Making work meaningful through volunteering and giving

Stéphanie Grawehr June 28, 2019

In last year’s Global Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte highlighted that the era of the social enterprise had arrived. A year later and social enterprises are ever more important, as intensifying forces, such as demographic shifts and changing employee expectations, continue pushing companies toward this model. When it comes to being an attractive employer and being recognised by your industry, perks are great, but purpose, meaning, and social impact are what matter.

Economic, social and political issues are coming together and acting as a force for HR and business leaders to reinvent their organisations with a “human focus” based on human principles: purpose and meaning, ethics and fairness, growth and passion, collaboration and personal relationships, and transparency and openness.

According to Deloitte, CEOs cited societal impact, including income inequality, diversity, and the environment, as the number one issue when measuring success. Moreover, 56% of respondents cited that the social enterprise will become more important in the next three years compared to today. A positive link between taking the lead as a social enterprise and financial performance is becoming clearer.

The 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report highlights ten human capital trends that offer guidance on where organisations should focus their efforts to make an impact. In this post, we’re sharing some of the insights from the report to inform workplace giving and employee volunteering programs.

1. Developing leadership for today & tomorrow

“In the era of the social enterprise, people no longer believe that financial results are the only or primary measure on which a business’s success should be judged; they also judge organisations for the impact they have on the social and physical environment, as well as on their customers and the people who work for and with them. As a result, leaders that focus only on running a tight ship and competing relentlessly in the marketplace can be viewed as too narrow and not fully engaged with the challenges of the broader business and social environment.”

In today’s changing and complex world, leaders need a combination of new and old competencies to succeed. Managing operations and the bottom line are important but insufficient. Creating the right environment that enables success and the cultivation of these competencies is crucial, but significant gaps currently exist in transparency, internal collaboration and performance management.

Corporate giving and volunteering programs offer a meaningful opportunity to address these gaps:

  • By using a tool that measures the actions and initiatives taken by employees, where everyone across the organisation can get involved and access the impact created across the organisation – making it transparent.
  • Enabling collaboration by giving leaders and employees opportunities to work together across functions for charitable causes that they care about. These shared experiences foster relationships that will enable collaboration that cuts across projects.
  • Offering a clear giving and volunteering policy to employees and adapting performance measures to encourage these activities.

2. Moving from the employee experience to a human experience


“While the employee experience journey may start with a focus on the workplace, perks, and rewards, in time it must focus on the more human elements of the work itself to truly create meaning. A true human experience is one that embeds meaning into work and enables every employee to contribute in the most positive, supportive, and personal way.”

The concept of employee experience comes from the customer experience, where each interaction is thought through and carefully crafted by the organization to provide a seamless, delightful experience for customers. However, some important differences exist between employees and customers: Employees have an enduring, personal relationship with their employers, their experience is social, and it requires meaning and purpose.

To address these qualities, organisations need to focus on an individual, human level, that comes from the bottom-up. It requires organisations to recognise that meaning varies from person to person. Meaning starts with understanding – understanding the aspirations of employees, customers, and other stakeholders – and then connecting work to this to show how it has an impact on achieving these aspirations.

Workplace giving and volunteering is an important lever to make work more meaningful, when it becomes part of the culture and work of each individual. One employee might get meaning from the ability to get out of the routine and volunteer for a day, whereas another employee might derive meaning from developing themselves and using their skills to help have a social impact by using it to support a charity. Offering options to do good empowers employees to bring meaning into their work, in a way that suits them.

3. Personalising rewards to meet employees’ needs

meaningful work

“In the world of the social enterprise, where workers are seeking deeper meaning in their work and organizations are striving to create a greater human connection with their workers, rewards can either be an incredible motivator or a topic of contentious debate. To help avoid the latter, organizations must expand their view of rewards, engage their workers, and enter a new world of work where perks and pay are just the beginning.”

As unemployment levels dip, offering meaningful and competitive rewards is an effective way to motivate and recognize people. Companies offer their employees flexible work hours, free lunches, unlimited vacation and other perks to improve the work environment, but this isn’t all that matters to employees. Rewards should support building a relationship between employers and their employees. And this means tailoring rewards to individuals’ needs and wants. This goes hand in hand with the shift to a more human experience.

Providing employees opportunities to volunteer or give to causes that they care about, and encouraging them with supportive policies such as paid time-off for volunteering or donation matching sends a compelling message that the organisation is aligned with their values. Aligning rewards has never been more important than it is now, when unemployment is low and skilled workers are scarce. Rewards, when done right, enable organisations to retain employees and motivate high performance.

4. Creating a learning culture 

“In the age of the social enterprise, organizations will realize that creating and maintaining a culture of lifelong learning is not just part of their mission and purpose but is what gives their workers meaning both in and out of the workplace. And nothing is more personal than that.”

As the top rated challenge, learning and creating a culture of continuous learning is crucial. In fact, the opportunity to learn has become one of the top reasons for people to take a job. A tight labor market coupled with new technologies that are changing jobs and the skills required, mean that learning and development is a necessity for people across the organisation.

As learning is increasingly integrated into people’s day-to-day work and lives, opportunities to learn through volunteering are a natural complement. Charities offer a positive learning environment for volunteers who want to develop themselves while doing good. Employees have the chance to work on real projects with social impact, developing both soft and hard skills, such as communication and working in teams.

The time is now

The 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report touches on a number of key trends that are and will continue to shape work and lives. And it’s become clear that the time is now for organisations to adapt their culture and mindset to thrive in the age of the social enterprise by bringing it back to a human focus – their people – in a way that is meaningful. With an engaging employee volunteering and giving program, developing collaborative, transparent leadership, creating a human experience, personalising rewards, and building a culture of learning is within reach.

For more insights on employee volunteering and corporate giving, making work meaningful, and bringing social purpose to your company culture, subscribe to our newsletter by scrolling down.

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