Sarah Ford | March 6, 2014

Can Corporate Volunteering and Giving Actually Create Engagement at Work?

Source: Forbes

by Ryan Scott

Can Corporate Volunteering and Giving Actually Create Engagement at Work?You want your company culture to be one of giving back – and it would be nice if you could get back as much as you give back.  That is to say, engagement in your employee giving and volunteer programs is just a starting point: you’d also like to see your employees engaged on the clock. You keep hearing that corporate volunteering and giving creates engagement at work, but you remain skeptical.

Well, skeptic be gone.  Kohl’s presents a test case for how you can have a workforce of engaged employees on and off the clock.

As one of the nation’s largest retailers, Kohl’s is in a powerful position to leverage its size to create community impact. The company has sought to engage employees, whom it calls “associates,” while also coordinating volunteer initiatives company wide.  Coordinating these efforts is just what the organization hopes to do with its Associates in Action program.

Engagement is difficult in any business, but in the world of retail – where employees tend to be more casual and on the lookout for their next gig – it’s a particularly thorny challenge.  But Kohl’s has been able to see noticeable results when it comes to both helping out and keeping employees engaged.  And this has been accomplished primarily through encouraging and trusting the initiative of managers and associates.

“There is a direct correlation on engaged associates,” notes Jon Grosso, EVP and Director of Store Operations.  “Engaged associates deliver better customer service, we retain them longer, and they drive better sales.”  Kohl’s knows this for a fact because they track their employee engagement every year, putting to rest any questions about how engaged employees benefit the organization. “Once you participate and get that feeling of satisfaction, you don’t go back,” says Grosso.  And this satisfaction doesn’t just end with the completion of a donation drive or a volunteer event.  “You just forward it and you get involved even more.”

Kohl’s started the program in 2001 and has seen impressive participation, with nearly 700,000 employees volunteering their time at over 100,000 different events.  That’s more than two million hours of time donated and over $63 million raised for local nonprofits. Still, Grosso thinks that while the numbers are important, “We also want to humanize what we’re doing.”

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