When Companies Steal The Social Capital Of Their Employees

Connecting companies with communities through employee volunteering & social media
Dec 10, 2010 9:27 AM ET


Recently, I spoke with the manager of a large telecommunications company in the US. The company publicly boasts a healthy and active employee volunteering program, claiming a 200% growth in participation over the past 4 years. Needless to say, I wanted to learn more about it.

During the call, I discovered several things:

1. The company offers NO paid time for volunteering.

2. Employees who volunteer have to rack up over 50 hours of service to qualify for the Dollars for Doers program (the per hour dollar was about $15 - that’s not a lot if you’re wondering.)

3. The company plans no strategic volunteering events with the community. (However, employees do plan small, local activities.)

4. The company is not comfortable with spending money to promote volunteering (apparently, the logic behind this is "volunteering is free, so why should we invest money in it?"). They are currently using fliers in lunch rooms to raise awareness.

5. The main goal of the program for the upcoming year is to get more employees to log their volunteer hours with the company.

Now, I can deal with almost all of these poor corporate volunteering practices. I get that employee volunteering is a recent trend and it takes months, even years, to develop a well-functioning and robust program. I get that corporations cannot address every lacking area at once. I even get that it takes time to understand why employee volunteering is worth significant financial investment.

However, this company's claim to a 200% growth in volunteering over the past 4 years is absurd. Their focus is not on promoting volunteering; rather their focus is on convincing employees to log their personal volunteering time as that of the company's. This is theft - pure and simple.

A company ought only to count volunteering hours as their own when they are specifically investing in generating more volunteering among their employees. As far as I can tell, this company was doing nothing more than slapping employees on the back on the way home for the weekend, saying, "Don't forget to volunteer - and then hurry back to log it as company time!" Ridiculous.

If you’re wondering where your company stands, I'm posting a continuum we developed with Elaine Cohen in her new book "CSR for HR." It's important that you identify your place on the continuum - in order to avoid making a fool of yourself. Check it out here: (Click on the pic to enlarge)

We love to talk about all things employee volunteering! Feel free to join the conversation by commenting below or contacting us directly:
angela@realizedworth.com or chrisjarvis@realizedworth.com