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New i4cp Case Study Explores Humana’s Innovations in Virtual Volunteerism

With the early 2020 publication of Next practices in Holistic Well-Being: The Performance Advantage, the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), detailed its pre-COVID research into workforce well-being.  

Conducted in late 2019 and available to the public, the study confirmed that 86% of large organizations (those with workforces >1,000) offered at least some benefits or programs to support employees’ wellness (physical, mental, financial, career, community, and/or social).  

Many companies—especially high-performance organizations—emphasized several or more of those six elements of holistic, or whole-person, well-being. Most projected that focus would grow in the following year. 

As we’ve seen, the early-2020 onset of the COVID-19 health crisis accelerated workforce well-being to a top-of-mind concern for employers. And the pandemic-driven need for social distancing added unique challenges for organizations’ well-being initiatives. One of the most accomplished at rising to those challenges is the health and well-being firm Humana.

An i4cp member company that continues to contribute insights and examples to the research on well-being, Humana is pioneering innovative approaches that enable its employees (“associates”) to continue participating in philanthropic efforts when face-to-face or high-touch settings aren’t viable options.  

In a new i4cp case study, Innovating Community and Social Well-Being During the Pandemic: Virtual Volunteerism and Tech-Enabled Employee Safety at Humana, director of associate well-being Elona DeGooyer shared some of the changes Humana has made to shift volunteer activities to virtual and hybrid options. 

Available exclusively to i4cp members, the case study notes that the outbreak of COVID-19 sent as many as 95% of Humana associates home to work remotely. Almost immediately, associates wanted to know what would happen to the company’s high-profile Bold Goal initiative (a strategy to improve the well-being of communities the company serves by addressing such root causes of poor health as food insecurity, social isolation and more) and the many other volunteer activities employees supported enthusiastically. 

Fortunately, DeGooyer explains, Humana already had an online volunteer platform in place, known as Humana Together. Even as the pandemic unfolded, “the platform made it possible for Humana associates to have online access to more than 4.5 million volunteer opportunities nationwide and beyond.” 

Further, Humana had strong ties and a history of in-person volunteerism in its headquarters city of Louisville, KY, along with alliances in other communities arising from its Bold Goal work.

The combination of online volunteer portal and established community relationships enabled Humana to connect many of its associates to virtual opportunities, while also continuing some in-person volunteerism where it could be done safely. 

To support the wide range of contributions its associates make, Humana provides associates with some paid time off to volunteer. Those efforts make a difference for causes that range from local and regional to national and global in scope. 

What does virtual volunteerism look like? 

During a recent i4cp online discussion about workforce well-being, attending well-being professionals were asked about the virtual volunteer opportunities their organizations had created to replace in-person philanthropy. Few answers were forthcoming. In fact, participants were eager for examples of how to move their organizational programs from in-person to online settings. 

Virtual volunteering takes many forms at Humana, affording associates latitude to contribute to organizations and causes in which they have personal interest. One opportunity enables individuals to help ensure that U.S. history will live on. Both the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress need people to transcribe handwritten historical documents, making possible their preservation and broader access to the public. Humana associates stepped up to become digital volunteers. 

“Another virtual opportunity people found interesting was penguin watching,” DeGooyer says. “You go to a Penguin Watch website where you count penguins in a habitat in order to help researchers. Studying the birds involves many hours of observing and documenting their behavior, so having volunteers of all ages is helpful.” 

Associates contribute in other ways, too 

Humana associates engage in a number of other virtual activities described in the case study;  many specifically align with addressing social isolation and other aspects of the Bold Goal initiatives.  

Even during the ongoing health crisis, some employees feel comfortable contributing to community causes in person by staffing local food drives and delivering meals.  

Humana has found ways of combining virtual and in-person options to create hybrid experiences for volunteers, too. One such approach currently being piloted by associates enables individuals to pick up components for snack kits, take the items home to assemble the kits, then drop completed kits off at designated points for delivery to children in need of food assistance.  

For much more on Humana’s innovative strategies to continue volunteerism, along with its use of technology to support social well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic, i4cp members can download the new case study.  

Not an i4cp member yet? Contact us  to learn how your organization can join our powerful network and gain access to the cutting-edge human capital research and peer support that high-performance companies rely on i4cp to deliver. 

Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst at i4cp

Carol Morrison
Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst and Associate Editor with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), specializing in workforce well-being research.