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Volunteer Time Off: A Surprising Way to Fight Employee Turnover

December 20, 2019

6 min read

Get engaged with volunteer time off.

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Volunteer time off (VTO) attracts employees who want to serve the community. As a big bonus, it’s a surprising ally in fighting turnover.

Read on to find out why employee turnover is a huge problem and how VTO could help you fix it.

The Cost of Employee Turnover: Think Beyond the Budget

Employee turnover is a growing issue for businesses in the United States. But don’t take our word for it.

Look at these key findings from the Work Institute 2019 Retention Report:

  • Turnover increased 8.3% from 2017 to 2018.
  • U.S. employers have lost $617 billion to employee turnover.
  • 4 million U.S. workers left their jobs by choice.
  • Since 2010, unemployment has decreased by 57%.

As more workers leave their jobs, recruiting competition increases. Turnover hits you hard in areas outside the budget and talent pool.

Morale

What happens when employees watch a higher-than-normal number of coworkers leave?

They have questions like:

  • “Am I making the right choice by staying here?”
  • “Should I start looking for another job?
  • “How much extra work will I have before they hire someone else?”

When a job becomes a numbers game, it isn’t fun for anyone. High turnover makes employees count the minutes until they get to leave.

Customer Service

You have the same amount of work with fewer people to do it. You give them less time to answer calls, respond to messages, and help customers.

That doesn't create a recipe for success.

Reputation

Your reputation takes a hit when morale and customer service suffer.

Current and former employees leave reviews and comments about your business on:

  • Glassdoor
  • LinkedIn
  • Google
  • Indeed
  • Facebook

Customers go to some of these sites, and they talk to each other. No matter how much your online presence grows, you shouldn’t ignore word of mouth.

Your Time

Do you handle recruiting or hiring decisions?

High turnover devours your time and makes you feel like you can't keep up. You could use those extra hours to improve processes and best practices at your business.


What Is VTO?

As Maya Angelou once said, “giving liberates the soul of the giver.” VTO lets employees support the communities where they live and work.

VTO is similar to personal time off (PTO). For example, Pekin Insurance employees receive up to 16 paid hours of volunteer time every year.

Employees use this time away from the office to do things like:

  • Cleaning kennels and cuddling with critters at animal shelters
  • Preparing meal boxes at food banks
  • Picking up litter at local parks
  • Delivering food through programs like Meals on Wheels
  • Wrapping presents for families in need
  • Visiting children’s hospitals and nursing homes

VTO doesn’t make sense for every business, though. Let’s explore the pros and cons.

Advantages of VTO

The National Philanthropic Trust says 77 million Americans volunteer. That’s 30% of the adult population!

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):

  • About 25% of companies and non-profits in the U.S. offer VTO.
  • VTO has grown in popularity over time, which means more employers are offering it.

When you look at it as an employee perk, VTO could help you attract and retain talent. What person wouldn’t consider a company that shares their values?

Volunteering gives you countless outreach opportunities, too:

  • Have employees wear shirts with the company's colors and logo when they volunteer.
  • Use your social media channels to share pictures of those employees in action.
  • Tag the wonderful charities and organizations they're helping.

HelpGuide says volunteering offers the following benefits:

  • Making new friends and improving your social and relationship skills
  • Fighting the effects of stress and depression while boosting happiness
  • Teaching job skills and gaining career experience
  • Providing an outlet for fun and a sense of purpose

Disadvantages of VTO

Do you own a small business? If so, your budget and resources could prevent you from offering VTO.

It sounds nice, but it’s a big deal to hire an extra person and cover every shift. Plus, VTO is generally handled with an employee-submitted request. You need enough HR staff to handle the extra work.

You have to avoid controversial causes and questionable charities, too. Screen organizations to make sure they align with your company values.

Even when you say “no” to VTO, there are ways to give back:

  • Inform your employees of off-hours volunteering opportunities.
  • Host volunteer meet-ups as an alternative to happy hours (or do both).
  • Match employee donations to charities you select.

Even when you hop on the VTO train, you need to solve staffing issues so customer service doesn’t decline.



How to Create a Volunteer Culture

Some employees want to volunteer, but they don’t know where to start. Others don’t want to volunteer, period.

Start by offering specific opportunities. Don’t say, “Here’s some VTO. Go use it somewhere.”

Next, gamify your efforts by:

  • Setting a yearly volunteer hour goal for your company and sending regular updates
  • Getting management signed up to set an example
  • Having a prize drawing for anyone who uses all their VTO

Recognize volunteers through company email and in person. Tag them on social media, too!

Check out these excellent VTO resources for more helpful info:

When VTO Won't Help You

Let’s hop back into the Work Institute Report.

In 2018, employees left jobs by choice for the following reasons:

  • Career development (22.2%)
  • Work-life balance (12%)
  • Manager behavior (11.3%)
  • Compensation and benefits (9.6%)
  • Well-being (8.4%)
  • Job characteristics (8.1%)
  • Work environment (5.2%)

Other reasons for leaving included:

  • Relocation (10%)
  • Involuntary (6.7%)
  • Retirement (6.3%)

A VTO policy won’t make these issues disappear:

  • Forced overtime
  • Poor compensation and benefits
  • A toxic culture or work environment
  • No chances for upward mobility

VTO won't solve your problems like magic. Think of it as a tool to help you treat talent well and provide a great place to work.

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You have a much better understanding of VTO now. But do you have a solid business insurance plan?

Contact Lincoln Logan/May Enterprise Insurance Agency and get great coverage for your business.