Ask any professional to tell you a key to his /her success, and you’re likely to get an answer like this: “I had a mentor earlier in my career who taught me a lot.” Mentors can provide professional and personal benefits to their mentees. There are serious benefits for themselves as well.
Mentoring is a positive experience. Mentors feel a sense of personal fulfillment by paying it forward. They contribute to the company by helping to keep talented employees.
Trion has a corporate mentorship program through its GROW initiative—Growth and Relationship Opportunities for Women. While women are encouraged to participate, it is by no means limited to women. The mentorship program is now in its second year. It’s a complete success, partly because of the effective communications the mentorship committee uses to get the word out.
Of course, it’s a challenge to coordinate such a program. All the participants are busy professionals, so it presents logistical difficulties. In the case of the GROW program, the committee solicits applications from those who want to take part, then holds a meet-and-greet. At this event, the prospective mentors and mentees each get eight minutes to get to know one another. Then, the mentees each submit a list of their top three choices for a mentor. The committee matches up pairs and holds a short training session. The mentors and mentees take it from there.
One key to the program’s success is the large awareness the committee created through communications. It uses a three-channel approach, which has proven effective.
Channel 1: Email
As the program’s launch approaches, the committee sends out many emails to inform the whole company the launch is coming soon. There is an application attached to the first email. The emails talk about past participants’ positive experiences, the timeline, and what new participants can expect. They have a sense of urgency but a positive tone to try to get potential participants excited to sign up.
Channel 2: Print/Newsletter
Each quarter, the overall GROW initiative publishes a print newsletter for the entire company. The newsletter describes the different, upcoming events and program. In the issue before the launch of the Mentorship program, the committee publishes one or more articles about the program. Topics include interviews with prior participants, benefits that mentors or mentees might enjoy, or program details.
Channel 3: Word of Mouth
The committee encourages participants in the corporate mentorship program to talk about their experiences—good or bad. Honest feedback can help the committee make changes, although the feedback for this program has been very positive. Word of mouth creates a buzz for the program and can reach colleagues that may have missed the other communications channels.
With this approach, Trion’s mentorship program looks to continue its success far into the future in large part thanks to effective communications tactics.
Earlier this spring, I spent a morning as a volunteer at the non-profit Cradles to Crayons. Along with seven of my co-workers, I assembled bags of clothes, shoes and books for children in need from our community. The event was part of Trion Cares, our company’s corporate volunteer program. We can build houses for Habitat for Humanity, cook and serve meals at the Ronald McDonald House and contribute our time and talents in other ways.
A corporate volunteer program shows our company cares about its employees’ well-being, too. Volunteering reduces stress and depression. Regular volunteers even live longer than their peers.
If your organization has a company volunteer program, that’s great! But are employees receptive to it? To maximize success and take advantage of the benefits to your business, spread the word about volunteering early and often.
Plant the Seeds
I first learned about Trion’s corporate volunteer program when I was offered my job. Human Resources explained it to me as part of the total PTO package. The program gives employees eight paid hours per year to volunteer at a certified charity. We can either join a company-organized event or find our own opportunity.
On-boarding communication is a logical place to describe your volunteer program. Include it in the employee handbook. To engage employees, include colleagues’ personal stories of their community service experiences.
But there could be an even better place to introduce this benefit. Describe the program in your recruitment communications. We are currently in a buyers’ market for jobs. Companies need to be creative when courting new and talented workers. A 2016 survey by Cone Communications shows 51% of employees won’t work for a company that doesn’t have social justice commitments.
Engage job seekers and talk about your corporate volunteer program before they send in their resumes. List it as a benefit on job postings. Mention it on public-facing websites and social media pages. Include photos of the most recent event to emphasize the sense of togetherness volunteering provides.
Water the Garden
To encourage continued participation, you need consistent communications about the corporate volunteer program. Promote upcoming volunteer opportunities in email blasts, the intranet and employee newsletters. Reach out to partner community service organizations for their feedback. Quotes from them make for powerful testimonials to punch up your copy.
Vary the dates, places and missions of service opportunities to make the program as attractive as possible. This allows employees with different schedules, office locations and talents to pick what suits them the best. Corporate volunteer opportunities are a great way to promote camaraderie. At my recent event, I got to know co-workers from other locations.
Sign up should be quick and simple. Send periodic reminders and include directions to the service site and other useful information.
Watch it Grow
A corporate volunteer program has many benefits to your business. It positions your organization as a civic leader. As the famous comic book saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” There could be unmet needs within the community that your employees’ skills can address. Connect with area non-profits to ask how you can best serve them. Continue the conversation and check in periodically to look for updated opportunities.
Engage your employees with regular communications about corporate volunteering and reap the benefits. Community service programs are a powerful retention tool.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents to the 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey believe a company that sponsors volunteer opportunities offers a better working environment. Such opportunities foster loyalty and help employees advance in their careers. Another survey shows 80% of participants find active volunteers move more easily into leadership roles.
Corporate volunteer programs have a range of benefits, from employee well-being to positive perception of your organization. Don’t forget the most important benefit of all: The satisfaction that only comes from selflessly lending your time and talents for the betterment of others.