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Texas insurance company builds a culture of service through employee involvement | Volunteer Texas Service Spotlight

Texas Mutual was a recipient of a 2020 Governor’s Volunteer Award. If you know an individual or organization making a significant impact in Texas communities through service and volunteering, you can nominate them for the 2021 Governor’s Volunteer Award here.

On a mission to build a stronger, safer Texas, Texas Mutual has a culture of service spurred by team members who are dedicated to making our state a better place to live and work.

“We are the largest provider of workers compensation insurance in the state of Texas. We have about 40% of the market, insure 70,000 businesses, and they employ about a million and a half workers. The overall strength and safety of Texas is really, really important to us,” said Jeremiah Bentley, Vice President of Marketing & Community Affairs at Texas Mutual.

In 2019, 473 Texas Mutual employees volunteered an impressive 5,300 hours for 103 nonprofit organizations across the state. The depth of Texas Mutual’s engagement can be seen in their longstanding partnership with the Central Texas Food Bank. In addition to providing nearly 550 hours of volunteer support to the organization, they also used their business expertise to revamp pantry distribution logistics and operations to better serve families in need.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, Texas Mutual remained committed to strengthening communities and found ways to continue serving safely. For example, the company purchased meals from local struggling restaurants and had them delivered to families at the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Employees also wrote letters of encouragement to dedicated 211 call center representatives and hosted virtual reading sessions with students to promote literacy.

“Sometimes you just have to get creative. If you’re not able to help one way, you can help in another way,” Jeremiah said.

Jeremiah shared with OneStar his approach to corporate volunteering and talked about the impact companies can have on the community.

How do you build a culture of service within your company?

Our tagline is that we’re looking to build a stronger, safer Texas. We do that through what we do everyday in our jobs, we do that through our philanthropy and grants, and then we also do that through volunteers. It has always been part of our culture to give back and to strengthen our communities. 

Look at yourself, look at your mission, and look at the causes that align with who you are and what you stand for. Look at the unique skills that you and your employees can bring to the table, and then talk to employees and see where they’re already engaged. A lot of times, you find that you’ve got a group of employees who are doing things that honestly already aligns with who you are and what we do. We had people working with the food bank for a long time before we figured out that beyond just these shifts, there was more that we could do. Ask people, and you’ll find that there’s probably something out there that makes sense for you as an organization.

What unique value does your company bring to volunteering?

We’ve got lots of activities we do, but where we can, we want to bring our unique abilities to bear in volunteerism. As an organization, you need to know your strengths, so we looked at what are the things that we that we can uniquely provide to help out a nonprofit? At first, we thought, “We’re all just spreadsheet jockeys一maybe we don’t have unique talent.” But we dug deeper and thought about the core of what we do in different parts of the company, and it became evident that we do have skills to contribute to these causes beyond working a shift.

The Greater Houston Partnership was developing communities of practice around workforce development—talking to companies first to find out what they need and developing programs around that. That’s the way we work at Texas Mutual: we look at our customers, center what we do, and develop products and services based on that. We’ve got a bunch of project managers who are really good at logistics, so we actually loaned out some of our project management people to them.

We did it on the marketing side too. We had a really strong relationship with Workforce Solutions Capital Area and developed a campaign called Trade Up Texas, which was about connecting 18- to 25-year-olds with job skills. How do you let young people know that you can make a lot of money in construction and plumbing and trades, and that it is a real career path with an opportunity to create wealth? We provided our services pro bono to help solve that problem as a marketing problem while also meeting a real community need.

What makes an effective corporate volunteer program?

The most important thing is to involve employees in designing the program. Don’t just pick your favorite charity and expect the kind of engagement you might have if you’d talked to people and listened to the voices of the folks who are actually doing the volunteering. Make sure that whatever you’re doing is something that they find meaningful.

We’ve got a volunteer committee in each office with different levels of employees who have their ear to the ground on what it is that people really want to do and how you engage people. It’s human behavior: people are going to buy in more if they feel involved in the process and feel like their voice is heard, so we work really hard to do that. Let’s talk to people about what they want, and how we can connect what they want to do to who we are and build our program that way. We have to facilitate that. It’s a fine line to provide some direction and guidance while still being encouraging.

What are the benefits of corporate volunteering?

The number one benefit that we get out of it is employee recruiting and retention. We’ve been really intentional about talking more about the things we’re doing in the community and talking about volunteerism. We’ve heard more applicants who say, “I know who you guys are because I saw on Facebook all the good work y’all are doing.” It helps us attract the types of employees who are committed to that. Italso helps give employees meaning to their work. If you’re a programmer or an accountant, you don’t see every day the results of your work in the way that someone who is actually out in the field interacting with clients does. Volunteering can help them do that. 

There’s also a developing consumer demand. There is a lot of research around younger buyers all the way across the board, from consumer products to business services, who want to buy from companies whose values align with theirs. People sometimes feel like it’s bragging to talk about it, but it’s really just letting the public know your story. The more you can let the public know who you are in an authentic way一who the people are and not necessarily just the brand一the better off you’ll be. There is a price premium people are willing to pay for companies that share their values, and I think it’s becoming more and more important and will continue to be over time. For us, it’s particularly important because we’re only in Texas, and we only sell work comp, so we want to be known as a company that’s here based in Texas taking care of all Texans across the board, because that’s how we’re all gonna succeed together.