Should my company offer volunteer time off (VTO)?
Paying employees to volunteer might sound odd, but research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) finds that 21% of American companies offer volunteer time off (VTO), defined as paid-time off for volunteering and community service. Companies that offer VTO include Aetna, AT&T, Capital One, Dell, Deloitte, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, PIMCO and Valero Energy Corporation. The number of VTO hours offered annually to full-time employees is most often between eight and 40.
Why do one in five companies have a VTO policy? A key reason is that employees increasingly value, and expect, their employer to facilitate their volunteering. A Net Impact and Rutgers University survey, for example, revealed that that 65 percent of student respondents entering the job market expect to make a social and environmental impact through their work. They are so set on doing good at work that 44 percent said they are willing to take a pay cut to do so.
There is also evidence that employees who volunteer are more satisfied and engaged. The aforementioned Net Impact and Rutgers study also uncovered that 45 percent of employees who have volunteered with their company or co-workers report that they are very satisfied with their jobs, compared to 30 percent of those who haven't. Similarly, HPE and other companies have data linking participation in company volunteer activities to higher employee engagement.
To be clear, while VTO supports an employee volunteer program, it’s not essential. Many employee volunteer programs that engage large numbers of employees and make substantial social impacts, including those of CVS, FedEx, and IBM, don’t have VTO. A VTO policy is only one, among many, possible employee volunteer program components that include scheduled group activities, formalized recruitment and recognition. Alone VTO is unlikely to generate much volunteering and certainly does not constitute an employee volunteer program.
Furthermore, there are costs associated with a VTO policy. These include lost productivity while employees volunteer and administrative costs.
Offering employees Volunteer Time Off (VTO) might not be appropriate for all workplaces and, alone, it does not comprise a high-impact employee volunteer program. It’s recommended, however, that companies consider VTO a possible component of their employee volunteer program. VTO can anchor volunteering into the culture, facilitate employee involvement, promote management buy-in and otherwise help drive excellence in an employee volunteer program.