You probably already know that PTO (Paid Time Off) can be an enticing benefit for attracting and retaining talent. But what about VTO or Volunteer Time Off? The practice of allowing employees to give back to the community on company time is rising in popularity—recent estimates say around 25% of all companies now offer VTO as an employee benefit. Why? Well, in addition to giving your company brand a competitive edge with millennial candidates, 75% of which expect their employer to participate in social good, companies are also finding success with reducing employee turnover. Gas South, an Atlanta-based natural gas provider, launched a volunteer program and within a year, employee attrition decreased from 27% to 19%.
ClearStar offers all employees two fully-paid VTO days per year to be used how that employee best sees fit. These VTO days can be spent at a local food bank, school, or in a recent case at ClearStar, helping the earthquake-stricken island of Puerto Rico.
I would like to introduce you to Johanna Alduen, who is an MRO Assistant in our MIS office. She joined ClearStar almost 2 ½ years ago and is a valuable member of our team. Being originally from Puerto Rico and with many family members and friends still living there, recent events on the island have been personal for her. Since last December, there have been over 100 earthquakes of a magnitude three or higher in Puerto Rico (six were over five). These, coupled with the ongoing efforts to recover from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, have taken a devastating toll.
So, Johanna decided to take her two VTO days and travel back to Puerto Rico to help out. I asked Johanna to share her story with us, and of course, some pictures:
Why did you want to go to Puerto Rico and volunteer your time?
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and even though I have been living in the U.S. for 21 years, the fact remains that the island is home. My parents and 90% of my family live there, on the west side. For the past six years, I have been working closely with our culture and folklore, and that also creates a strong bond and sense of commitment to our community.
What was the worst thing you saw when you were there?
Despair—that was the worst thing to see. People in fear of sleeping inside their homes. I saw devastation, destroyed homes, tents in front of houses, entire families living in makeshift shelter on their carports or simply in tents set on the dirt, cooking outside, and sharing a portable toilet.
What was the best thing you saw when you were there?
Resilience, hope, unity, tons of volunteers helping in their own way with a set of skills unique to them. Community brigades helping to rebuild, cultural centers providing spaces for collection of first necessity items and helping distribute them to specific places with specific needs. One of the things that really amazed me was how people were not taking advantage of the situation to acquire things they did not need. I would stop at a tent in front of a house and they would ask me what supplies I had, determine if they needed it or not, and point to another place that might need the things that I had.
When do you think it will be rebuilt and ‘back to normal’?
I am not certain when this will happen. With the recent devastation of the hurricanes and now this, it might take some years to build up a safer and better system to handle emergencies like these.
How can people help?
Colectivo Umoja has been working hard since day one and organizing donation drives in Puerto Rico. This is run by a great friend and fellow artist Julie Laporte. There are lots of people in need in the remote areas of south Puerto Rico.
If you would like to help, they are in need of the following:
- Baby formula (Ready to Drink)
- Diapers (Infants and Adults)
- Portable Gas Stoves
- Solar Lightbulbs
- Baby Wipes
If you’re a Costco or Sam’s Club member, you can have it shipped directly to:
Jardines de Monte Olivo
Guayama PR 00784
Here is another link to a fundraiser organized by trusted friends and musicians Sergio Rosario and Lynmarie Rivera:
We thank Johanna for sharing her story with us. It’s clear from experiences like hers that VTO can be the ultimate benefit—boosting company brand, employee satisfaction, and the good in our communities. If you are considering adding it to your benefits package, Salesforce provides some great recommendations:
- Help Volunteers Find Their Cause – Open a dialogue to promote volunteer opportunities and don’t limit volunteering to specific causes.
- Set Clear Expectations for How Work Will Be Covered – You expect your employees to organize coverage for their PTO—VTO should be no different.
- Promote, Promote, Promote – Getting managers involved, planning team volunteer days, and incentivizing volunteer efforts are just a few ways to instill volunteering in your company culture.
On behalf of Johanna and myself, this is for the record.
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