by Kathy Buscher, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Director of Human Resources
A 2014 Associated Press-SFGate poll found that young Americans today are “more serious about giving back than their parents” and feel they have a “very important obligation” to volunteer. In fact, a recent Forbes article stated that millennials are remarkable in that “many of them blend their personal and professional lives.” These young professionals want jobs that concurrently deliver opportunities to perform meaningful work in the office and in the local community and the larger world beyond.
Interestingly, companies are noticing this trend and accommodating it. The approaches differ widely. Some select a company cause and allow employees to volunteer on a specific day. Others adopt a formal program, identify community events and encourage employee participation, mostly on weekends. Still others pursue alternative ways to incorporate philanthropy. The important thing is that people are benefiting from the desire to do good. Companies are finding that incorporating philanthropy within their culture can assist a firm’s brand, help recruiting and enhance staff retention rates.
I can certainly relate to the desire to help others. Early in life I knew it was very important to me. This realization drew me to a career in human resources. Now, some 20 years later and with two advanced HR certifications in hand, I know I made the right choice. I’m proud to have assisted hundreds of individuals in finding careers and advancing in their chosen fields. And, of course, helping companies to successfully navigate the challenges associated with human resources and employee relations has been very fulfilling as well.
I, like today’s millennials, have always felt like I could do more – and wanted to do so. However, by necessity, my efforts always had to fall outside the work environment and business hours. In 2012, I began volunteering with organizations that assist veterans, especially the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC. Every weeknight and weekend that I can, I help out at events like Game Night, bingo, the Memorial Day barbecue and more. Whenever and wherever they need an extra set of hands I give them mine.
Since 2014, I’ve also shared my time and talents through Volunteer Fairfax, a regional volunteer center serving Fairfax County (in Virginia) and the National Capital Region. One of my favorite events is the annual Fairfax City 4th of July parade where I serve as a balloon handler. Volunteer Fairfax also is a major supporter of JCA’s Northern Virginia 50+ Employment Expo. Here, on a weekday, I take time off from work to help mature individuals find jobs. Some are looking for work out of economic necessity, and others are seeking purpose in their life. The reasons are as varied as the individuals who attend the Expo.
It is a time commitment that goes beyond the day of the event. Prior to the Expo I help recruit about 15 people to review resumes at the event and provide attendees guidance on how to develop an effective resume. Volunteers also prepare employment seekers for their job search in other key ways, helping them with their “pitch” to recruiters, giving them pointers on dressing for success, helping them create LinkedIn profiles and much more.
The big difference this year was that, for the first time, my new employer, Electrosoft, a growing firm that delivers technology-based solutions and services to public and private organizations, gave me paid time off (PTO) to work the 50+ Employment Expo. That’s right, starting in January 2018, every Electrosoft employee can take advantage of up to 8 hours of PTO to perform community service, as long as the usage is preapproved. The annual cost to the company will be considerable if every employee takes advantage of the benefit. Nevertheless, our CEO and President Sarbari Gupta and Executive Vice President Tony Myers-Burton feel very strongly about civic responsibility and encourage employees to perform a day of service and give back to the community.
For obvious reasons, I am thrilled with this company policy on a personal level. As the Director of Human Resources with responsibility for hiring and retaining top talent in the highly competitive Washington, DC market, I now possess an important recruiting tool. It is no exaggeration that demand outstrips supply in key IT recruiting areas, such as cybersecurity, an Electrosoft core capability. Being able to include PTO for community service as a benefit in an already generous compensation package will undoubtedly assist my efforts.
Experience has shown me that whatever time I have spent serving others has come back to me tenfold. I cannot put into words the sense of joy I feel from helping someone else. When I see the impact I have had, whether conveyed in a smile, a hug or the look in someone’s eyes, I see immediately the difference one person can make for another. It is real and palpable.
I hope that this trend among millennials will spread to every age group working today, as volunteering is the key to personal and professional happiness. I also hope that every company will make volunteering and philanthropy key components of their culture. Some may even be as fortunate as me and work for a company that encourages volunteerism in a tangible way.
Kathy also published this blog on LinkedIn. It can be found at https://bit.ly/2lVFIck.