How to Leverage Community Investment for Training and Development

Employees who are part of a company-organized volunteer program feel their work is more meaningful, and that what they do really matters.

By Melanie Holmes, Vice President, World of Work Solutions, ManpowerGroup

In today’s business environment, employers are more thoughtful and strategic than ever about talent management. When there are jobs to fill, organizations search aggressively for perfect-fit candidates. At the same time, employers realize the need to engage their existing workforce in order to retain their best talent. This behavior is a product of doing business in an era that ManpowerGroup has identified as the Human Age—where human potential is the driver of economic growth and talent is the competitive differentiator. Clearly, recruiting and retaining the best talent is more important than ever.

When it comes to employee engagement and retention, the concept of development must be addressed. At ManpowerGroup, there are three pillars to our development strategy:

  1. Exposure
  2. Education
  3. Experience

To fulfill each aspect of development, both managers and employees often look for training classes, mentoring opportunities, and stretch projects. Our strategy also includes the often-overlooked development tool of community investment and volunteering. At ManpowerGroup, we have seen firsthand that volunteering can enhance an individual’s career by honing skills such as:

  • Communication: Clearly sharing information, adapting messages for different audiences, listening
  • Interpersonal relations: Working in teams, working with diverse individuals
  • Leadership skills: Directing teams, motivating others, managing difficult situations
  • Project management: Planning, delegating, training, managing expectations

The beauty of community investment as part of a development strategy is that it yields much more than individual growth. Employees who are part of a company-organized volunteer program feel their work is more meaningful, and that what they do really matters. In addition, effective community investment promotes and enhances the company brand with both clients and prospective employees. Finally, volunteering strengthens the communities where a company does business and where its employees live. As the saying goes, a rising tide raises all boats, and all of these benefits have a residual positive impact on a company.

Developing a Community Investment Program

For companies that want to offer volunteer opportunities to employees, keep in mind the following:

  • Always begin with senior management buy-in and support. Without support from the top, the program is unlikely to succeed.
  • Formalize the program and put someone in charge of it. This will ensure volunteering is properly managed and will create a single point of contact for employees and the organizations the company supports.
  • Develop a community investment strategy that aligns with your business. At ManpowerGroup, our programs are focused on developing the workforce of today and the workforce of tomorrow, which aligns with our core business function of developing innovative workforce solutions. We donate our time and talent to help underserved populations develop their resumes, practice their interview skills, and prepare themselves for the world of work. Determine your organization’s core competency, then find a cause that fits.
  • Consider the employee’s perspective and make it easy to participate. Work/life balance is a key concern for most people, so allowing employees to volunteer during business hours is appealing. Also, make sure there is variety in the offerings, so people with various skills and interests can find appealing options. ManpowerGroup employees can be found doing everything from painting a mural at a youth center to serving as tutors at a literacy center.
  • Provide a way for employees to document participation in volunteer programs. An intranet-based form is ideal, and should track things such as organization served, hours, type of activity, volunteer’s key learnings, recommendations for improvement, and other feedback. As an employer, these forms help track your employees’ contributions and measure participation. For employees, the form serves as a reflection tool and formal record of participation for annual reviews and development conversations.

Community investment and volunteering have been embraced by companies as the right thing to do and are an integral part of corporate social responsibility programs. However, the benefits to the company and employees also should be considered, especially as it relates to engagement, professional growth, and development.

Melanie Holmes is vice president, World of Work Solutions, ManpowerGroup. For more information, visit

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