Firm kicks volunteerism into high gear
If today’s buyers and employees are craving authenticity, they’ve got to love what a firm like PwC is doing with volunteerism.
The company, known for assurance, audit, tax and consulting services, doesn’t merely recognize employee efforts or coordinate the occasional food drive. PwC organizes hundreds of events nationally, supports specific causes with pro bono professional time, and diligently tracks thousands of volunteer hours spent annually.
Volunteerism, part of PwC’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, is no accident, according to Susan Stone, who heads up CSR for the firm’s five offices in Southern California, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
“Giving back to the community has always been a priority for PwC, but in the past 10 years it’s really become a major component of our business strategy,” Stone said. “It’s a people strategy, to attract and retain, and clients want to work with companies they feel are good, responsible corporate citizens. We all have skills and expertise, so it comes down to how you’re going to differentiate yourself, and your corporate responsibility strategy is just one way to do that.”
PwC has done several things to promote volunteerism, such as:
- Assigning dedicated, regional CSR leads. “We have people in roles where this is their entire job, to make sure that we’re giving back to the community,” said Stone. “In each of the markets, there are people like me who make sure we’re getting our people out there volunteering.”
- Granting 10 hours per employee per year in paid volunteer time. These hours don’t have to be dedicated to an organization the company supports. They are the employee’s personal time to use with whatever organization they want.
- Implementing a “Dollars for Doers” program. This initiative matches PwC monetary grants to time spent by PwC volunteers with qualifying organizations.
- Organizing firm-sponsored volunteer projects. Stone said she coordinates 30-40 such events per year for her region’s 2,700 employees, and employees can take advantage of an unlimited number of paid hours for these.
A great example of a firm-sponsored event took place in October 2015 when PwC closed its Los Angeles offices and volunteers tripped to Elysian Park in the shadow of Dodger Stadium to build 100 bikes in 100 minutes for the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Los Angeles and Hollywood.
But even with all that in place, the firm concluded it could do more.
Targeting Education & Financial Literacy
“In 2012, we decided we needed to combine our efforts and come up with something that would have more of a collective impact,” Stone said. “When we looked at all the different things out there in the world that we thought we could tackle, youth education — and specifically financial literacy — came to the forefront, for obvious reasons, given what we do for a living.”
So PwC launched “Earn Your Future,” through which the company has committed $190 million in resources, developed curriculum, and organized countless educational events. What’s intriguing is that $100 million of this commitment comes in the form of volunteer hours, dedicated pro bono time from PwC professionals.
It should be no surprise that PwC tracks the Earn Your Future program closely. (“We’re an accounting firm, we have metrics for evverrrythiiing,” Stone said.) The firm sets a goal of 15,000 volunteer hours per year in Stone’s Pacific Southwest region alone, and averages nearly 20,000.
Stone said her team easily eclipses its goals each year because the program aligns with employees’ interests. “We do a lot of different things, but when we look for volunteer opportunities, where our people really seem to enjoy spending their time is working with kids.”
CSR Tied to Employee Satisfaction
Through an annual Global People Survey, PwC also measures, among many other things, the internal appeal of CSR, of which volunteerism is such an important part. Stone said affirmative response rates on all questions related to the importance of CSR are very high.
“Overwhelmingly, people agree that it is a huge component of their decision to come to the firm and stay at the firm, and a big reason they’re happy at the firm.”
Perhaps the contentment employees derive from supporting the firm’s CSR programs is one reason PwC has been named one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for 12 years running.
Count Stone as a satisfied consumer of her employer’s CSR strategy. “I’ve been at PwC six years, and I’ve been just so impressed with the firm and its commitment, with the time and investment they make in organizing it, tracking it, developing programs, making sure we’re doing the right thing not only for the community but for our people as well.”
Want to learn lots more about how volunteerism can help differentiate your business? Come hear Susan at San Diego AMA’s 2016 Cause Conference™, where she will join the panel, “From Purpose to Practice: Employee Engagement from the Inside Out”.