Most companies have something more to give the world than their products. That could be their position to advocate for worthy causes, the expertise of their employees, or the financial resources to help a community project succeed. The Best Workplaces for Giving Back, recently announced by consulting firm Great Place to Work and Fortune, do all of these.
The leading employers are finding ways to use charitable efforts to connect employees to their work and ultimately drive a more productive, engaged workforce.
“It goes deeper than donating to nonprofits or serving on their boards,” said Jonathan Becker, a workplace culture expert and partner at Great Place to Work. “Community involvement is moving closer to the core of what the company does. These organizations are searching for ways to build on their teams’ skills and connect them to worthy endeavors that resonate with what they do at work.”
Fostering that connection can generate more than temporary good vibes: Research behind the Best Workplaces list revealed an important relationship between the way employees feel about their company’s community involvement and their commitment to their work. Among 357,000 people surveyed for the list, those who had a positive experience of giving back at work were four times more likely to say their teams were willing to give extra to get the job done. They were also more likely to be brand ambassadors eager to express pride in their employers and to say they want to stay with their companies for a long time.
“I love that there is a direct connection between what we sell in the retail store and how much financial impact we can have in our local communities,” said a team member at Patagonia. This outdoor brand is known for sending select employees on paid, two-month internships with environmental groups and giving staff a substantive say in company donations to environmental projects.
“Our grants and local outreach efforts are tied to how much we bring in, which makes it exciting to work extra hard to bring in more sales. We also benefit from seeing those dollars at work doing good things in our local community,” the employee said.
Along with giving them a voice in company donations, the best employers frequently lend the unique skills of their employees to worthy causes. Professionals at Deloitte, another organization among the Best Workplaces for Giving Back, have completed 1,000-plus pro bono projects in the last four years. More than 200 people within this firm’s consulting business also use their professional expertise to help local nonprofits during weeklong service projects each year.
“One element of our strategy is ‘purpose,’ which drives a more emotional commitment to career. In other words: We are not just pushed to make money, but also to be good corporate citizens in our community,” a Deloitte team member said.
The No. 1 company on the Best Workplaces list also integrates its giving philosophy into business goals at the highest level. One anonymous Salesforce employee made a point to call out its commitment to giving 1% of the organization’s time, 1% of its product, and 1% of its equity to the communities where it does business: “Salesforce (CRM) backs this up by giving employees seven days off per year specifically for volunteer activities, in addition to regular PTO and holidays, and provides generous grant matching/Champion Grant programs for employee donations to charities.”
Great Place to Work’s Becker noted that community projects, charity committees, and volunteer work also can offer employees valuable leadership challenges they might not experience in their current roles. At the same time, these efforts can lend a fulfilling sense of purpose to their jobs. “People almost always want to make some sort of impact—in their work and in their communities,” he said. “The leading employers let them do both by combining employees’ ideas, skills and goodwill for worthy causes. Giving the team this sense of ownership in the positive things their company does is good for everybody.”
Kim Peters and Sarah Lewis-Kulin are Executive Vice President and Vice President respectively, at Great Place to Work, the longtime research partner for Fortune’s annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For and other best workplaces lists, including the Best Workplaces for Giving Back.