More prospects look to a company's volunteer activities

ON THE JOB

August 22, 2007|By HANAH CHO

Volunteer programs are increasingly become a mainstream focus for employees.

That growth is partly driven by young workers who are seeking out companies that offer such opportunities as well as demanding them at work, according to surveys and workplace experts.

For instance, more than 60 percent of workers between 18 and 26 years old say they prefer to work for companies that provide volunteer opportunities, according to a recent survey by Deloitte.

These days, many large companies have philanthropic arms, while some businesses give paid time off or offer flexible work schedules to accommodate employees who volunteer at hospitals or schools. And others organize volunteer activities, such as participating in Habitat for Humanity projects.

Kelly Hodge-Williams, executive director of Business Volunteers Unlimited Maryland in Baltimore, which helps businesses start volunteer programs, says she's seeing more companies, particularly those that tend to hire many young workers, seek the group's services.

Hodge-Williams says these companies are following a national trend, but "they're getting encouragement, pressure from their younger employees to do something."

(Take a look at what Gen Y workers are looking for on the job, including volunteer work, at www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1640395,00.html)

"Young people today seem more aware of the environment and social responsibility," Hodge-Williams adds, noting young people in Maryland are getting early exposure to volunteer work during high school and college.

Another new survey by talent management firm Hudson provides some more interesting insight into how young workers view so-called corporate social responsibility programs. (The survey included 2,000 workers and has a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.)

The Hudson survey found that 75 percent of workers think companies have an obligation to the "greater good of the community in their business practices."

Young workers (ages 18-29) were less likely to think that a company has a responsibility to the community compared with their older counterparts.

But young workers were more likely to consider a prospective employer's volunteer programs as very important when evaluating job offers: 32 percent versus 26 percent of all workers.

Marni Helfand, a senior human resource director at Hudson, says the two seemingly contrasting results are not contradictory.

"At the end of the day, what workers find to be important for their personal satisfaction on the job is not necessarily the same thing as what they think would be a company's obligation," Helfand says. "I don't think the numbers are necessarily inconsistent. It could be reflecting different internal goals versus external goals of the organization."

In fact, the survey also found that 10 percent of young workers declined a job offer because the company did not have volunteer programs compared with 7 percent of all workers.

So young workers out there, how important is having volunteer opportunities at work? Tell me what you think.

Send your stories, tips and questions to working@baltsun.com. Please include your first name and your city. On the Job is published Monday at www.baltimoresun.com

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