Q&A with Health Care Service Corporation and KaBOOM!

Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) encourages employees to be active participants in the communities where they live, work, and play. Throughout the organization, employees are empowered to actively volunteer and give back. In 2009, HCSC began working with KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization that works to give all kids safe spaces to play. As of 2018, the two organizations have annually given more than 200,000 children creative environments in which to enjoy heart-healthy exercise. 

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Bridget Burke, director, Public Affairs, HCSC, and Lysa Ratliff, vice president, Partnership Development, KaBOOM! on the secrets to fostering an empowered team and aligning corporate philanthropy with a company’s broader business goals.

Q1: In 2009, HCSC began working with KaBOOM! and recently celebrated its 100th play space project! What makes the partnership so successful ten years later? 

Bridget Burke: We are excited to hit that 100th milestone with KaBOOM! I’ve heard from many team members how personally rewarding it has been to get out into our communities, roll up our sleeves, and create play spaces where they otherwise might not have existed. Our shared commitment to make a tangible impact and help kids form healthy behaviors has sustained and invigorated our relationship over the past decade. Through our work with KaBOOM!, we’re helping kids explore their imaginations, exercise, build social skills, and have fun. 

Lysa Ratliff: We are grateful to have such a long-standing partnership with HCSC and truly value the company as a leader in investing in communities, where their employees live to promote healthy outcomes for kids and families. This important work is at the heart of the KaBOOM! mission to create great, safe places for kids to play. This would not be possible without partners like HCSC who help ensure that all kids get to have the childhoods they deserve, filled with play and possibility.

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© Health Care Service Corporation

Q2: What best practices do you have for aligning corporate citizenship with a company’s business goals?

Bridget: I can’t stress it enough—authenticity is key. The programs and organizations you support across your communities must align with your company’s brand, values, and purpose. As a health insurance company, we equip our members with the resources and tools to help them make informed health care decisions for themselves and their families. 

Being able to extend these activities beyond our membership and go deep into our neighborhoods not only supports our business goals but helps to build healthier communities. Many of the programs we support are part of our company’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Families (HKHF)® community investment program. Launched in 2011, HKHF works to improve the health and wellbeing of children and families in the communities we serve. We invest in local nonprofit organizations to address the economic and social conditions that impact health through five key focus areas: physical activity, nutrition, disease prevention and management, and supporting safe environments. 

Q3: How do you engage corporate partners to invest in and become advocates for play?

Lysa: Most people can think back to their childhood and recognize the important role play had in their lives. Today, more and more kids are missing out on the chance to play, which has a negative impact on their social, cognitive, physical, and mental development. Organizations who partner with KaBOOM! become engaged because they see how play can impact kids, helping them grow up happier, healthier, and more resilient, while also seeing how play has a ripple effect on the broader community. Play can be a catalyst for other long-term, positive outcomes in a community. When an organization invests in KaBOOM!, the tangible benefit to the community is both immediate and long-lasting, and rewarding to employee volunteers.

Q4: How do you measure impact both internally from an employee perspective, and externally within the communities you support?

Bridget: From an employee perspective, we measure impact in a variety of ways. Through annual employee engagement surveys, we ask employees if the company provides them with meaningful opportunities to support the company’s purpose and their communities. These are historically among the top positive engagement responses. We’ve also looked at data comparing our team members who participate in volunteer initiatives to those who are not involved. Across the board, we can see that employees who volunteer perform better, are more engaged and stay longer with the company. Not only does this drive a caring and community-minded culture, but it yields cost savings in terms of less turnover and increased productivity. Our data shows that employee volunteerism correlates to a 14% increase in annual performance score, and a 50% increase in retention if they volunteered for more than 10 hours. 

From an external perspective, we work with our community organizations to define objectives for our programs and establish milestones and success indicators. We also monitor overall program results to evaluate the reach of our efforts. For example, through our mobile Care Van program, we provided 173,803 immunizations and other health services to 135,594 people in need across our five states last year. Through HKHF in 2018, we distributed more than 2.5 million pounds of food to more than 1 million adults and children.

Q5: What advice would you tell companies who are still navigating the best way to get employees involved in volunteerism?

Bridget: Get your leaders to walk the talk. If this is truly important to the company, and it should be, executives need to be seen at the forefront leading by example. Employees are much more likely to get involved when they see not only senior leadership, but their direct manager supporting their communities. You also need to listen to your employees. Understand what they are passionate about, what barriers exist and how you can enhance your volunteer program to support their interests. We’ve used surveys, focus groups, advisory boards, volunteer ambassador programs, and a variety of other channels to make sure we have open lines of communication. For example, our employees shared that they wanted on-site volunteer opportunities. In response, we shipped volunteer materials to every office during the 2018 National Volunteer Week in April. Thousands of employees assembled care packages and provided other support services that benefitted their local neighborhood. 

Choice is also really important. While you may have company-led volunteer outreach, we’ve found that employees want to drive their own activities with the nonprofits of their choice. Our most popular recognition program is Dollars for Doers. We award $20 for every employee volunteer hour spent with nonprofit organizations who align with our health and wellness objectives, giving up to $2,000 per organization annually. In 2018, employee volunteerism led to nearly $570,000 awarded to our nonprofit partners through the Dollars for Doers program. Employees get to see the company directly supporting their interests and communities through this program, and engagement continues to grow each year. 

Lysa: Through our work with partners like HCSC, we have found that employee engagement is largely driven by providing team members an opportunity to witness tangible results first-hand. Whether it’s by creating a new playground in six hours from start to finish, or seeing a kid’s joy when they climb on a newly installed playspace tower, the hands-on volunteer experience allows kids, families, community members, and city and business leaders to come together on common ground to make a difference in the lives of kids. 

To encourage volunteerism, create a truly memorable and motivational experience for employees where they can see clearly how their involvement can make a difference in the areas they care about most. We have seen volunteers want to come back and build with us several times after their first experience, and that’s because they were able to see how they made an impact for years to come. It is these experiences that have a lasting impact on the volunteers who shape company culture.