There seems to have been an increase in corporate support for volunteerism over the past several years. You know, the do-gooder, corporate-citizen face companies like to put on by encouraging their employees to go out in the world and volunteer their services to help others.
Some companies even put their pocketbooks where their mouths are, although typically to a very limited extent. For example, it might match the contributions made or the funds raised by its employees. Or it might give them extra time off with pay to participate in a community service project. It might sponsor a team, pay for uniforms, or contribute in other ways.
All of this is well and good. Society needs volunteers and the support behind them. Companies that are involved and generous deserve congratulations, recognition, and thanks.
But there is one area of volunteerism where I’m seeing less support than I used to see — professional organizations. There was a time when membership and participation in professional organizations were viewed as important to a career and encouraged by employers. Now, with relatively few exceptions, that doesn’t seem to be the case. That’s too bad. Industry and society are both losing.
Like community volunteerism, professional volunteerism is hard to put a quantitative value on. Companies today encourage community involvement because it’s "the right thing to do." Although the same holds true for professional involvement, companies seem less likely to throw their support behind it. For the latter, companies tend to want a more quantifiable rationale.
It seems ironic that as companies pursue networking, partnerships, alliances, and integration in doing business, they are not supporting the same activities for individuals. Yet, active participation in professional groups supports the same goals. Employees are better and more valuable when they are able to learn from their peers, establish valuable contacts, and compare experiences. And as they become more active, they develop leadership skills that they bring back to their work.
Industrial companies should take another look at encouraging and supporting the volunteerism of their employees in professional associations. Here are some (among dozens) that they — and you — might want to consider:
Association for Facilities Engineering (AFE) — afe.org
Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) — ame.org
International Facility Management Association (IFMA) — ifma.org
International Maintenance Institute (IMI) — imionline.org
Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals — smrp.org
Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) — sme.org