How Employee Volunteers Can Help You Attract and Hire Talent

How Employee Volunteers Can Help You Attract and Hire Talent

Guest post by Jerome Tennille

Some companies view volunteerism as a need to satisfy employee engagement objectives. But on the other end of the spectrum, many understand the essence of volunteerism as a selfless way to serve one’s community.

Regardless of an individual’s perspective, what’s virtually undisputed is the notion that job seekers pursue employment opportunities with companies that prove to be socially responsible. And with millennials making up the largest generation in the U. S. workforce, it’s no wonder corporate social responsibility (CSR) has taken center stage with human resources strategists.

According to Cone Communications, 75% of millennials said they would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company. The same survey found that over 80% of millennials believe they’d be more loyal and fulfilled by working for a more socially responsible company.

Attracting talent as a result of CSR efforts is a nice consequence, but a passive strategy is just that… passive. You shouldn’t leave your intentions to chance. There’s a more proactive way to recruit talent — and it starts with engaging your employees in volunteerism.

Here’s the best part: by being proactive, you reap the advantage of being deliberate in recruiting the talent you need for your company.

1. Understand societal issues.

When sourcing communities for talent, it’s helpful to understand the barriers different groups face. For example, if you’re looking to recruit military veterans, it may require an understanding of the challenges involved with translating military skills into civilian ones to bridge the hiring gap. If you don’t, you might perceive there to be a skills mismatch when a veteran could very well be qualified for a role.

There may be a different set of barriers when seeking to employ youth. Young adults may seem less employable on paper due to their lack of soft-skills and fewer years in the workforce. This may result in young job seekers not wearing appropriate attire, showing up late or failing to exhibit proper workplace etiquette and norms during and after an interview.

When working with refugees, employers may experience similar complications resulting from a lack of access to information about legal frameworks and conditions for their employment. And like veterans, there may be difficulties in matching their skills, formal qualifications or education to a host country’s job requirements.

Here’s the silver lining: employers can proactively develop the skills of potential candidates and increase their employability by exposing them to their specific industry through volunteerism. Plus, exposing someone to a new industry has the potential to increase the likelihood of them choosing your industry when applying for their next job.

2. Develop the community members you’re recruiting for talent.

Volunteerism, in general, is often focused on building a community’s resilience. This remains true when developing the talent you’re looking to source, especially through skills-based volunteerism. While the diverse communities (e.g., veterans, youth, refugees, etc.) you recruit for talent will likely differ based on industry needs, the methodology used to develop those communities share a common theme.

Let’s take youth (ages 15-24 as defined by the United Nations), for example. Generally speaking, this is the prime age for “job seeking.” So why is it that here in the United States youth unemployment is over 9% (compared to the national average of 3.9%)?

There are many factors that come into play here. Some of obvious reasons include their lack of work experience and having less financial capital, which results in fewer skills than their more experienced counterparts and less mobility. These factors might also prevent youth from taking jobs outside of their local community.

But beneath the surface of these widely known issues are other factors as well. To overcome these barriers, engage in volunteer activities that have the potential to open doors to acquiring young talent through proactive sourcing.

3. Connect with nonprofits that offer job readiness programs.

Leverage the skills you’re working to acquire as a compass to find nonprofits with a mission to develop the capacity of diverse communities. For example, if you’re in the foodservice industry, connect with nonprofits that focus on job readiness programs in your industry.

These nonprofits can do some of the heavy lifting for you by creating a pipeline of employable candidates. Many job training programs provide ongoing support to their graduates that get hired by corporate partners, aiding in a candidate’s retention after placement. As a result of developing talent from diverse communities, you’ll set yourself apart from your competitors by establishing a unique employer brand.

Once you connect with an organization that aligns with your company’s mission and values, employee volunteering begins.

Get a sense of the organization’s programs and what might add value to the community you serve. When designing a program, do this collaboratively to ensure the community will benefit from what you’re offering. You might find that your company is well-suited to host career planning sessions.

These sessions can be designed to engage successful employees as volunteers who provide guidance on the types of education, training and mentorship they received, and how these programs have helped them become successful. They can also provide tips to help job seekers map out their career trajectory.

