When Jeremy Miller invited his new team at Enbridge Gas to volunteer at The Ottawa Mission for a bonding excursion, he knew it would give the employees an appreciation for the work the organization does in the capital.
What he wasn’t expecting was the profound effect it would have on the team, and the lasting relationship it would spark.
As a newcomer to Ottawa, Miller, the manager of regional construction at Enbridge, was struck by the homelessness crisis in the city, and began searching for ways to help. Upon learning about The Mission’s corporate volunteer programs, he says it was instantly a “no brainer.”
“I was tasked with bringing this new group of employees together and I just thought what better way to do that than with some sweat equity and by doing something good for the community?” he says. “Everyone had such a positive experience, we truly couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
For years, The Mission has worked closely with businesses like Enbridge, who are looking for ways to help the most vulnerable members of the community. Whether it’s through event sponsorships, monetary donations or spending an afternoon volunteering, no act is too small, says Erin Helmer, senior officer of corporate partnerships and philanthropy at The Mission.
“I always say it takes a strong community to make businesses strong – one can’t be successful without the other,” she says. “Many companies may think they can’t provide much, but if every company in the Ottawa Area did something, it would be transformative to those most vulnerable.”
Miller and 11 of his colleagues spent the afternoon preparing sandwiches, boxing up soup and coleslaw, cleaning tables and learning about the various initiatives run by The Mission.
While the day was filled with laughs and bonding opportunities – keeping the sandwich line moving efficiently is a great lesson in teamwork – Miller says it was after the day was done that he really saw the impact of the trip.
“Everyone was so thankful for the experience and it sparked an energy within the team to brainstorm more ways the company can be involved,” says Miller, adding that one of the more reserved members of the team thanked him several times in the days that followed, noting how special the day was for him.
“He said he’d never done anything like that and to be able to do it, and do it with the company was a really touching experience for him,” Miller adds. “Many people admitted they may have been too shy to volunteer on their own, but now they are eager to reconnect with The Mission both within and outside of work.”
Giving back: The secret to retention
While partnering with a local organization like The Mission will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the community, getting directly involved in charity initiatives can also help businesses solve their talent crisis.
Enbridge, for example, is no stranger to philanthropy. The company offers several opportunities for employees to donate their time and money to causes, with donation matching programs in place – an essential part of what keeps employees engaged and committed to the company, says Miller.
With the competition for talent front of mind for many businesses, companies need to do more than just talk-the-talk when it comes to corporate social responsibility. “For our team, knowing that we work for a company that supports our philanthropic efforts, is engaged in the community we work in and has our back when we want to step up and be involved is critical,” he says.
And, even if all you can do is donate your time, as Miller says, that also will pay off. “Those intangible lessons we learned about giving back and how to work together has, no question, made us a better team,” he says. “I would encourage every business to get involved in whatever way they can…it’s truly worth it.”