Connecting Employees to Community Service Opportunities is a Win All Around


Did you know that millennials will be 50 percent of the workforce by 2020?  Or that 88 percent of millennials feel their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social or environmental issues?

These facts helped set the scene during United Way’s recent annual forum with corporate and foundation leaders to discuss how together we can support employees who want to feel ‘engaged’ at work and in the community.

And it’s not just millennials who want to give back.  A 2016 survey by Cone Communications found that 74 percent of employees find their work fulfilling when provided with opportunities to help their communities.  What’s more, 55 percent would choose to work for a socially responsible company, even if the salary is less!  For millennials, that figure is even higher.

These employees want to see purpose in what they do, and as part of their engagement they might volunteer their time, donate money, or advocate on issues important to them.

Businesses benefit, too.  In an increasingly competitive labor market, companies are pursuing effective employee engagement strategies to improve worker recruitment and retention, increase productivity and further engage targeted communities or demographics.

At this year’s forum, company representatives made it clear that the war for talent is driving the need for engagement options among all employees, but particularly millennials.  Younger workers want to contribute, and do so with their friends in an easy, digitally-connected, and impactful way.

United Way and ExxonMobil made a joint presentation showing how we worked together to increase millennial engagement in Houston.  ExxonMobil, a 65-year partner with United Way, had been experiencing low participation from its early career professionals.

To change that, the company used improved marketing and mentoring to reach out to their young professionals, but they also teamed up with United Way’s LINC initiative.  LINC (Lead, Impact, Network, Change) specifically works to engage millennials and turn them into lifelong contributors and young leaders.

The result for ExxonMobil was an increase in campaign participation, gifts and volunteer hours.

Another take away is that employees are increasingly inspired by issues rather than institutions.  This is an important insight for United Way.  Fortunately, while our work in education, income and health isn’t changing, by focusing on VeteransJobsRefugees, and Human Trafficking, our role and influence in society remains as timely and relevant as ever.

We are also heavily involved with Salesforce to create a digital employee engagement platform that will allow workers to create online profiles and find issues that motivate them.  The goal is to empower employees and make it easy for them to connect with each other – and friends – and make a difference.

Moving forward, we invite companies and organizations of all sizes to partner with us so we can learn from one another.  We may not have all of the answers right away, but the networking and sharing of promising practices could lead to valuable partnerships down the road.