Community Engagement
Why Off-hours Work is Our Business
Gerri Mason Hall
Gerri Mason Hall
President,
Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation
SVP & Chief Human Resources Officer,
Sodexo North America

There is a supervisor at my company who works hard all day and then leaves to voluntarily oversee a soup kitchen, serving hundreds of people. On top of that, she hosts a weekly lunch for seniors so they have a venue to eat together and socialize.

I don’t know Beverly Romear-Doukwah personally, but I know about her because my company recognizes employee community service. And, I look forward to meeting her this week when she is honored at an annual dinner and receives a top award.

After Beverly learned about the award, she told one of my colleagues, “I’ve never worked for a company that cared about what their employees did outside of work.”

It’s true. Most businesses and business leaders are laser-focused on the on-the-clock contributions of employees. But, more and more, many of us are beginning to understand that employee contributions outside the office can be just as crucial to our missions.

‘I’ve never worked for a company that cared about what their employees did outside of work.’

In terms of larger business trends, it’s no surprise that supporting community service is good business. Studies of customer behavior have revealed that younger generations – and therefore new customers – care about patronizing companies that have strong altruistic components. We also know that employees are more engaged when they feel their employer promotes similar values to their own. My company’s own employee surveys certainly support this.

But sometimes the macro business reasons are beside the point.

Recognizing when employees put in the extra effort in their communities benefits us on a personal level. Surrounding communities are better places, our places of work become more compassionate hubs and employees feel supported in their efforts.

Beverly has shown what a difference one person can make in a place like Palm Beach, FL, where she supervises at the Lourdes Noreen McKeen Retirement Home. Even more, her story demonstrates that when business leaders highlight and reward community contributions like hers, it reverberates through the organization.

When business leaders highlight and reward community contributions, it reverberates through the organization.

This kind of recognition can lead to large-scale change for the better. Beverly, for instance, is one of the more than 40,000 volunteers who helped 2.3 million people in 2017 as part of the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation.

Think about those numbers. That has and will continue to have a huge impact on the crippling problem of hunger and malnutrition in the U.S.  It’s why the Foundation and our partners are on the fast-track to achieve zero hunger.

In the world of human resources, we know that what gets recognized gets done. Let’s add community service to our reasons for praise. It’s in our best interest, all of us, for business leaders to pay attention and support the employees who, whether on the clock of off, act like heroes.

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