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By Alex Smith, Head of Strategy and Execution HCM Public Sector, Oracle

A common sentiment you will hear from elected officials and public servants is that they are committed to serving the people and delivering quality government service. One unique way that public sector leaders can reinforce a culture of community service is to support employee volunteering. In a day when many public sector employees are spending at least a couple of days working from home, the opportunities to seamlessly put in some hours a week toward volunteering have blossomed.

For the employers themselves, encouraging volunteerism doesn’t need to be an entirely altruistic measure. Studies have shown that companies that encourage their employees to volunteer for causes about which they care have higher worker productivity and engagement, a greater sense of purpose among employees, increased collaboration, and even heightened interest from prospective job applicants.”

The resulting social-emotional boost and cross-functional collaboration can create an experiential opportunity for internal departments to work well together and serve constituents better. This is why we see government agencies, similar to private sector companies, offering paid time or unpaid time off for volunteering initiatives that align with their goals. Encouraging public servants to get out of city hall or their individual departments and do something good will help constituents, but also align public servants to a common call of service.

At the heart of volunteerism is the concept of “servant leadership.” Author Sarah White, in a February 3, 2022 piece in CIO titled “What is Servant Leadership? A Philosophy for People-First Leadership,” defines that term this way: “Servant leadership is a leadership style that prioritizes the growth, well-being, and empowerment of employees. It aims to foster an inclusive environment that enables everyone in the organization to thrive as their authentic self.” Simply put, servant leadership is about focusing on helping others succeed, and being committed to the success of the whole organization versus just your silo.

The core of servant leadership is about putting your team and the organization ahead of yourself. For example, one supervisor I know allowed a star employee to depart and work for another division because it benefited the organization, although it made it difficult to achieve results for a short period of time.

Servant leadership is believed to increase productivity because it builds a deeper trust between employees and their managers, and in the public sector context, between public leaders and their constituents. This is based on the idea that individuals and constituents know they are respected, valued, and are part of a bigger purpose.

If you are interested in launching a volunteer strategy within your organization, here are a few steps to get started:

1.    Vision – Have a clear vision of the outcomes you want the employee volunteer program to achieve.

2.    Research best practices - Do your research on existing employee volunteer programs

3.    Create a draft proposal and socialize with executive leadership – Define SMART goals, timeline, and budget needs; get executive buy in.

4.    Establish community partnerships – Determine which community organizations you want to work with, then explore and document their volunteering opportunities for employees

5.    Create a policy – Draft and socialize a volunteering policy for your organization. Ensure that you get top-down buy-in. Also, determine whether you want employee volunteer time to be paid or unpaid based on operational capacity. 

6.    Determine how you will manage your volunteer program – Identify program leader(s), select supporting technology, and define business processes.

7.    Develop your employee communication plan and social media strategy – Consider all the facets of your goals and the resulting policy, then spread the word! 

8.    Launch your program and measure results – Set milestones and benchmarks to compare your results with and have mechanisms in place to reliably collect the data.

9.    Annually review the program - Establish a continuous improvement process

How Technology Can Help Aid A Culture of Servant Leadership

It may not be the easiest thing for many employees to find the best opportunities to volunteer. But “Volunteer Management Tools” can help public sector organizations easily match employees to volunteer opportunities as well as track their activities. A few ways technology can help this process is by:  

·         Creating and promoting projects: Quickly and easily create volunteer opportunities and promote them throughout your organization.

·         Allowing for easy search and sign up: Make volunteer opportunities visible to all employees who can easily search and sign up

·         Personalizing recommendations: Provide personalized volunteer opportunities to employees based on their interests

·         Automating tracking: Document employee participation and hours

·         Reporting metrics : Get reports that summarize helpful performance measures that focus on volunteering.  

In addition, you can use recognition tools to help reward and recognize employees for participating in community service activities, another proven way to reinforce a culture of servant leadership.

Clearly, just being on a government employer’s payroll does not automatically create a culture of service for a public sector organization. Just like the private sector, having a culture of service towards others requires intentional actions. The intentional action can begin with having a vision, creating a program, and tracking and rewarding employee volunteer activities. The benefits accrue to the employees, the employers and the community they serve.

Alex Smith was Chief HR Officer for the City of Memphis from January 2016 to June 2023.

The contents of this guest column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Barrett and Greene, Inc.

#StateandLocalGovernmentHumanResources #StateandLocalGovernmentWorkforce #StateandLocalGovernmentPerformanceManagement #EmployeeVolunteerism #PublicSectorEmployeeEngagement #PublicSectorEmployeeRetention #Oracle #AlexSmith



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