“Corporate Responsibility's role was to develop, launch, and get all of our businesses behind this initiative to kick off our renewed commitment to volunteerism in the communities where our employees live and work,” Matt said.
This program came out of Hertz's global giving and volunteerism relaunch from earlier this year.
The goal of that relaunch was to sharpen their focus and concentrate on areas that made the most sense for their industry and business so they could make the most impact.
The areas they settled on were education, disaster relief, and environmental stewardship.
They kicked off the program's new focus with the launch of their environmental initiative for the month of April.
“To jump out of the gates strong, we decided to launch our first company-wide volunteer effort on the environment,” Matt said. “Our environmental focus this year has been on grassroots engagement from our 36,000 employees and more than 10,000 locations worldwide.”
“Some areas did different types of things like decorate reusable grocery bags or build birdhouses and donating those to local community groups,” he said.
He said it was important that the initiative take place over an entire month, because the key goal was to drive employee participation across the organization.
The team hoped to engage as many employees as possible across as many different countries as possible — both within their corporate offices and at their rental car locations.
“In certain parts of our business, April is very busy with Easter and in Europe there are also a lot of holidays,” said Matt. To accommodate those days, each location needed to have the flexibility to choose times that suited their teams and operations.
“That rolled up to an impact of Hertz members contributing over 12,500 hours and volunteered with a hundred different causes,” he reported.
To get the initiative off the ground, Matt worked with their CEO and senior management group.
“We wanted to give our employees a way to make a difference in their communities in a substantive and visible fashion, but in a way where they could also enjoy getting out with their coworkers and leaders to make an impact locally,” said Matt.
He and the leadership group created a framework and looked for local champions at Hertz facilities to tailor this idea and help get their teams motivated to participate.
Each champion was delegated by either an office leader or a general manager at their rental locations.
“Each leader was tasked by their leadership to appoint the best person to coordinate with teams and get ideas for volunteerism,” Matt said. “They were also tasked with communicating what the month was all about and sharing resources we made available in terms of collateral and other fun ideas and kits to make this feel like a global, company-wide initiative.”
Because Hertz is in the mobility industry, Matt said it's important for the company to keep a focus on the environment within their corporate social responsibility efforts.
“We want to make sure we're working with our customers, employees, and within the communities where we live and work as responsibly as possible,” he said. “We want to be good stewards of the environment and help unify our communities, improve waterways, clean up parks, and work with local nonprofits in environmental areas that are most impactful to our local communities.”
This particular month-long initiative is a key component in that strategy.
He said volunteerism is the way Hertz looks to amplify their impact.
“Just as we look to have a strategic impact through our key partnerships with different nonprofit groups across all of our education, disaster relief, and environmental stewardship pillars,” Matt said.
For Matt, the biggest takeaway from this experience has been learning about the culture of service across Hertz's employee population.
He said that was particularly noticeable for field associates at their rental car locations, because a lot of those employees had already been doing volunteer efforts that Hertz didn't know about at the corporate level.
“The response we had from a lot of our field associates was very strong, particularly at our ‘Hertz in the Neighborhood' locations — which are based in cities and suburbs,” Matt said. “They really showed up in force and had a tremendous impact within our global results and goals.”
According to Matt, this was just the beginning — the team has set ambitious goals to motivate employees to participate in volunteerism throughout the year.
“It's not a one-and-done,” Matt said. “It's the start of our volunteer commitment throughout the year.”
“We're going to be asking, encouraging, and inspiring our employees to get involved,” Matt said. “And from August through October, we'll be running another company-wide campaign, but it'll be focused on our education pillar.”
During this next campaign, the team will ask employees to work with their team members and volunteer with different educational charities and causes to make a difference in the communities where they work and live. “It'll be launched right after July 4th,” he said. “We'll set a big goal, and it'll be communicated through our CEO.”
For other companies launching a similar volunteer initiative, Matt suggested building the framework and letting others tailor it to their needs.
“You don't have to have all the ins and outs figured out. Just create a good framework that others in the business can pull from to champion locally,” he said. “But give them enough guidance to help address some of the ‘ifs,' ‘buts,' challenges, and roadblocks.”
He also emphasized the importance of being clear on HR matters. “Will the day be paid or unpaid? Is it only available to exempt employees or is it available to nonexempt as well?” Matt said. And considering some of the sensitivities that relate to unions is critical as well, he said.
Matt said getting people aligned on the same thematic area was really important for the business.
“We had done things in pockets but never under the same initiative,” he said. “Even though there were some small aches and pains early on, once the business unleashed, it was easy for our leaders and employees to see what we can do collectively when we put our focus on one particular area.”
Matt Turner has been a member of the CSR Board since 2019. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.