The What, Why, and How of VTO Policies

Corporate social responsibility has been trending for years, allowing companies to boost their brand in the marketplace and garner loyalty among consumers. VTO policies allow employees to get in on the action and feel good about themselves and their employer.

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As companies strive to create a positive presence online, in the media, and in their communities, a new trend is emerging: volunteering time off (or VTO) policies. VTO policies allow employees to put in volunteer time while still on the clock. The practice takes Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the rank and file: allowing employees to participate in the greater good without losing pay in the process.

CSR has been trending for years, allowing companies to boost their brand in the marketplace and garner loyalty among consumers. Newman’s Own may have started the trend (at least most visibly) of donating to charity, but today most employers in the US support charitable and non-profit organizations. Taking that support one step further than just writing a check, VTO policies allow employees to participate in the work see the benefits of their efforts and feel good about themselves and their employer.

How Common are VTO Policies?

According to a 2017 Glassdoor survey, giving back is a priority for employees: 75% expect their employer to support those in need, either with donations or volunteer efforts. The same poll showed 51% of all workers expect their employer to allow them to use work time and resources to advocate for positive social change.

For millennial employees, now the dominant generation in the workforce, that expectation is even higher. 72% expect their employer to allow workers to use time and resources for positive social change.

And the market is responding. CECP reported 61% of companies offered some type of VTO policy in 2016.

Tips for Creating a VTO Policy

If you’re considering volunteering time off in your company, start by determining what group(s) you want to support. Management may have a specific non-profit or foundation they want to help, or, a great way to kick off the project is with employee involvement. Ask staff to work together to find a charity or group of charities to support. They could start with a short list, or open the door to any charity employees suggest.

If an employee recommends a specific charity or non-profit, you’ll want to vet them to make sure they’re legitimate. If so, staff may promote the group to other employees who may want to get involved.

Develop a list of what types of non-profits are eligible. Coaching your child’s Little League team, or volunteering with the PTA, even though both are non-profits, may not be the type of volunteerism you’re looking to promote.

Next, you’ll want to determine how much time you can afford to provide. Many companies offer 1 day per year of paid time off for volunteer efforts. Larger companies may offer even more. For smaller companies, the loss in productivity may be more challenging to absorb, so you’ll need to create procedures like a first-come-first-served policy (similar to vacation requests) to make sure you have adequate coverage.

Volunteering Time Off Guidelines

  • Develop parameters for the use VTO. The first should be eligibility. Who is eligible for VTO – full and/or part-time employees, for example. How long will they need to be in your employ before they become eligible? Will you refresh their available VTO by calendar year, or 12-month sequencing?
  • Create notification practices. Will there be a form they need to complete in advance of their request? How much will advance notice be needed? Who will approve the time off and notify payroll?
  • Review the program to make improvements. Choose some determined point in the future (6 months, 1 year?) to see how it’s working for staff and the community. What was the level of employee involvement, how much benefit did they provide the non-profits, and what, if anything, can be done to enhance the program for the coming year?

What are the Benefits of VTO Policies?

In addition to being a good corporate citizen and helping employees offer help, there are sound business reasons for providing a VTO program in your company. Particularly for small to midsize companies, engagement and retention are key.

In a 2017 study, Project ROI revealed the return on investment for corporate responsibility:

  • Reduced turnover by 50%
  • Increased productivity – up to 13%
  • Increased employee engagement – up to 7.5%

Finally, remember to promote your employee’s good works and your company’s social responsibility. Local media outlets, your own social media and web pages are great ways to laud the good work and efforts your employees put back into the community, as well as increase your CSR profile.

Have more questions about Volunteering Time Off? Check out our post on offering Paid Sabbaticals for volunteering purposes as an employee perk!

This article was originally published 6/2018 and has since been updated.
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