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Volunteer Programs at Work Motivate Women

May 17, 2010

Business women are more motivated and more likely to remain at companies that they feel are contributing to society, according to a new study released by the Simmons School of Management in Boston.

Working women who perceive their organizations as being socially responsible report higher job satisfaction, lower intention of quitting and are more likely to be company advocates in non-work environments, based on the survey of nearly 400 women employees, managers and executives.

The poll found that, for the majority of women, socially focused career needs are as important as career advancement and work-life balance needs. When asked about important work needs:

  • Nearly 90 percent said: “Do work that makes a positive impact on society.”
  • More than 80 percent said: “Opportunities to develop professional expertise.”
  • About 80 percent said: “Have a good work-life balance.”
  • Just under 80 percent said: “Opportunities to express and act in line with my values.”
  • More than 75 percent said: “Opportunities for career advancement.”

According to the survey report, Using Corporate Social Responsibility to Motivate and Retain Female Employees: “. . . women place more importance on the role business needs to play in society when selecting their employers, and that women seek power and leadership in the workplace no so much for personal gains, but to make a difference and make the world a better place.”

Company Roadblocks to Giving Programs

Although women seek socially responsible companies and jobs, whether they get them is another question entirely. The majority of women polled said they were unaware of their organization’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities; and only 35 percent reported that they have participated in their companies’ social programs.

A study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) sheds light on some of the main roadblocks to successful CSR initiatives. As reported by HR managers polled at U.S. companies, the biggest hurdles are cost (67 percent), unproven benefits (43 percent), lack of support from senior management (39 percent) and distractions from primary business goals (36 percent).

The SHRM research also highlights the most common methods companies use to engage or involve employees in CSR programs at U.S. companies:

  • Recognize employee participation in volunteer programs (72 percent).
  • Encourage senior management to participate (56 percent).
  • Provide company-sponsored volunteer events after work hours (54 percent).
  • Encourage employees to spearhead volunteer programs (53 percent).
  • Provide company-sponsored volunteer events during work hours (47 percent).
  • Allow leaves of absences to work for volunteer organizations (46 percent).
  • Solicit employee input when selecting or revising programs (39 percent).
  • Volunteer participation is reflected in performance reviews (14 percent).
  • Paid leave for employees who participate in volunteer events (12 percent).

The Simmons School of Management report suggests that companies do more to communicate and engage employees in community and social programs: “Companies need to provide specific opportunities for involvement in ways that do not take away from female employees’ ability to fulfill their regular responsibilities. Better yet, companies should consider making CSR participation integral to those professional responsibilities.”

What are you and your company doing? In Your Shoes would love to share your stories.

In Your Shoes is created by Johnston & Murphy, offering quality shoes and outerwear for women and men. We welcome your comments and contributions.

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