TripAdvisor, Prudential see value in volunteer benefits

On a full-time employee’s first day at TripAdvisor, the travel company gifts them $50 to donate to a nonprofit. That’s just one of a slew of social impact offerings, including a matching program and volunteer opportunities, the employer provides to its roughly 3,000 eligible workers.

“We inform them when they start,” says Tali Golan, director of social impact for the company. “We want to get to them the first day.”

Golan has been with TripAdvisor for four years and is the first professional that has come to the organization to lead the social responsibility strategy and program. She says the company looks at volunteer benefits not as a benefit at all, but as part of a more dynamic employee experience.

“I think we actually need to stop thinking of them as benefits,” she says. “These programs are really robust and they’re multilayer; they require many relationships. I think they’re part of the overall dynamic employee experience that happens at a company and they’re becoming even more so.”

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A worker, left, serves hot food to a visitor at the Shelter From The Storm shelter for the homeless in the Islington district of London, U.K., on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. Shelter From The Storm is based in Islington, one of the most unequal neighborhoods in a city where extremes of wealth and poverty are often found on the same street. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

TripAdvisor is far from the only employer that has made it a priority to invest in volunteer opportunities. Employers across the country, including Bank of America, Salesforce, Cisco and Deloitte, all offer comprehensive volunteer benefits. Many companies have switched from a once-a-year style fundraising campaign to models that pursue year-round integration of giving, volunteering, grantmaking and other prosocial action — all of which they say increased employee engagement.

See also: 7 employers with great volunteer benefits

Research from Benevity, a corporate social responsibility and employee engagement software company, shows there is an increase in employee engagement that comes from corporate goodness programs. Volunteer benefits have evolved over the years, and are now becoming an integral part of employee recruiting and retention. Research shows a connection between these types of programs and a positive impact on a company’s management strategies and human capital.

Additionally, higher employee engagement can improve productivity, which can boost a company’s profitability. Furthermore, turnover is reduced by 57% at companies where employees are actively engaged in their employer giving and volunteer programs, the Benevity survey finds.

“Today’s job seekers are looking for ways to find purpose in their work and align their personal values with their day-to-day jobs,” says Cailtrin O’Sullivan, director of global communications of corporate social responsibility at Prudential Financial.

Indeed, 58% of prospective employees consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work — including 76% of millennials, according to Cone Communications’ Millennial Employee Engagement Study.

See also: How employers are encouraging workers to dig deeper on Giving Tuesday

“Employee engagement opportunities are a powerful way to communicate key company values and demonstrate the company’s commitment to its culture,” O’Sullivan says. “At Prudential, we’ve seen this play out very acutely with employees who have participated in our pro bono programming.”

Prudential’s pro bono programs are skills-based opportunities that allow employees to use their business expertise to build the capacity of Prudential’s nonprofit partners. A Prudential study of engagement between 2014 and 2017 showed pro bono participants were more likely to be promoted and stay with the company.

But setting up a social impact program can be challenging for employers. There are vendors that have emerged that focus specifically on volunteer benefit offerings. Benevity, for example, is an employee engagement and corporate social responsibility software that helps employers organize matching programs, online giving and volunteer opportunities.

Verified Volunteers pre-screens employees to determine if they are eligible to volunteer for a particular non-profit. Katie Zwetzig, executive director of Verified Volunteers, says the company provides employee background checks for corporations before group volunteer opportunities. Volunteering is becoming a more popular offering at many companies, she says. Aside from doing good, it can also serve as a way to boost reputation.

“It’s good business to give back,” she says. “Companies that give back find that people, especially millennials and Generation X, are willing to follow and be passionate about these companies.”

TripAdvisor’s Golan echoes this sentiment, saying that employees, particularly younger generations, look to employers that care about social impact and can provide them with opportunities to give back to the community.

“They’re spending the majority of their time at work, they’re making friends at work. This is the type of work you want to do with the employer community,” she says. “I think it’s going to become more and more relevant.”

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