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RESEARCH BRIEF: Employee volunteer programs can engage employees emotionally and intellectually


Takeaway: Employee volunteerism can foster emotional attachment to the company and result in greater buy-in to its corporate culture, while enhancing awareness and understanding of business goals and strategies.

Suggested Audience: Top leadership, managers

Research on volunteering often focuses on the bottom line benefits of volunteerism, such as lower absenteeism, reduced staff turnover and increased productivity. This study was undertaken to determine whether there are additional organizational benefits related to emotional and intellectual capital.

Intellectual buy-in refers to the extent to which employees are aware of and aligned with the company’s brand, business goals and strategies. Emotional buy-in reflects the employees’ commitment to achieve business goals as a result of their emotional attachment to the company. Studies have shown that employees who volunteer are more likely to recommend the company, stay in their jobs and be motivated in the workplace.

When individual identity is primary, an employee’s motivation is tied more to personal advancement and growth. Inside an organization, individuals often assume a social identity and their behavior is driven by a need for social inclusion and social self-esteem through inter­group behavior. Social identity within an organization is associated with a range of pro-social behaviors, including rule following, helping behavior and loyalty.

The author examined whether employee volunteerism might foster social identity and a strong sense of group membership that encourages employees to pursue corporate goals. This kind of buy-in is integral to a strong internal brand culture and can bolster a company’s performance.

The research was based on a 2005 study of an employee volunteer program that a defense and aerospace systems manufacturer implemented.

The study found strong support for the idea that volunteering encourages an emotional attachment to the corporate identity and buy-in to corporate culture. When talking about the company, 76 percent of respondents identified themselves as members of the corporate group, referring to “we” rather than “they.” Participants who more strongly identified with the collective also identified with the corporate values more strongly. 

Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported that involvement in the volunteer program helped them gain a better understanding of the company’s values and mission, while 43 percent believed community involvement helps the company achieve its business goals.

Keywords: Employee volunteerism, volunteering, emotional attachment, buy-in, motivation, employee motivation

If citing, please refer to the original article: “The Buy-in to Corporate Culture: Creating Internal Emotional Capital Through Work-based Volunteering Schemes”, Proceedings of the 2nd European Conference on Intellectual Capital, ISCTE Lisbon University Institute, Lisbon, Portugal and Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Portugal, March 2010; Ann Turner, Queen Margaret University

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