In the very early morning of April 5, somewhere around 2 a.m., a group of exhausted Ontario Power Generation employees will finish the Breath of Hope Relay at Toronto’s SkyDome.
They’ll be among the more than 1,200 people expected to complete the seven-hour relay run, where at least one team member will be on the track at all times, to raise money to help people with lung disease.
Corporate volunteering initiatives like this have become more popular in recent years as companies look to build stronger bonds within the communities they operate.
But there are benefits for the company beyond the obvious of being attached to a good cause, says John Murphy, executive vice-president of HR for OPG, who will be at the Skydome for the relay.
“Facilitating employees’ participation with employees from other companies, engaging in putting some time back into the community while helping a worthwhile cause makes them feel good about themselves — it builds the social network throughout the organization which is a critical factor for success,” he says.
There is a greater appreciation these days that human capital is at least as important as machinery and encouraging employees to take part in events like the Breath of Hope Relay has a positive effect on an organization’s human capital, he says.
Beyond the fact that people simply feel better about themselves after taking part in a good cause, time spent together by co-workers has a lasting effect on how those people work together back on the job.
“I think it absolutely has tangible impacts,” says Murphy. “It really helps to break down organizational barriers.”
“When employees have more friends they are more committed, more engaged and more productive. It is a further opportunity for employees to get together and spend time together on a worthwhile cause.”
What’s more, at a large company like OPG, it is easy for employees to become inward looking. At a time when the company is still working to stake out its ground in an open market after the deregulation of the electricity market in Ontario, having employees who are aware of what is going outside the walls of their home and work is a benefit, says Murphy.
Going to an event like the Breath of Hope Relay gets employees talking to other people from other organizations and gives them more perspective.