Staffing Management

Appealing to Workers’ Civic Side

By Michelle Rafter

Sep. 1, 2010

The first time Comcast Corp. took part in a community service event, 50 employees at the cable television company’s corporate headquarters signed up to work at the local Philadelphia Cares Day.

Employees were so enthusiastic that the company started its own annual service day. That was nine years ago.

This April, more than 60,500 employees, family members and volunteers teamed with local and national nonprofit organizations for the company’s latest Comcast Cares Day. They planted gardens, cleaned up riverbanks and filled food baskets at 560 locations around the country.

Like Comcast, more companies have discovered that sponsoring community service days is not only a high-profile way to create good will in cities where they do business but also an effective means of attracting and retaining employees. Dozens of companies hold annual community service days, including Deloitte & Touche, IBM Corp. and Starbucks Corp.

During a five-week Community Days campaign in 2009, 1,639 employees at Hospital Corporation of America worked close to 10,000 hours on 108 projects in central Tennessee, an in-kind donation worth about $200,000, says spokesman Ed Fishbough. And GlaxoSmithKline recently pledged $500,000 to a national community service day planned for September 11, 2011, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A recent Deloitte study shows how companies are monitoring employee morale, retention and recruiting to measure the success of their volunteer efforts. According to the 2010 Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey, 51 percent of the 303 companies surveyed measure employee morale to determine whether community service programs are effective; 36 percent, employee retention; and 30 percent, recruiting success.

Civic engagement is becoming especially important as companies recruit members of the Millennial Generation, who are more likely than older employees to factor a company’s social responsibility and community outreach into their career decisions.

Recession-induced layoffs may have curtailed recruiting for the short term. But as economic pressures ease and companies start hiring again, more need to think about the community image they project if they want to attract not just Millennials but civic-minded employees of every age, says Erin Barnhart, volunteer initiatives director at, a nonprofit group that helps organizations find volunteer opportunities. Even in a tight job market, highly sought after workers may choose one company over another because of its corporate social responsibility programs, Barnhart says.

Comcast didn’t start its community service day to attract and retain employees, but that has been an unintended, positive consequence of the program, says Charisse Lillie, head of the company’s community involvement program and executive vice president of its nonprofit Comcast Foundation.

Comcast now incorporates information about all of its community service projects in the new employee onboarding process and on its website, says Lillie, who previously served as Comcast’s vice president of human resources.

Workforce Management, August 2010, p. 3Subscribe Now!

Michelle Rafter is a Workforce contributing editor.

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