Doing good: Engaging employees in giving back

By Tammy Day

Originally posted for Civic Nebraska

Nebraska businesses care about their communities and give generously to support community organizations and efforts to increase the quality of life across the state. My husband and I are fortunate enough to own a Nebraska business, Daycos. It’s one of only four B Corps in Nebraska, and we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can do the most good. While the business of Daycos is providing revenue solutions to transportation companies, our purpose is to do good and be good.

When we started our do-good-be-good efforts, the local paper did a story about it. Later that week, I saw one of the owners of a local business, which employs many more people than we do. He mentioned the article and gave me some grief for “making him look bad.” He then proceeded to tell me how one of his employees stopped him after reading the story to ask why their company doesn’t do something like what Daycos is doing.

What you should know is this company donates a lot more money to projects all over the community and the state than we do. The difference is that the employee who asked the question had no awareness of or personal connection to the company’s giving. By engaging employees directly in the giving, the process has the potential to be so much more powerful. This is a great example of why the way you do good is just as important as why you do it.

Many companies give through the owners or upper levels of management, or maybe even a separate foundation. While this giving is very generous and helps a lot of people, there is often a disconnect between the giving and its positive impacts and the people who work at those companies. Employee-driven giving can make an even greater impact because the employees are the ones doing the work and making decisions about the investments.

One of the most important aspects of how we do good with Daycos is that everything we do is employee-driven. Employee-driven means that everything that happens at Daycos is done by all the people who work there, not just by owners or upper levels of management. This is how we can have the most significant impact and do the most good and where the real, long-lasting change happens.

When we first started this work, we had a series of all company meetings where Daycos employees created the vision for how they wanted to do good. Based on that vision, committees of employees now make decisions about how to invest in Daycos employees and families and the community. Employees drive the whole process from start to finish. They created it, they implement it, and they own it. We just try to stay out of the way.

Daycos employees are directly connected to the efforts to do good and be good because they are the ones making the decisions and doing the work. This connection creates greater engagement in the business and the community and has led to some promising short-term outcomes.

You hear people across the state expressing concerns about a workforce shortage that leaves them with unfilled jobs, but we don’t have a problem hiring great people in our community of 25,000. We have a hiring list of close to 200 people who have said they want to be notified about openings at Daycos, and we regularly get 85-90 applicants for open positions. Why? In part, because applicants know they are not only coming to work at a business that does good but also that they will have the chance to impact and participate in that good work in a real way.

We also have happier employees, as evidenced by the increase in employee satisfaction at Daycos from 71 percent in 2017 to 92 percent this past August, which coincides with our increased focus on doing good. We specifically ask employees about the efforts to do good, and it is clear that people are happier here because of this work. We also see employees growing personally and professionally and being more engaged in the community. Daycos employees’ participation on local boards and organizations has increased, and they are showing more leadership and initiative in their work.

These short-term impacts are significant, but what we are most excited about are the longer-term possibilities. When people have opportunities to participate in something like this in a real, hands-on way, they more deeply understand and internalize the power of giving back and engaging in their community, and they model and share that behavior with others. We hope employees will share their experiences with their children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends who will then see that they can also make a difference and will find ways to give back. We believe that because our approach is employee-driven, our efforts at Daycos give more people a chance to be involved in doing good, which will make a lasting impact both in and outside the company.

When businesses find ways to be a force for good, the ripple effects and possible impacts and outcomes around philanthropy, community betterment, and civic engagement are endless. When we meaningfully engage the most people in the process and invite them to participate, we create powerful connections between people, communities, and areas of need.

Nebraska businesses can increase the positive effects of their giving back and have a greater impact on communities across the state by making their efforts employee-driven.

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Tammy Day, Norfolk. Tammy and her husband Brandon own and operate Daycos Inc., which provides revenue management for transportation service providers across the country. Tammy’s work focuses on Daycos4Good, which uses the business as a force for good in the world. She is a member of the Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education and is active in the Connie Fund, Stand for Schools, and Women’s Network of Nebraska.