In addition to supporting local charities with skills and elbow-grease, high-impact volunteering can also benefit businesses by boosting employee engagement.
We’ve identified five key areas where employer-supported volunteering (ESV) can positively impact the bottom line.
As we identified in the introduction, employee engagement is an ‘emotional commitment’ that connects people with their place at work. The positive benefits above all weave into the complex cultural fabric that makes an organisation inspire, motivate and energise its people.
In this article I will dig a bit deeper into the link between employee volunteering and employee engagement and explore exactly why putting a shift in at your local homeless shelter or job club during work time can boost engagement when you get back to your desk.
It’s often tempting to get all quantitative when we’re talking about business.
Let’s not forget that when we’re talking about engagement we’re talking about people: we don’t need a graph to know that happy people are more engaged employees.
Volunteering makes people feel good about themselves. It’s satisfying to feel you’re helping people, putting your skills to good use and contributing to the common good. We are inherently social creatures and in a chaotic, confrontational and often lonely world, helping someone around you is a great way to feel good.
It’s also important to take note that we all work too much (even Deloitte says so!) and taking volunteering days is another small way to redress work-life balance.
Whether you spend the day at an older persons’ day centre getting to know someone new or build on fledging relationships with colleagues on a small-team day it’s all about people.
In a professional environment the average person spends upwards of eight hours a day in front of a screen. So, ditch the smartphone and spend time with someone different to relieve stress, ignite new relationships and build on existing ones.
Sometimes the projects we work on in modern life can feel as long and inconclusive as the latest series of Game of Thrones.
It’s often tricky to see the impact of one’s daily toil or even see a piece of work through from conception to completion. Short-term volunteering is a great foil to the malaise of the indefinite project. Whether it’s helping someone writing a CV, tidying up a garden or distributing food parcels, many volunteering opportunities will allow you to help somebody in the space of a day and that’s got to feel good!
If you have days which just seem like one blur from busy tube to hectic office to all-too-short-evening, you’ll understand that sometimes it’s easy to be blinkered to the world beyond the daily grind.
Employee volunteering exposes you to a different side of the place you live in and gives a window into the lives of other people; people who are often less fortunate than ourselves. I challenge anyone to spend a day at a homeless concern and not find themselves re-evaluating their job, colleagues and workplace.
An employee volunteering scheme often sits alongside other CSR initiatives like fund-raising and office sustainability programs. Giving people the chance to go and work within charities is a terrific way of bringing other projects to life and giving them purpose and relevance.
As one program gains momentum you can expect to see cross- pollination with other areas of responsible business. One of the first volunteers we had volunteer through Benefacto is now a permanent mentor to the team at Drive Forward Foundation, and another of our corporate partners regularly makes in-kind donations to the charities it volunteers with.
Reaching a level of ‘CSR maturity’ within business is truly the Holy Grail from an employee engagement perspective. If an organisation can really embody a culture of social values, it’s a huge step towards bridging the values gap we identified in the introduction.
So you’re sold! There are many ways that companies can get involved in volunteering, and whilst I would obviously recommend the Benefacto platform, I will leave you with three points to consider whatever you choose.
Professional people are busy; you need to give your colleagues a clear path into volunteering. Co-ordinating a volunteering day is really time-consuming; the truth is you can’t expect people to arrange these on a case-by-case basis.
Charity is personal and if you want broad engagement in your ESV you need to reflect this in your program with a range of options. People like to contribute to a cause that chimes with them.
This is often the biggest barrier, but when done right, creating a great volunteering culture can really contribute to employee engagement. Simply put, you need to make sure your colleagues are not only aware of your policy, but feel genuinely supported to use their volunteering leave.