EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth of six stories celebrating our latest group of 25 Best Dealerships To Work For in Canada.
The act of giving delivers its own rewards, but dealerships that support staff volunteer work are reaping the benefits of improved relations with both the public and their own employees.
Staff at dealerships across Canada sit on volunteer boards, pitch in at events, help fundraise and often dig into their own pockets to help out worthy causes.
“That’s the reality of the workforce today,” said Trent Hargrave, co-owner of Riverside Chrysler-DodgeJeep-Ram in Prince Albert, Sask., about 350 kilometres north of Regina. “It’s part of the social contract they have with us.”
Mike Norris, dealer principal of Volvo of Edmonton, said his independent store has been doing events for years. Staff “come with ideas,” which the dealership then supports, Norris said. “The response from the team was just fantastic.”
‘I FEEL PRIVILEGED’
Volvo of Edmonton’s staff volunteers include both managers and less senior employees. Event coordinator Lianne Shaigec, for example, organizes fundraising and golf tournaments on company time.
“I feel privileged. We all have very demanding schedules outside of work,” said Shaigec, an eight-year employee, so it helps to have time during work hours to volunteer.
In Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que., 45 kilometres west of downtown Montreal, the HGrégoire newand used-car dealership group is involved in numerous causes, including groups that seek to develop high-quality pediatric care, a tree-planting initiative, breast cancer research and various sports organizations.
The Mazda 2-20 dealership in nearby Pincourt, Que., actively supports women’s help centres, community centres for the underprivileged, alcohol awareness initiatives, palliative care, scholastic sports and amateur athletics sponsorships, said François Gaumont, the dealership’s co-owner and general manager.
The dealership will give staff the paid time they need to volunteer, he said. For example, technician Alain Juteau gets time each year for his 24-hour march to support cancer research.
“Our employees see we’re doing things for the community,” Gaumont said. “I’m pretty sure they’re proud of it.”
REAL, NOT MARKETING
Hargrave said allowing any of Riverside Chrysler’s 34 staff members to volunteer on company time is well accepted because it is seen as authentic, not a marketing ploy.
“We don’t believe in work-life balance,” he said. “We believe in the integration of the person.”
Joe Weinrich, Riverside Chrysler’s co-owner and Hargrave’s brother-inlaw, said the volunteering is so deeply ingrained, “I never really thought about it.
“I volunteer a lot; it doesn’t take away from work,” he said, because other staff members are willing to help pick up the slack when someone is volunteering.
“Who’s going to say no?” Hargrave said. “If somebody does, they’re not really our people.”
SUPPORTED BY STUDIES
A 2017 Deloitte study of U.S. employers found that 89 per cent of staff think organizations are more likely to boost employee morale if they sponsor volunteer activities instead of happy hours.
About 29 per cent of Canadian companies overall give staff paid time to volunteer, said Debra Basil, a professor at Alberta’s University of Lethbridge’s Dhillon School of Business. Basil and three other academics conducted a study in 2009 of 990 companies in all sectors. Since it was published, the support for employee volunteerism appears to have grown, she told Automotive News Canada.
Numerous studies have found that active support of volunteerism is good for morale, staff retention, job satisfaction and attracting new employees. Basil pointed to research indicating that younger employees are even willing to work for a lower salary with organizations that demonstrate corporate social responsibility.
Companies appear to be motivated to varying degrees by pure altruism and a desire to support the brand. Norris said Volvo of Edmonton is a faith-based organization whose religious values, such as remaining closed on Sunday, are reflected in the way it does business.
“Philanthropy is in their DNA,” Shaigec said of the Volvo of Edmonton owners, and volunteering has another personal benefit.
“Sometimes, when you want to cheer yourself up, it’s best to do something for someone else.”