Business drops vacation incentive to volunteer

May 14, 2009 7:56:46 AM PDT
It appears there may be an upside to the recession -- more and more companies seem to be reaching out to the growing number of people in need.

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Jack Unroe is CEO at Burlingame based Accounts International, a recruiting company specializing in finance and accounting. Top workers here have always been rewarded with trips to the best resorts money can buy.

"It was great," said Unroe.

But this year, Unroe sent his 500 nationwide employees a letter saying things had changed.

"We have to find jobs for other people in the areas of finance and accounting -- so we are very aware of how difficult that is right now. And I just didn't think it was right for our employees to completely celebrate as if nothing had changed when the world has changed," said Unroe.

So top workers from around the country traded in three days in a vacation paradise for an afternoon at the Second Harvest Food Bank of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties -- filling bags with food for the needy -- followed by a low key dinner in San Jose.

Some employees thought Unroe had made a bad placement.

"There was some grumbling" said Unroe.

But Linda Spencer didn't mind. As one of the top performers, she had received the royal treatment at world class resorts the past two years and still enjoyed this experience.

"You talk to people all day long who are looking for jobs and needing jobs, so it was a sense that this is a resource for people that are having problems and challenges that all of us could face at a moment's notice," said Linda Spencer, business development executive.

In San Francisco, co-founder of the Go Game, Ian Fraser says he's noticed a change in his clients. He does team building through tech based scavenger hunts all over the country. And more and more, clients are opting for the community service game.

"One mission involved picking up as much garbage as they could on the beach. Then they went over to a food bank in Santa Monica and delivered food from food bank over to the seniors home," said Ian Fraser, co-founder, the Go Game.

Fraser says long after the recession is gone this change in corporate behavior will be here. And when it comes to Accounts International -- he's right.

CEO Unroe said when things turn around, his top guns will once again be wined and dined at the best resorts, but everyone will take an afternoon off from fun in the sun to volunteer at a nearby soup kitchen or shelter. And Linda Spencer said she's okay with that.

"There must be places that we can volunteer in Cancun I'm thinking. What do you think?" said Spencer.

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