There was a time when volunteer work was frowned upon by many Human Resources and Management professionals. Today the opinion is shifting at all levels of the employment spectrum.
General Mills, the makers of Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, Green Giant, and other well-known brands, strongly encourages community involvement. So much so that they that they have their corporate university help match employees to the nonprofit organization where they have the best fit.
Michigan Glass Coatings of Rochester Hills, MI, also sees community involvement as vital to the growth of their management. Co-owner John Rizzo encourages his sales people and management to become involved in chambers and service organizations. "It is a way to add balance and give back to the community," says Rizzo. Displaying true leadership, Rizzo practices this commitment through active membership in the local Rotary Club.
Traditional managers may see the added responsibilities as a distraction to their normal job that can carry over into the workplace. They fear that the charitable work will lead to phone calls at work, a desire to the charities work on company time, and/or that they may use company property for the charitable work.
Both companies feel it is very beneficial in several aspects. First, the employees serve as good-will ambassadors. At General Mills they feel that it allows them to stay in touch with the consumer. Second, they believe that their people learn valuable management skills while doing the volunteer work. Rizzo says the real "greater reward [of service organization involvement] is their development as a person." General Mills also sees this in non-management volunteers as they have a better understanding of their managers and how to work as a team. And third, they find it helps with retention. An employee is less likely to leave the company as the company is a supporter of their involvement in a project that is rewarding to the individual.
The experience at General Mills has been very positive. By strongly supporting the program in word and deed at all levels of management, their program was embraced, expanding to 70% of all employees.