November 07, 2011, 11:50 AM — At first glance, you might think Steve Kranson, who works at Comerica Bank in Auburn Hills, Mich., is your average IT manager. But he's been known to put in some time dressed as the Easter Bunny, to the delight of local kids.
Amy Crow, who spends most of her working hours as an IT project manager at Texas Health Resources, has been spotted stepping away from her computer to work on landscaping projects at nursing homes, organize donated linens and other household items for local disaster relief agencies, and sing holiday songs at elementary schools in the Arlington, Texas, area.
And Paychex employees Dan Canzano, vice president of IT operations and support, and Tammy Hall, director of enterprise service management, have spent some of their work time polishing their poker-playing skills to rake in big bucks for charity.
In all three cases, these IT professionals performed their activities with the blessing of their employers, who often allow workers to take paid time off to donate their talents and time to charities and other nonprofit organizations.
After all, employers benefit from these arrangements, too. In fact, they are increasingly more than happy to subsidize employees' volunteer efforts outside the workplace because they've noticed an undeniable link between employee volunteerism and improved collaboration and productivity on the job.
"Outside volunteer activities afford workers an opportunity to view their co-workers through a different lens," says David Ballai, CIO at Reed Technology in Horsham, Pa.
Moreover, volunteerism can enhance a company's image within the communities where its employees and customers live. And offering time off -- either paid or unpaid -- for charity work can also help organizations attract younger, more community-minded and tech-savvy employees, experts say.
"I just interviewed two people under 30. They both asked about personal days for volunteering. Younger folks are asking about community involvement," says Marcia Riley, vice president of talent management and human resources at ESI International, an Arlington, Va.-based training and consulting firm. "I was not asked that question 20 years ago. Younger folks are demanding this benefit, and good employers are responding."
"At the end of the day, our people really feel good about what they've done. Whether visiting soup kitchens or delivering Meals on Wheels, it's a great unifying event for our people, and it's great for the communities and institutions we're in," says Comerica CTO George Surdu.
Texas Health Resources, whose slogan is "Healing Hands, Caring Hearts," pays its employees for volunteer time served.
"I understand branding and marketing, but we actually live that at Texas Health," says CIO Ed Marx.