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Lend a Hand: How to Build Your Summer Service Day Program

Lend a Hand: How to Build Your Summer Service Day Program
Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 by Rae Shanahan

Ah, summer!


The sun is out, vacations are booked, and everyone has an extra spring in their step. It’s a season that inevitably brings a renewed sense of energy to the workplace and more flexibility in schedules.

For employers looking to strengthen workplace culture, using summer to develop a robust service day program can be one of the best uses of the season. Summer service days are employer-sanctioned days dedicated to employee volunteerism. Rather than clocking in at the office, employees spend their day in their community, utilizing their skills in service of others.

Summer service day programs offer empathetic employers the opportunity to put action behind their values. What better way to show a commitment to empathy than to extend its reach beyond employees, into the community where you do business?

But summer service day programs aren’t only a fun day for employees to stretch their legs outside their desks — they impact company culture in a meaningful way. In a study of workplace volunteerism, 77% of employees said that “volunteering is essential to employee well-being.” Service day programming even eclipses other infamous employee activities: 70% of employees say that volunteer activities are more likely to boost employee morale than company-sponsored happy hours.

In a labor market characterized by substantial turnover, honoring this sentiment in employees can strengthen your ability to maintain a consistent, unified workforce. In fact, 55% of Millennials report that a company’s support for social causes is an important factor in accepting a job offer, which means giving back can benefit your recruitment and retention efforts. And, the more employees your business can welcome into the fold, the more hands there are on deck to support your community in a long-lasting, meaningful way.

Here’s a guide to get your summer service program up and running.

  1. Set up a committee. The best summer service day programming doesn’t come as a directive from the top-down: instead, they’re driven by employees themselves. While it’s important to have foundational support from an existing department like HR, the bulk of your summer service day committee should consist of employees at all levels from across your organization. Making this effort will help build solidarity and ensure your program reflects the passions of your workforce.

  2. Conduct meaningful research. Your organization should decide how hands-on you’d like your service day to be, whether there is one sanctioned activity, or if you’ll provide options and allow employees a preference. To decide on organizations you’ll partner with, start by seeking input directly from employees on which causes interest them. An online survey tool is a great way to keep this anonymous and manageable. Your business’s value statement can serve as a smart starting point. The service day committee may want to consider if there are any specific issues facing your community, as a way to make your efforts unique to your geographic region.
  1. Nail the logistics. Making it easy for employees to participate in summer service day will be the differentiator between a compulsory activity and one that is enthusiastically embraced. Establishing a communications plan with regular emails, office posters, and calendar reminders is key here. Organizing carpools or shuttles to volunteer locations will make the commute a breeze. The more you can remove barriers to participation, the more employees will be able to contribute and see their employer’s values in action. 
  1. Stay connected to the community. Your summer service day shouldn’t mean your volunteerism is over for the year. If possible, find ways to turn the day into a quarterly event, using different seasonal themes to guide the causes you select, or working with a cast of rotating organizations. Authentic connections with community organizations are always best. After the day is done, consider ways you can make your partnerships last, such as by developing a job shadow program with a local school or hosting educational seminars for job seekers at the library.

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