Benchmark 8

Incentivise employees



Benchmark 8: “Incentivise employees” involves setting tangible goals at the individual level and incentivising the volunteering behaviours you want to see at every level of the company.

Benchmark 8 Components:

  1. Teams engaged / competing
  2. Hold middle-managers accountable
  3. Employees actively (or automatically) track KPIs


1. Teams engaged / competing

Companies reporting strong employee engagement as a result of their volunteering programmes tended to draw upon the power of teams for ongoing enthusiasm and direction. Google see team involvement as a motivating factor to get more people involved and try to provide lots of opportunities for team cohesion whilst volunteering.


Often this comes in the form of friendly competition, such as at Gap Inc. where store managers would compete on an internal leaderboard, or at Optimizely where teams with the highest participation would be awarded with a donation to a charity of their choice.


Getting teams involved is also a great way for senior leaders to showcase their support for volunteering. For example, Managing Directors of each US region at Accenture often sponsor a competition between offices.


2. Hold middle-managers accountable

Many of the companies found middle managers to be their greatest bottleneck to increasing engagement in volunteering initiatives. Whilst we’ve already discussed bringing these people on-board upfront in Benchmark 3, following through by holding them accountable is critical.


Find ways to tie your volunteer programme goals to a manager’s day-to-day environment. For example EY shows managers data on their employee engagement improvements from volunteering. Gap Inc. require store managers to recruit 5% of their hires through their This Way Ahead volunteering programme and share data on how such hires are more loyal when compared to recruiting elsewhere.


3. Employees actively (or automatically) track KPIs

We covered the importance of setting KPIs in Benchmark 2 and the varied ways of data capture in Benchmark 7. Here, it’s about adequately incentivising employees to help track the data you need.


Online tools like Benevity and Causecast can assist in tracking volunteer hours, but often employees can forget to update it. Customers like Warner Bros and Airbnb encourage use of this by offering donations to charities where employees volunteer over a certain number of hours (otherwise known as “Dollars for Doers”).


Others are able to calculate volunteer hours automatically. Gap Inc., for example, utilise mobile QR code scanning for employees to check in and out of volunteer programmes, without a need for employees to remember to input the hours manually. My company, also automatically calculate the amount of time employees spend mentoring.

What each tier does well

Established Company


The majority of this tier utilised their employees to help with KPI tracking. This often came in the form of a subscription to a platform like Benevity or Causecast for volunteer hours tracking.


Did tech help?
Whilst platforms like Benevity can certainly help with volunteer hours tracking, a few companies mentioned a need to remind employees to do so. Thus, it seems that technology coupled with in-person reminders or other comms pushes are necessary for high-performance.



Similarly to Established companies, this tier were likely to have some kind of volunteer hours tracker for their employees to help with tracking KPIs (this was either self-built or through a partner such as Benevity).


Did tech help?
Tech was very strongly correlated to high performance in this area (0.94 at 99% CI), a few companies mentioned that offering “Dollars for Doers” was necessary in getting employees to track their hours. There seemed to be a strong desire to make this even more automated e.g. calculating volunteer hours automatically.



SMEs were much stronger than other tiers at getting teams engaged and competing and this seemed to have a knock-on effect on how successful they were at getting employees to track KPIs such as volunteer hours.


Did tech help?
A few companies successfully linked the tracking of KPIs to created a team-bonding activity through “gamification“. For example, Optimizely incentivised teams to track the percentage participation rate by team by rewarding those at the top of the leaderboard with a donation to a charity fo their choice. It happened to be tracked centrally online, although smaller companies could be just as effective by tracking on a white-board for example!

Filling the gaps

Toggle through each tier below to explore the weakest areas of performance against this benchmark:


How tech might help

Whilst tech platforms such as Benevity and Causecast were undeniably linked to strong performance in tracking KPIs (such as % employee engagement or # volunteer hours), it was by no means “the only way”. SMEs performed nearly as well as their Established peers without such tech platforoms: they relied more heavily on “gamification” as a way to encourage employees to track data in a more basic self-built tool.


Both Established and High-Growth companies could learn from both their SME peers to easily implement some kind of gamification / internal leaderboard to better engage teams. For all tiers, this could also be built upon and used to hold middle managers accountable.

Case Studies:

Tech as an enabler

Gap Logo

Gap Inc. utilise mobile QR code scanning to facilitate employee volunteer hours tracking. By checking in and out of volunteer programmes on mobile, hours are tracked automatically without a need for employees to remember to input the hours manually later in a separate platform.

Tracked volunteer hours automatically feed internal leader boards which are published regularly on a team-by-team basis to encourage friendly competition, camaraderie and incentivise middle managers (i.e. store manager) to participate and support their staff.

Education-specific best practice

Panorama Education Logo

Panorama Education, an EdTech start-up founded in 2012, develops research-backed survey tools for educators. Extending their mission – to improve student outcomes by helping schools and districts act on data – employees are encouraged to engage in skills-based volunteering in the local community.

Whilst they are yet to formalise any CSR strategy – volunteering efforts have been fairly “grassroots” with ideas bubbling up from employees – activities are team-based by nature. For example, a group of Panorama’s engineers worked for 24 consecutive hours, split up into small teams to brainstorm, design, code, Tweet and present competing product ideas for a school against one another. They were able to provide new technology assets to schools (e.g. new websites, school analytics visualisation, interactive guides for survey design, etc.) & are lasting solutions that could help students across the US.


AMD Logo

AMD’s CSR team collaborates closely with HR to incentivise employees to track some of their main KPIs. Through awarding points for volunteer hours (which can be used towards HR benefits such as discounted health care), employees are incentivised to record their volunteering activity.

AMD are also sure to engage middle managers upfront in volunteer programme design and on an ongoing basis by sharing data. Through seeing the tangible impact volunteering has on employee engagement and skills development / L&D, middle-managers are more accountable for involvement in volunteering.

Next: Read onwards to Benchmark 9 >>

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