Not only will this develop a roadmap for success for job seekers, but it will also provide opportunities for employees to connect with their community, find purpose in their role and align company values with their own.

4. Offer interview etiquette and résumé workshops with experiential learning.

Work with your hiring managers, talent acquisition and other qualified teams to host interview and résumé writing workshops. Through these workshops, your employees can volunteer to help job seekers write winning résumés that highlight their skills in a compelling way employers understand. You can enhance this experience by integrating some role play.

Employee volunteers could assist job seekers in honing their in-person interview performance while presenting themselves in a positive light to employers. This workshop format can double as a means of giving your volunteer interviewers and workshop facilitators a sneak peek at potential talent. As you vet for fit and qualifications, your team may identify a candidate they connect with through and want to hire.

On a separate note, think about providing experiential learning opportunities at your place of work. This can mirror informal on-the-job training or job shadowing and provide learning opportunities based on helping candidates develop job-specific skills beyond traditional classroom-based knowledge.

Through this learning style, you’ll have a greater ability to attract talent by showing them what it’s actually like to work for your company. Job candidates will be exposed to a “day in the life,” which can provide the opportunity to reduce stigma, stereotypes or negative perceptions of your industry. Not to mention, employees who engage as trainers will reinforce the skills they’ve already learned, resulting in increased job performance.

Experiential learning can open doors for employees to mentor and coach job seekers in both formal and informal capacities. Mentoring and coaching can be a great way to guide others on a more positive track in both their professional and personal lives.

In addition to the mentee having someone help with guiding their actions, employees who are mentoring or coaching will gain both interpersonal communication and leadership skills, which can lead to higher performance.

5. Add value to your company, the community and your industry.

Many nonprofit organizations provide training to those they serve. As subject matter experts in understanding the critical issues they work to solve, nonprofit professionals often bring the know-how in the form of cultural and societal competency. When that expertise is paired with the knowledge of an industry leader, the offered training can be hard to rival.

With your nonprofit partner, invest in formalizing co-created job skills training.

Co-created and facilitated training will allow your industry-specific training (delivered by your employee volunteers) to be done in more programmatically. Not only will this further reinforce your position as a company in your industry (setting you apart from competitors), but it’ll allow your brand to be disseminated through greater channels, in other words, to audiences that may not have known about your product or services.

In addition to job skills training, seek public speaking and engagement opportunities.

These types of opportunities may be most appropriate for those in leadership positions. By addressing critical social issues in a public forum, the awareness of those societal needs can take on new life by attracting others who could help solve the presented issues.

Leadership speaking and engagement opportunities give your company greater visibility in solving societal issues, develop thought leadership and position your company as a positive change agent. Ultimately, this will help your company develop a more favorable employer brand while maintaining communication and fostering transparency with those you support and recruit for talent.

6. Close the loop between volunteerism and talent acquisition.

In this day and age, companies need to do more than just post job opportunities on job boards such as Indeed, Monster or Simply Hired. Companies are becoming more proactive in targeting candidates on LinkedIn and other professional networking sites. So employers must go where the competition isn’t, by taking a proactive approach and plugging into job training programs that develop the employability of those you seek for talent.

Just be sure you have buy-in from those who will eventually hire the talent. There has to be a process in place for talent acquisition teams to actually receive résumés and get face-to-face with those you develop. This will ensure that beyond building the resiliency of the community, there’s a mechanism to connect newly minted professionals to opportunities they’re now qualified for.

How this is done will be unique to companies engaged in job readiness. But at the end of the day, getting your employees to volunteer can help solve the business challenge of hiring qualified talent. It starts by being present in the community you’re seeking for talent, and creating pathways for engagement that lead to proactive recruiting.


About the Author: 
Jerome Tennille, CVA is the manager of volunteerism for Marriott International, where he leads the company’s traditional and skills-based volunteer programs, ensuring they reflect the latest innovations, technologies and best practices. Before joining Marriott International, Jerome was a senior manager of impact analysis and assessment at Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a national organization that offers help, hope, and healing to all those grieving the passing of a loved one serving in America’s armed forces.


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