Engaging Employees in a Global Day of Volunteerism

Engaging Employees in a Global Day of Volunteerism Citi’s Global Community Day harnesses the energy of employees to give back to communities around the worldChristine DiScola, Country Human Res Officer, Citi Canada

Among the investments a firm can make that contribute to high morale and engagement, a strategic, well organized philanthropy program ranks near the top. Investing in the community with dollars is important, but contributing time and talent is even more crucial to creating a cohesive and engaged employee population, with a tangible benefit to the community.

As one of the world’s oldest and largest financial institutions, Citi is a leader in harnessing the energy of its employees to benefit the community.  Now in its 14th year, Citi hosts its Global Community Day every June. With more than 200,000 employees in 160 countries and jurisdictions around the world, finding suitable volunteer activities can be a challenge.  But on and around the same day each year, in some 450 cities, local organizers have the freedom to organize events and activities that match the needs of the community and the staff giving their time.  Each year tens of thousands of Citi volunteers sign up for the volunteer opportunity that is of most interest to them, from building bikes for kids in New York City, to a coastal clean-up in Manila, to planting trees and flowers in Toronto and more. Since Global Community Day began in 2006, Citi volunteers have given more than 4 million hours of their time to worthy causes and projects.

In 2019 Citi celebrates its 100th anniversary in Canada, having opened our first offices in Toronto and Montreal after the end of the Great War. Citi has always had a commitment to citizenship, from our commitment to hiring veterans in the 1920’s  to this year’s Global Community Day, where we hosted 18 events across the country and produced more than 3,500 hours of volunteer work from nearly 1,000 volunteers. 

John Hastings, our Citibank Canada CEO recently said “In addition to enabling growth and economic progress in our communities, Global Community Day is an annual opportunity for team building and getting to know our fellow colleagues outside the workplace.” 

Indeed, we continue to find that volunteerism and a robust approach to corporate social responsibility is key to creating an engaged workforce.  In addition to it being the right thing to do, today’s employee is seeking an employer with community values, a social purpose, and opportunities to give back as part of their employment experience.  As our program has grown, we have learned a great deal along the way.   I am pleased to share some tips and best practices we have learned through this process: 

A Year Long Commitment

To encourage volunteerism throughout the year, Citi offers employees a Citi Volunteer Day, a paid day off from work each year to volunteer for an eligible charity or a school volunteer event. Employees also have access to the company’s Volunteer Management System, an online platform that enables them to seek out and register for volunteer opportunities in their area and track their volunteer hours. 

Senior Sponsorship

Employees have seen volunteerism, and Global Community Day specifically, embraced by the most senior people in our organization, which certainly helps to set the tone that it is a priority. This year Citi Canada had the privilege of hosting Citi CEO Mike Corbat at Toronto’s Tommy Thompson Park to kick off our Global Community Day initiative and assist staff in beautifying the area. His personal participation presented a unique opportunity to show the Canadian team the value Citi places on their efforts and to showcase Canada’s team spirit and commitment to working together.

Shortcut to engagement

Our Toronto Citi Service Centre (CSC) delivers technology solutions to Citi’s global businesses.  The largest of Citi Canada’s sites, the Toronto CSC has grown to house over 1,000 technology developers in the past five years. Global Community Day has become a highlight of the annual calendar of events, with more than 400 employees participating in 2019. This opportunity to engage with new colleagues and to include family and friends outside of the typical work environment has resonated strongly, and helped to reinforce the company’s values among a group of employees who are new to the company.


Creating a comprehensive approach to volunteerism and demonstrating corporate values through the work you do in the community is an excellent way to not only engage current employees, but also to communicate with future employees and promote our mission of enabling progress not only for clients but for the communities in which we serve.   We recruit employees each year, many of them students entering our analyst programs.  It is no secret that new graduates want to work for a company that aligns with their values and has a shared purpose, and volunteerism is a tangible, relatively low cost way to demonstrate our commitment.