’s employees.

At Advance Financial, we began offering a volunteer PTO benefit to our employees a few years ago in an effort to merge company and employee values. Under this benefit, every employee receives 40 hours of volunteer time to use over the course of the year. Not only does this allow our company to give back to the community, but it also helps us recruit and retain top talent, improve company loyalty, and promote teamwork. Most importantly, it reinforces our paramount goal: serving our customers and employees well.

Building a Culture of Volunteerism

Want to bring charity and community service to your benefits program? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Establish a Company-Wide Volunteer Day

Give employees the option of working with a few different local nonprofits for the day. Try finding a variety of opportunities to fit different employee interests. For example, gardening for a local public school, preparing a meal at a homeless shelter, and assisting Habitat for Humanity with a home build are all great ways for employees to use their individual talents and strengths to give back. At Advance Financial, our most recent annual Day of Service, organized by Hands on Nashville, featured events in 12 different organizations across the state of Tennessee.

2. Partner With Local Organizations Wherever Your Offices Are

Ideal for companies with multiple locations, this is a great way to make a direct impact on every community where you have a presence. At Advance Financial, each of our stores has the option to choose a local charity. In addition to the storewide efforts to support the charity, employees often use their own personal volunteer PTO to assist the charity as well. Not only does this make a positive impact in the community, but it also helps build cohesion and camaraderie between team members at each store.

3. Give Every Employee Annual Volunteer PTO

While implementing such a program may take some effort, it will surely catch the attention of candidates and set your company apart in the talent market. We’ve certainly found this to be true at Advance Financial. Among our employees, volunteer PTO is considered one of the most enjoyable parts of working for our organization, and in 2018 alone our workers took advantage of a combined 12,000 hours of this volunteer time.

4. Share Opportunities to Get Involved

Every company wants to assume its employees are keyed into its internal happenings, but such is rarely the case. Make getting involved convenient for your employees by communicating about charitable opportunities often, perhaps through bulletin boards, the company intranet, newsletters, or regular email reminders.

Appoint someone to be the point of contact for community service efforts, so employees will know whom to go to when they want to sign up, learn more, or ask questions about their volunteer PTO benefit. The more you streamline the process, the easier it will be for employees to fit volunteering into their hectic lives and take full advantage of the benefit.

Implementing community service benefits may seem like yet another task piling up on your plate, but it’s truly so much more than that. Supporting your employees’ charitable activities will only make your organization more attractive to top talent, resulting in improved business performance and a more socially responsible organization.

Shantrelle Johnson is Advance Financial’s vice president of corporate citizenship.

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