Giving employees time to volunteer boosts teamwork, community engagement

Founders’ Day is like a holiday at Turner Construction Company where employees in its offices around the globe participate in community-giveback activities. Employees enjoy the day so much that some offices turn it into a weekly or even monthly activity.

“It provides an opportunity for people to get involved and feel like they’re part of the bigger picture,” said Pamyla Fountain Brown, director of Community and Citizenship for the Chicago-based construction company.

It’s a simple concept: Brown and other staffers research nonprofit organizations and community groups that want help. Then, on May 5, Turner Construction employees fan out and tackle jobs big and small. Sometimes, they might be painting a hallway. Sometimes, they are building a ramp outside of a senior citizen’s house.

But no matter what the project is, working together not only builds the community, it ends up building new friendships and communication between Turner Construction workers, Brown said.

“It’s a great way for us to connect with organization we work with in our personal lives or a way for us to connect with organizations near our jobs sites,” Brown said. “Sometimes, it’s an organization that someone tells us is doing great stuff and maybe we should help.”

For Brown, helping people in a variety of situations has been humbling, especially when Turner Construction has helped programs focused on people with disabilities or people who are struggling with the cycle of homelessness.

It also has been a way for Turner Construction to take what it does best – building dreams for people and businesses – and help others who are in need. For example, the Rebuilding Together program at the end of April typically kicked off Founders’ Day or Week activities. A community group helps Turner Construction find a family in need and asks them what projects need to be done around their home. Then, a swarm of Turner Construction employees make those projects happen.

“It could be something as simple as fixing a sink or landscaping. The bottom line is it is making people’s lives better,” Brown said.

These kinds of volunteer opportunities are helping Turner Construction find new hires and retain its current talented staff, Brown added. It is easier to find the time to volunteer when your employer supports it and makes time in the workday to do these good deeds, she noted.

“I keep up with human resources and the news, and you read about how millennials and Gen X are saving the workplace,” Brown said. “For companies with folks like me who are well into their careers and have obligations (to kids or aging parents), finding time to give back and volunteer is important.”

Plus, it shows the company’s softer side – that the men and women who work for a construction company truly care about their fellow humans and communities.

“It’s a way for folks to do good and take ownership when you’re working for a company that gives back,” she added.

Every project that comes on or around Founders’ Day is special. One example was when a local hospital asked the local Turner Construction team to come by and organize its clothing pantry, a collection of donated clothes. Staff have also has passed out hygiene kits donated by the American Red Cross.

Another popular one was creating “Boo Bags,” or treat bags filled with candy, for the local YMCA. Some staffers went out at lunch that day and bought even more candy because everyone wanted to participate, Brown said. The simplest things really add up, she noted.

“That’s the part of my job that I love – identifying stuff for us to do” on Founders’ Day and other volunteer days, Brown said. “One of my favorites was when one of the largest homeless shelters asked us to paint the women’s restroom and main corridor. It’s the little things that mean the most – like a brighter bathroom and hallway. That’s humbling.”