How to Rally Your Company in Times of Community Need

October 20, 2017

At Zenefits, we’re constantly looking for ways to build ZenNation to be the strongest community it can be.  Yann Sauvignon, a 3-year Zenefits veteran, wasted not a single moment when it came to rallying our team to support those affected by the Northern California wildfires. In his post below, (originally published 10/18/2017 on his LinkedIn profile) Yann shares advice for everyone when it comes to uniting an organization and mobilizing change for your community. Thanks, Yann!

This post was originally published on Yann Sauvignon’s LinkedIn on October 18th, 2017.

We’ve all heard the saying “it hits close to home.” The phrase stems from an event or occurrence that is intimate in nature to one person or a group of people, and in many cases leads to grief and heartbreak. As natural disasters have barreled through Puerto Rico, Mexico, Texas, Florida and California, this adage has held true for millions. It sometimes just hits close to home.

I was born and raised in Santa Rosa, CA. As the wildfires in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and other North Bay counties roared through the streets I grew up on, it gave me this same feeling – it’s too close to home. At first the reaction was horror, followed by sadness and extreme compassion. But as these overwhelming emotions set in, another feeling comes to the forefront; to aid and assist those in need, to rally together, to find solutions, to not take a beating laying down.

The Valley is built on solving problems, helping others and building solutions to architect change. Mobilizing to generate a positive impact goes a long way in both the community and strengthening employee togetherness. An entire company unifying behind one cause generates tremendous momentum–you’re all working to support the same cause, you’re in it together. This is what I recently experienced at my company, where hundreds of employees, including those from offices out of state, rallied together to gather donations, supplies, funds and provide service to those in need to North Bay fire victims. As I helped organize these initiatives, I took note of key ways to help employees feel involved, take ownership and execute.

Here are a few tips I found useful when it comes to mobilizing a team and inciting action throughout your company:

Communicate & align: In today’s day and age, we’re all overloaded with messaging – it can often feel overwhelming. When it comes to making an impact, communicating to your team a focused effort behind a local cause is a powerful way to engage others. This isn’t to say a natural disaster needs to occur in order to rally your team! Designate a team member (or take ownership yourself) to spearhead communication that clearly spells out the scope of your effort, what’s needed, and clear deliverables. Be action oriented and be sure your ask aligns consistently with your partners on the project.

2) Make it easy: While I don’t want to make assumptions, people can get lost in the shuffle of finding where exactly to donate, what to donate and when. By sharing a central medium of resources/links/cause descriptions, you streamline the ask and enhance chances that an employee will actually participate.

3) Remind: Signage around the office to invite employees to participate is an easy way to stay top of mind for your team (on the coffee machine, eating area or dare I say restrooms, anyone?).

4) Document: Show updates! People love seeing progress that the team has made behind a cause. We share a weekly photo of the progress we’ve made on our donation pile, share numbers around registrants – anything works. Reminding folks of your purpose will encourage their involvement.

5) Go Big: Assess your company perks. Do you have lunch every day? Why not come together as a team to suggest donating that meal to a local shelter? A holiday party? Why not promise to donate X amount of that budget to a cause to show solidarity as a company. The list can go on, but take stock of employee perks that may be extra at the time, and rework how it’s traditionally used!

6) Promote: Does your company have a volunteering policy? Recently implemented by my employer is a program that allows employees 1% of their time yearly to donate to a cause of their preference. By promoting time off to volunteer, or VTO, employees feel empowered to pursue their passions and get excited to share with others that their company is supportive of giving back. If you don’t have one in place yet, connect with your HR team. It’s a small way to make an impact, and goes a long way with your employee base. We call ours “Zenefits One Community” – do it together as a team and use it as a way to also connect with coworkers outside of the office. You can even make it fun and compete on hours donated or funds raised.

Our communities matter.  In today’s age when we are all more disconnected, and mobile-phone and social media obsessed, our communities matter more than ever. It took something hitting especially close to home to remind me of this. Promoting a culture of giving back helps not only the community where you live, or the one you grew up in,  but also your work community.

I’d love to hear about others’ experiences with service and motivating teams to give back!