Citigroup Inc.’s employees in Toronto spent Tuesday planting trees and shrubs at a local conservation area for the bank’s global community day.

During Citi’s annual event, employees and their family members volunteer time to local causes around the world. It expects the participation of 100,000 Citi volunteers across 450 cities this year, with 1,000 Canadian employees and families volunteering at 18 events in Toronto; Mississauga, Ont.; London, Ont.; Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver between May 21 and June 15.

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Christine Discola, head of human resources for Canada at Citi, says the event is part of the bank’s corporate social responsibility and employee engagement initiatives. “It’s a tremendous program that generates a ton of participation and engagement. It allows employees to get out of the office for a day and connect with their peers and colleagues in a way they wouldn’t normally and feel great about the work they’re doing.”

In advance of the event, Citi pre-arranges a set of activities at which employees can volunteer, leaving it up to individuals to sign up for the one that interests them the most. This year’s events range from sorting and packing food at Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank to cleaning up a London park and running a 5K to support women with mental-health challenges in Montreal.

Each year, Citi promotes the event to employees through messages from its senior leadership team and by sharing personal stories from other employees who’ve participated in the past. However, notes Discola, a lot of participation growth comes through word-of-mouth between colleagues.

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“We do [advertise] every year certainly. The efforts on communicating haven’t gone away; it’s just not really what we rely on to generate that participation anymore. [Global community day] generates so much passion and feel-good vibes that there’s not a lot of having to persuade people to participate.”

Discola says the global community day is part of Citi’s three pillars of engagement: work, self and community. While the work pillar covers reward programs and work-life balance policies and the self pillar covers wellness activities, community is ensuring employees can engage in their community and “tap into personal passions and commitments,” she adds.

Citi also offers active and qualified employees a paid day off from work each year to volunteer for an eligible charity or a school volunteer event. According to the company, 182 Canadian employees used their volunteer day in 2018.

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