Why Organizations Should Pay Employees to Work Someplace Else

  • 3 Min Read

D2L CSO Jeremy Auger explains how paid time to volunteer helps build strong employee engagement.

When you are a scrappy startup, every minute of every day is devoted to one thing: growing the company.  When D2L, started out, not showing up to the office for two days likely meant you were in the hospital or you didn’t work at the company anymore. Even the weekend wasn’t a particularly great reason to take two days off!

If I could go back in time and tell myself that, 18 years later, D2L would give all its employees two paid days to go work somewhere else, I wouldn’t believe it. But, that’s exactly what we do through our Volunteer Time Off (VTO) program.

One of the advantages of growing into a global company with about 750 staff or so is that it’s opened up some room to think beyond capturing the next customer or shipping the next feature. It’s allowed us to think more about how to best keep our teams engaged and productive. A little research showed that allowing employees paid time off to pursue the charitable causes they care deeply about actually helps make them more effective at their jobs. For example:

  • A study by CECP and The Conference Board, Giving in Numbers, found that companies that increased giving the most (including VTO programs) also produced stronger financial performance and growth.
  • And according to a 2016 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT study, 92% of respondents agreed that volunteering improves employees’ broader professional skill sets, and 85% said they believe that volunteering helps employees demonstrate accountability and commitment.

Based on the promising data we found, D2L initiated our VTO program in 2016, providing employees two paid days per calendar year to volunteer for the philanthropic causes that matter most to them.  Here are some of the benefits of the program that we’ve already seen:

  • It brings experiences and skills development opportunities employees may not otherwise gain in their day-to-day work. Breadth of experience builds better employees.
  • It can build empathy, which is a valuable skill to have in a market-drive software company trying to understand the needs of customers and solve problems for the world.
  • Allowing employees to work on things they’re passionate about helps drive engagement. Whether work-related or not.  Engagement means better retention, increased giving of discretionary effort, and generally happier employees.
  • It connects us to our communities and builds personal networks. Those personal networks have yielded significant business value on more occasions that I can count.

What does this all look like in practice? Here’s a great example: one of our HR staff, Kari Alger, recently shared the value of her VTO experience on LinkedIn.

There are many clear benefits for companies that support the efforts of employees who want to volunteer. As a mission-driven company, D2L must fuel the passion our teams have for making a difference. Paying them to support the things that matter to them has already proven to be a great way to do that, while helping us support the communities in which we work. It’s a win-win and can be for your organization too.