5 Ways HR Can Promote Volunteerism in Hurricane Irma’s Wake

HurricaneIn the wake of Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Harvey and other recent natural disasters, many of us have been inspired by stories of everyday people pitching in their time and talents to help those in need.

These selfless actions may inspire HR professionals to consider what they can do to encourage their workforces to volunteer as well.

While volunteerism may not directly relate to the bottom line, my colleague Marta Moakley has observed that a volunteering program can help an organization increase brand awareness, improve employee retention, increase the prospect/customer base and differentiate itself from competitors.

Here are five ways HR can promote volunteerism:

1. Offer Paid Time-Off for Volunteering

About one in five organizations recently surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offer paid time off for volunteering.

But it’s not enough just to offer volunteer PTO. Setting up concrete volunteer opportunities can really go a long way toward making sure employees actually use their volunteer PTO. In Florida, certain types of workers are now especially needed to volunteer, so their employers’ support of those efforts has the potential to be extraordinarily helpful.

2. Allow Unpaid Time-Off

Organizations also can allow employees to use unpaid time off to volunteer as part of an administrative leave program. HR should be sure to adopt a written personal leave of absence policy and apply it consistently. Employers in the hurricane-ravaged areas may wish to be especially flexible in these difficult recovery times.

3. Provide Flexible Work Arrangements

Flextime, telework and compressed workweeks and other flexible work arrangements also can help make it easier for employees to volunteer their time. When handling employees’ requests for flexible work arrangements, HR must be sure to determine whether the accommodation should be treated as a request for an Americans With Disabilities Act accommodation, among other things.

4. Comply With Disaster Services Leave Laws

It’s important to remember that several states protect the rights of certain employees – usually volunteer firefighters, rescue squad members and other emergency services personnel – to take unpaid volunteer emergency responder leave to perform emergency volunteer duties in the event of a natural disaster.

And even when it’s not required, employers can take matters into their own hands to make life easier for emergency responders. Officials in Naples, Florida, for instance, set up a day camp for children of the city’s employees in the two days preceding Hurricane Irma’s arrival.

5. Recognize Employees Who Volunteer

Recognizing employees who volunteer their time and services is another great way to promote volunteerism.

What does your employer do to actively encourage employees to volunteer their time? Let us know by leaving a comment below.


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