A clear employee volunteering policy is an important first step when establishing your scheme. Here’s what other companies have discovered.
I recently spoke to a company who gave just four hours a year. It’ll be hard to convince employees to take seriously your interest in their volunteering if you’re dedicating only a small amount of their time. The same argument can be applied to requiring employees to match volunteering time with a donation from their holiday days.
Equally if you only give employees one chance to volunteer each year (i.e. a day or less) they’re likely to hold out for a perfect volunteering opportunity – possibly for so long that they don’t end up using it at all. But if you give two or more volunteer days, an employee is much more likely to speculate with their first day when a chance presents itself, because they’ve still got a day remaining.
People often use their days throughout the year and consider themselves regular volunteers – even if they do so in only a few day-long or half-day chunks. Giving 2 or more days allows some momentum to be built up and also allows commitment to volunteering requiring longer-term volunteering (e.g. mentoring)
Some progressive organisations proudly say that they allow their employees to volunteer as much they want.
This is a bit like Netflix with their unlimited holiday policy. Sounds great, but if an employee is, in reality, constrained by the pressure of a manager, or the fact that their colleagues aren’t volunteering, they are unlikely to feel entitled to the time on offer and actually take less. Your employees need to actually believe the amount they’re given.
We’ve run ‘Use It Or Lose It’ campaigns at the end the year, which make people feel that they’ll miss out if they don’t volunteer now. You can’t create this urgency if you give an unlimited or unrealistically large amount.
A number of firms list their employee volunteer time in their ‘Rewards & Benefits’ material. New employees are likely to read this early on, so it builds an awareness, but more importantly a feeling of entitlement.
Employees tend to find opportunities to use their holiday if they feel volunteering is something they’re entitled to genuinely, and if they have positive support from their colleagues through the prevailing culture they’re more likely to engage in it.
Every time I present to employees about employee volunteering, I ask for a show of hands on how many people know they’re given time off to volunteer. People don’t know they have paid time to volunteer and those who do are rarely clear on the exact terms.
Some firms confuse things by breaking up the allowance or giving different amounts for different activities. The simpler it is the easier it will be to communicate it, and if your employees are completely clear about what they’re given they are much more likely to take it.
Once you’ve decided on your leave allowance policy, decide what you’re going to call it (e.g. Charity Days, Community Days and so on) and stick to it. Then, describe it consistently – If you want to give two days, say two days, don’t alternate between two days and, say, fifteen hours.
A good trick to build awareness is to get some senior people to encourage employees – your workforce are much more likely to volunteer if they think it is genuinely valued and increases their contribution to the firm rather than detracts from it.
Hopefully this post has been a useful first step towards helping your workforce make more of an impact in your community. To make life even easier, we’ve created a volunteering policy template that can be customised for use at your business.
We've helped over 100 companies develop their volunteering programmes and we'd love to help you too