Building volunteer opportunities into corporate employee engagement programs benefits both employees and the company. Volunteer programs can boost productivity and increase employee engagement—96% of companies find that employees who volunteer are more engaged than peers who don’t volunteer. In turn, engaged employees produce better business outcomes, view their employers more favorably, and stay with companies longer.

But building a successful employee engagement program isn’t easy. It’s more than just finding a nearby nonprofit or charity in need of volunteer support. So how do you build a successful employee engagement program? To answer this, we turned to Shopify, one of Technovation’s global partners. Shopify has worked with Technovation for more than 8 years to help young women become tech leaders in their communities. Shopify provides both financial contribution and in-kind support, and has provided over 6000 hours of mentorship and contributed subject-matter experts, learning resources, and educational content, in addition to hosting more than 180 events.The Shopify team has spent years developing strategies to engage their employees in volunteer opportunities that match their skills, interests and values.

Brittney Oberfeld, who leads the Social Impact team at Shopify sat down with the Technovation team to talk about what it takes to build a successful employee engagement program.

How to recruit volunteers for your employee engagement program

Reach people where they already are

Your team is probably already talking to each other in existing places, so talk to them there! Whether it’s a slack channel, an employee resource group, or a coffee hour, find people where they are and share the volunteer opportunities you’re offering there.

Connect to people’s values and  their skills

Paint the bigger picture for folks you’re trying to recruit. You all work at the same company and share some key values—make it really clear how this volunteer opportunity shares those values too.

Additionally, clearly explain how people’s specific skill sets will make a greater impact. For instance, for Technovation and Shopify, Shopifolk’s experience working at a leading tech company makes them very valuable mentors for young women interested in technology and entrepreneurship.

Creating a Positive Employee Engagement Experience

Prepare your team

Make sure people understand the commitment they’re signing up for. Is it a one-day experience? A brief event? (And is it really a one-day event, or is it more like a short panel appearance plus 2-3 hours of prep?) Is it a weekly commitment? What will they be expected to do? What can they expect from you and from the partner organization?

Train your team!

In addition to making onboarding as thorough as possible, think about what information people will need to feel comfortable before taking on this volunteer project. For instance, Shopify recently expanded their training for employees mentoring Technovation teams to include mock scenarios so employees can practice guiding girls before they even sign up as volunteers.

Make it as easy as possible for employees to show up and jump into the volunteer experience. Try pre-populating volunteers’ calendars with their commitments, making training more hands-on and interactive, and checking in regularly.

Create a sense of community—even if everyone is still remote. 

Like many places, Shopify and Technovation are digital-first. For this partnership, that’s great news, since it means Shopifolk can participate from anywhere instead of only from specific hubs. But remote collaboration can have its challenges.

Create spaces for volunteers to talk to each other, ask questions, and cheer each other on. Tag folks who have been part of the program before to get the conversation going, and take care to create an environment where it’s okay to ask questions, and to be transparent about what’s working well and what’s not. Things will go wrong or can always be improved—be open about when the program might need to pivot, and let employees be open about what they’d like to see differently next time.

Recognizing Employees’ Impact 

During the program, recognize people’s hard work! Check in with folks and spotlight specific people for going above and beyond.

When the engagement ends, make sure you recognize everyone’s efforts, and be specific. Why does it matter that these specific employees volunteered their time? How did their specific skill sets benefit someone else? We love how Brittney from Shopify put it—people aren’t volunteering to get swag, they’re volunteering to make a difference. So show them! (Technovation shares impact data with our partners to help them communicate this back to their employees or communities.)

Your employees generously gave up their free time to participate in the program—you taking the time to recognize that sacrifice and how it benefited others will go a long way to making people feel appreciated, valuable, and grateful.

Get in touch to learn how your company can build a successful employee engagement program with Technovation, so your employees can support girls around the world as they embark on their journeys as technology entrepreneurs.