Sterling’s HR Guru Tiffany Schaar shares how team community service fuels a Sterling workplace.
When I’m recruiting for positions at our agency, candidates often ask why I’ve stayed at Sterling for as long as I have. The answer is simple — the people.
When you work with a creative, dedicated, and passionate group of professionals who love what they do, it’s hard to consider working anywhere else. But if I dive deeper into that answer, I realize that the embedded culture of service we’ve built at Sterling helps me and all my colleagues shine more brightly collectively than we ever could individually. Together, we make a powerful force that is exhilarating to be a part of.
This is consistently reflected in exemplary client service, but also extends to positive impact in our communities. The team community service traditions that Sterling has adopted over the years line up perfectly with my values, and bring as much joy to my colleagues as a successful communications campaign or big media win. That all bonds us together in genuine fellowship.
Workplace-driven community service has seen an uptick in recent years, and for good reason.
Research shows that a well-implemented company volunteer program significantly impacts job satisfaction, boosts employee skills (especially teamwork, communication, and leadership), and increases organizational commitment.
Sterlingers, as we affectionately call ourselves, have a history of volunteering in our local communities dating back to the early aughts. Last month, members of our team met at Sacred Heart Community Services for their annual Thanksgiving event, where more than 3,400 meals were distributed to San Jose families just in time for the holiday. The team worked, laughed, did something helpful for our neighbors, and came back to the office with fun stories to share. We have found volunteering together the ultimate team-building experience, and this latest event was no exception.
However, as office dynamics continue to evolve and many workplaces are either hybrid or fully remote, it can be hard to get the entire team together in one place for the same volunteer shift. So community service in the workplace is showing up in different ways.
“Stepping up is second nature for our team.”
I experienced this first-hand in August 2023. I’ve worked remotely from Maui since 2018. When a devastating firestorm destroyed the historic town of Lahaina, my colleagues rallied from afar to offer support in many forms (donating money to local recovery efforts; sending gently used computers, iPads, and iPhones for displaced residents; buying Maui Strong stickers benefiting the Maui Food Bank…). Because of Sterling’s culture of service, I was also able to take time off work to volunteer in the days and weeks after the fire in my local community. The sense of unity and support from my colleagues, all of them more than 2,500 miles away, was amazing. Stepping up is second nature for our team.
So, how do you embed community service in an organization’s culture?
Consistency. Start with one engagement and build a cadence of annual, quarterly, or monthly engagements over time. Along the way, ask for employee feedback to help shape how your program evolves. We use simple Slack polls to gauge interest and availability for volunteer events we’re considering. We also have a Slack channel called #community, dedicated to sharing events, news, community service opportunities, and resources on social impact topics.
Uniting for a cause starts with action.
There are opportunities for every size company to jump start a community service program.
- Organize volunteer events — Partner with local charities, schools, or environmental organizations. Sterlingers have been working with Second Harvest Silicon Valley’s Family Harvest program for more than 15 years because they offer monthly events down the street from our office.
- Host a drive — There are a plethora of community-based drives to collect everything from food and hygiene products to toys and prom dresses. Sacred Heart Community Services Pack-A-Back school supply drive is one of Sterling’s favorite fall activities.
- Skill-based volunteering — Offer your professional skills to a nonprofit project. For example, IT professionals can teach computer skills in local schools, or marketing experts can help charities with their advertising campaigns.
- Virtual volunteer programs — Many nonprofits are now equipped to receive help from virtual volunteers contributing their skills or time online without being physically present at a specific location.
- Environmental initiatives — Get involved in or start environmental initiatives like local river or beach cleanup, recycling drives, tree planting, or energy conservation campaigns at work.
- Raise awareness — Use internal communication channels to raise awareness about social issues and community needs. Our team uses Slack as an internal tool to encourage involvement among colleagues. Newsletters are another way to reach a broader audience.
Making a positive impact in your community with your colleagues is about taking action. One donation, one volunteer shift, or one fundraising event is all it takes to get the ball rolling. Then repeat, repeat, repeat. Serving together allows everyone in an organization to experience and share the power of people united in purpose. The effects are lasting and meaningful for individuals and teams.