This past weekend I ran a 5K race through the Bronx Zoo – the Run for the Wild to raise funds to save the world’s lion population. It was a great run traversing up, down, and through the many trails of the zoo. On a cool morning, many of the animals were out. We saw giraffes, sea lions, African wild dogs, peacocks, and other animals.

There were runners of all abilities and stripes – thousands of us. As my husband and I ran together, it was great to see so many groups of co-workers running together, having fun, getting exercise, and raising money for a great cause. What a great formula for employee morale and engagement!

One important aspect of employee morale and engagement is how employees feel about their co-workers. Data from Cornerstone Research1 found that 46% of employees named “liking and respecting my coworkers” as one of the top motivators for staying in their current position. One of the best ways to do that is to provide opportunities for employees to interact outside of work situations and come together in support of community service. In one company I worked for there were regular opportunities to volunteer at soup kitchens, renovate homes for the homeless, provide backpacks filled with school supplies to needy children, and teach life skills to schoolchildren.

One of our clients, Everybody Wins!, brings together employees from a variety of companies and New York City schoolchildren in one-on-one reading sessions. Everybody Wins! Executive Director, Janet Corcoran, explained the benefits of participation in her program to both the employee and the company. “By enabling employees to spend one lunch hour a week at an elementary school mentoring an underserved child, Corcoran said, “our corporate partners send a powerful message to current and future customers and employees:  that they are willing to invest their most valuable asset back into the community-the time of their talented workforce.  In addition to building trust and loyalty among key stakeholders, corporate volunteering programs support employee recruitment, retention and skills development, including teamwork, leadership, and communications, and contribute enormously to job satisfaction and morale.”

Beyond sponsoring teams for fundraising races or walks and teaming up employees with schoolchildren to read together, there are many ways to engender company spirit and rapport among coworkers. A few things that we have seen are:

  • Building bikes to donate to needy children
  • Cooking and delivering meals to senior citizens
  • Renovating housing for families in need or the homeless
  • Hosting holiday parties at children’s wards in local hospitals
  • Assembling supply or care kits for our troops
  • Adopting a local school and providing enrichment programs to students (like the Everybody Wins! Power Lunch reading program)
  • Starting a community garden
  • Cleaning up and refurbishing local parks and playgrounds

The key is creating opportunities for employees to experience the fruits of their service – seeing the children’s faces when they receive their bikes, working side-by-side with residents at the garden comes to life, and delivering supply kits to a local military base. This type of activity does not cost a lot of money for an organization but yet they produce huge dividends in employee morale and engagement.

What is happening in your organization? How are your employees coming together and giving back? We’d love to know.
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1Cornerstone Research

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