How to Get More Employees Involved in the Community & Boost Engagement
Several years ago, imageOne began offering employees Community Days — one paid day off a year to volunteer for any cause or organization of their choosing. Although team members thought it was an attractive benefit in theory, few were actually taking advantage of their allotted paid volunteer time off. It's not that they were against the idea or were bad people (no way, our team is amazing!) — it was because we hadn't demonstrated the value that makes it an organizational priority.
Small Giants companies like imageOne know that community involvement is an important quality to help connect team members to the company purpose and their own purpose as individuals. We decided it was time to get the team involved and engaged with the program by instilling community service throughout our company with a multi-faceted approach.
Today, imageOne’s Community Day program is thriving, with more than half the company (including remote team members!) participating in the program. Here are the steps we took to get more employees involved in the community and boost engagement.
Step 1: Find a Community Champion
First, we found a Community Champion to spearhead the program’s success…who just happens to be me! Several years ago, I was a remote team member who craved connection with our home office team and my fellow remote workers. When I took my first Community Day, I shared the experience along with photos on our internal social networking platform. I became what is known as an informal influencer: someone who drives action not from a position of managerial power, but rather inspires through passion and authenticity. Find and empower these people in your organization to make culture contagious.
In my role as Community Champion, I dedicate a small percentage of my work time to researching and sharing ways to get involved, presenting at company meetings, and working directly with team members to find opportunities in their communities. We acknowledge that asking our team to volunteer is a challenge to their comfort zones — the ways to give back rarely align with our job functions. Finding a Community Champion gives your team members someone to help them through the process and lets them know they are supported, especially when things are challenging.
Step 2: Include Community Engagement in Company Metrics
At imageOne, we knew that Community Days had fallen off the radar because they simply weren’t talked about — and they certainly weren’t measured. But through our high-involvement planning process, we agreed to make 100 percent Community Day participation an official one-year goal for the company, with quarterly checkpoints to measure our progress.
We started dedicating time at each monthly company meeting to highlight and celebrate the ways in which our team members had chosen to give back. We talk about our quarterly measurements weekly with our leaders, who then take it out to their teams through department huddles and one-on-one meetings. Now that we’ve included community engagement in company metrics, the conversation never stops.
Step 3: Get Social Around Community Involvement
Communication is rarely beneficial when it's unidirectional, so we embrace technology to make our community involvement a social affair. Internally, we use an enterprise social platform called Yammer that enables our team to post photos, web links, and stories related to their Community Day experiences.
While Yammer is our tool of choice, any kind of collaborative means of sharing will suffice so long as it is easy and fun to use. Bonus: Using these kinds of tools allows you to easily grab photos and stories to share at company meetings and on external social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Team members inspire team members, who are then inspired to share this positivity out to their social circles and the world.
Step 4: Create Additional Incentives
When we talk about making the world a better place, it sometimes feels like a daunting task. To tap into our team's internal motivators, we incentivize community involvement with a reward that connects with their personal purpose on a more tangible level.
Once every quarter, we hold a drawing for all team members who have completed and shared their Community Day experiences. The prize? The winning team member is given $100 to donate to the charity of their choice, thereby doubling their impact — that's powerful!
Community Involvement at imageOne: The Results
As a result of these efforts, 31 (roughly 60 percent) of our team members have taken their Community Days. Although our team members are spread out from coast to coast, we have uncovered some interesting connections in their work. Two team members harvested beets several months and thousands of miles apart. Two other team members packaged carrots at food banks: one in California, the other in Michigan. Three of our team members, who happen to all be related, chose to take their Community Days together. Check out more stats from this year’s efforts:
Number of states: 9 - Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, North Carolina, California, Iowa, Texas
Number of countries: 3 - United States, Canada, Israel
Number of U.S. cities: 23
Number of families who participated: 14
Causes & Projects:
Food insecurity: 10
Gathering, packaging, or distributing for a food bank: 5
Farming and/or gardening for a food bank: 3
Environment and the outdoors: 15
Community Days have become an important part of imageOne’s extraordinary culture. We’ve learned that community involvement really is that important — because engagement doesn’t just help the bottom line, it powers the positive feedback loop of happiness.