At Some Companies, the Chance to Give Back Is a Perk

At Some Companies, the Chance to Give Back Is a Perk

Many companies try to attract and retain talent with creative, innovative benefits that have special meaning to their business, reflect their values, or respond to the specific needs and interests of their employees. Employees today—not only millennials—are particularly driven by a sense of purpose and the desire to do meaningful work, and some employers are responding to that desire by giving them opportunities to volunteer or put their skills to work for the public good.

IBM, for example, has launched a series of pro bono programs through which it lends employees out to humanitarian projects, letting them apply their coding, engineering, or management skills to solving social challenges throughout the world. Ben Paynter profiled IBM’s initiative at Fast Company last month:

Since 2008, Corporate Service has sent at least 3,500 workers to projects in 40 counties. Projects include working with Coders4Africa in Senegal to provide programmers business training along with technical skills, a disabled rights group in India to open business processing centers that could create more jobs, and finding ways to boost donations and the distribution range of food banks in Latin America. …

On average, about 500 employees are expected to deploy this year. The process for getting picked, however, remains competitive: Only 10% of those who apply are picked, after a performance analysis and interviews to determine if their skill set and personality matches the gig. Those who do, however, generally become more valuable to the company. According to an IBM survey, 80% of managers say special mission veterans come back more positive and motivated. Among those who have deployed, 80% say they’re interested in staying aboard for life.

It’s not only huge organizations like IBM that are giving employees the chance to do humanitarian work on their employer’s dime, either. Experticity, a marketing firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, offers a benefit that allows employees who participate in its payroll giving program to go on paid humanitarian excursions to do volunteer work in developing countries, Jasen Lee reports for the Deseret News:

As part of the program, Experticity covers trip expenses like food, lodging and transportation up to $2,200 per person annually, in addition to letting employees take paid time off for the trip, explained chief financial officer Heather Mercier. “Any employee that has been (with us) for one year and has participated in our payroll giving for six months can apply to go on a humantarian expedition,” she said. “Each employee can do that once every two years.”

She added that all employees enrolled in payroll giving are eligible to participate on a trip to one of four locales — Bolivia, Ecuador, Kenya or Nepal — if they so choose. “They can help build schools, greenhouses, furnaces or stoves that provide heat to houses as well as for cooking,” Mercier said.

While the main purpose of this program is of course to do good in the world, like IBM, Experticity has found that this benefit pays for itself through its impact on employee engagement, loyalty, and retention. Making employees feel proud to work there, Mercier tells Lee, is “worth every penny.”