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Extra time? Who has free time anymore, right? Between working, spending time with family and garnering a little "me" time, where does the time go from day to day, week to week, and year to year?

Well, my company gives employees up to 40 hours of paid time off a year. What do we expect them to do with that time? We expect them to volunteer in their communities with their favorite charities.

Volunteer Time Away is the name of the program. How does it work? Employees get permission from their manager to take the time off to volunteer, and they log their hours in a database, allowing us to track their time. That’s it. It couldn’t be any easier, right? The charitable giving arm of our company, the ING Foundation, manages the program, including other volunteer initiatives such as the national employee volunteer teams and Volunteer Matching Gifts program that provides a grant to an employee’s charity of choice when they volunteer at least 50 hours of their personal time (not using the Volunteer Time Away program).  

From an HR perspective, there are many benefits to having robust employee volunteer programs. We’ve realized that our employees who participate in volunteerism are more engaged and satisfied employees. Depending on their volunteer activity, they are also able to fine-tune skills or develop skills such as project management or public speaking. Employee volunteerism enhances our brand visibility, is a great retention tool, and plays an important role in recruitment. What I think is most significant about our Volunteer Time Away program we’re empowering our employees to give back to their communities. They are volunteering in their kids’ schools, delivering food to the homebound, mentoring at-risk children, tutoring students, beautifying parks, and the list goes on and on.  

Just this week, President Barack Obama signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. We’re seeing a renewed focus on volunteerism. How will your company respond to the new law? Is your company already engaged in volunteerism, are you planning to "step up" your programs to help meet critical needs in the community, or is this not on the radar at all? I’d love to hear what you’re doing in the area of corporate responsibility.