Civic Engagement as Company Culture: Getting Your Employees to Give Back

In today's world of socially conscious consumers, most companies are aware that giving back to the community on a corporate level can be a big boost for business. But some organizations are going one step further by incorporating civic engagement and social responsibility into their company culture. Paid time off for charity work and companywide volunteer projects are becoming more and more common as socially responsible firms encourage their staff to practice what they preach.

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Zimbra Inc., a cloud-based communications solution provider, is one company whose leaders have made civic engagement a part of the team's regular routine. Chairman and CEO Patrick Brandt believes that getting involved isn't just important; it's a necessity in the modern workplace. Leaders, he said, should enable and empower those at their organizations to not just be better employees, but also better citizens. But the benefits of encouraging volunteer work go beyond personal development. Community involvement among employees can also be hugely beneficial to the company itself.

"At its core, civic engagement creates bonds among employees, encourages a value-based company culture, and increases the overall morale of the organization," Brandt told BusinessNewsDaily. "It creates incredible team building and leadership experiences, gives employees an opportunity to make an impact toward something they are passionate about without it coming at a cost at work, and helps employees see their challenges and accomplishments through a different lens." [15 Great Examples of Socially Responsible Businesses]

Brandt offered three tactical ways for leaders to encourage a culture of civic engagement within their companies:

Make your approach employee-centric. Getting individuals more engaged must begin with individuals themselves. A good starting place is to develop and adopt an employee-centered approach. Instead of focusing on mandating engagement from the top down, consider the best ways for employees to form and promote their own decisions and choose which initiatives they would like to participate in. For example, provide forums, bulletin boards or other communication channels that allow employees to connect with one another on issues.

Hire the right people from the start. At Zimbra, Brandt seeks out leaders and individuals who will fit in well with the company from day one, and it starts during the hiring process. He speaks with every individual who comes for an interview to get a sense of their work style, life experience and attitude. A candidate's answers can give you a better sense of their priorities, goals and how they collaborate with others, he says. This way, you can make sure the candidate will fit in and help to enhance, not hinder, an engaged culture.

Be a catalyst, but enable champions. One of the greatest benefits of an engaged culture is that it improves employee morale, and as a result, it can heighten employee retention rates. There are a number of ways that you can work toward this goal. Start by figuring out what works for your company. For example, if your company likes giving back in the community, schedule initiatives where employees can work with the community as a group, such as a fundraiser, donating time at a local shelter, or volunteering for a cause that is important to your employees. Let them choose, let them lead, support their cause, and grab a hammer.

"Getting out there and being active in the community allows us to step away from day-to-day activities and give back to those who need our help the most," Brandt said. "Bringing people together in service builds a lasting and encouraging legacy that sparks a spirit of unity in the workplace and also in the community."

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.