One of the more rewarding aspects of internal employee communication is when communicators are called upon to rally the troops for volunteer activities in the name of corporate social responsibility. Cleaning out local parks, stocking supplies at a food pantry, serving meals at a homeless shelter, or any of the hundreds of other ways companies can pitch in to make a difference in their community.
It’s a trifecta win for employees, employers and the organizations benefitting from volunteer support. Employee engagement activities bring a host of benefits that payoff in the short and long term. Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, has grown in importance over the last few years as a vital way both to attract talent, win new business, and boost internal employee communication.
But all the ‘happy happy, feel good’ sentiment doesn’t mean communicators can simply press a button and expect magical things to happen. Oh, no.
Internal Employee Communication Is Not as Easy as It Looks
If not properly planned, managed and communicated, your sunshiny employee volunteer day can turn into a dark and stormy experience that leaves no one smiling. I’ve seen volunteering events where no one showed up and also where too many people showed up, neither of which are good.
While clearly grateful for the extra help, nonprofit agencies and other recipient organizations typically go out of their way to accommodate volunteers, setting aside tasks that make sense for newcomers as well as staff to oversee their work. Often their needs only call for a limited number of added resources. If a soup kitchen only has room for five folks on the chow line, there’s no way they can squeeze in 25, no matter how eager people are to help.
Get the Most out of Employee Engagement
Be sure to get your volunteer event on employees’ radar. Give people a heads-up by sharing information four to six weeks before the activity. Use a variety of digital communications to heighten their interest and get them excited about the possibility. Whether it’s social media channels, your intranet, video or audio messages, the content you produce should paint a picture of why community outreach is important and the reasons staff should get involved. Describe in some detail who you’re supporting — their mission, what their needs are, and what’s expected of volunteers on that day. Set a firm deadline for responses from participating employees, leaving enough time before the event to know you’ve got enough help, or perhaps to reassign people if you get a big response. Identify an internal employee communication point of contact for follow-up questions or additional information, usually the person who’s coordinating with the community agency.
Remember to answer essential questions as part of your internal employee communication plan. What kind of clothes should employees wear? Will your firm be providing tee shirts (an easy way to create a sense of teamwork and boost visibility)? What about transportation to and from the activity? Will food or snacks be available, or should employees bring a lunch? Is the effort eligible for a corporate matching gift program? Be sure to address all these questions in your outreach and, again, use a variety of mediums to deliver and reinforce your message.
Wherever and however your organization gets involved in the community, it’ll be making a positive impact in multiple ways. You’ve got a ready and willing workforce that wants to do good things outside the office. Harness their efforts in the right way and good things will happen.