Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness, but Maybe Volunteering Does
According to a recent study, 27% of U.S. travelers are planning to volunteer on a trip this year. Volunteerism thankfully is becoming a stronger trend, and in the case of potential employees in the millennial generation who, as a group, highly value volunteerism, it’s important to recognize this need in a benefits program. In fact, companies that have a solid VTO (Volunteer Time Off) program in place will have a recruiting advantage in attracting those employees.
Ivanti is a tech company living with this trend and supporting it daily as employees seek more flexible schedules to accommodate, as MetLife describes it, their ‘blended work-life world.’ In its 2019 Employee Benefits Trend Study, Met Life found that 76% of employees believe “when work and life blend and enrich each other, everybody wins.” In the case of younger workers, MetLife discovered their careers take on greater weight, as it is a key part of how they define themselves and contributes to their ‘personal brand.’ In the era of social media, this blended work-life is the complete expression of who they are.
The younger demographic, whether a recruit or employee, now expects organizations to see them holistically, supporting their work-life and allowing for more flexibility. At Ivanti, this need for flexibility is being met by the ‘Ivanti Cares’ Unlimited VTO (Volunteer Time Off) program which enables employees to designate non-profits they’re passionate about and take time off to volunteer. Ivanti initially focused on the STEM program but found many employees (who were not necessarily engineers) wanted to volunteer outside the STEM arena. This year Ivanti opened up the paid VTO program to all recognized non-profits and the results have been dramatic: A 60% increase in volunteer hours, from 700 all of last year, to 468 hours in Q1 alone.
Integration of Family Culture
One of the main reasons Ivanti’s VTO program is working is due to its strong integration with the company’s family-oriented culture. Employees wanted to be involved in their communities but didn’t want to sacrifice family time in order to do so. VTO solves that dilemma. In fact, families are volunteering together. Brian McCoy, an Ivanti employee, took his VTO during a trip to Africa, where he assisted his physician wife in more than 100 cataract surgeries in just one week. They also assisted in delivering babies. It’s a great example of what can be done when employers support their employee volunteer family teams.
Companies considering this level of VTO benefits should start by looking at their corporate culture and evaluating how easily unlimited VTO fits into their business model. A program like VTO can rise or fail depending on support at the manager’s level. Checking in with managerial staff at the beginning can identify obstacles to administering the program.
Trust and Happiness Go Together
At Ivanti, the VTO program is self-coordinated. Employees are committed to their jobs and schedule volunteerism accordingly. The experience, with employees and managers, to date, has been a positive one. Ivanti trusts employees to do the right thing, and as the MetLife survey notes, “Our research reveals that trust— primarily in an employer’s leadership and their commitment to employees’ success—is the most significant driver of employee happiness at work.” By supporting the holistic work-life of employees, and acknowledging their need to connect with their communities, companies can help enable employee happiness.
One employee, who has had a particularly enriching experience with VTO, is Elaine Atkinson, a technical writer, who volunteered at Spectrum Academy, a Utah school that specializes in teaching kids with disabilities -- notably autism. Atkinson’s son is a student at the school. During her visit she gave a PowerPoint presentation on understanding technical writing and was quite impressed that students in one class not only analyzed her presentation but identified its weak points. In another lower functioning class she explained that if needed, there are teachers, friends and family members who can help us communicate and send the right messages for desired, positive results. Her experience is a good example of integrating work and family life, and having employer support in doing so.
Moving from individual personal experiences like Atkinson’s to managing VTO for large numbers of employees requires front-end planning and a good system in place to capture feedback. Through the Ivanti Cares system, employees answer a survey after a volunteer experience and provide feedback on how well the program is doing – all of it captured and analyzed by Ivanti’s HR team. To date, the feedback has been positive, with employees grateful to be able to volunteer for organizations that really matter to them.
As a global company, Ivanti is supporting volunteerism within regions, and the feedback is that these VTO projects can also be a great team building experience. This summer Ivanti will be conducting an Ivanti Cares Day worldwide. Habitat for Humanity will be the recipient, as 1,600 employees and their families work together for this great cause.
So far, the first quarter metrics indicate that opening up the VTO benefits to a wider range of non-profits and community activities is the effective route. Ivanti has set a goal for eight hours of donated time per employee by the end of the year. With 1,600 employees worldwide that’s a total 12,800 volunteer hours. Given the positive feedback and initial response, the worldwide initiative, and Ivanti’s strong managerial support, the year is off to a promising start.