Reciprocal Benefits of volunteering for Businesses
Ablaze believes that recognising and promoting the reciprocal benefits that volunteering can bring to businesses that participate is an important factor in the volunteering process.
Helping business to realise a return on their investment, both hours spent and financial contribution, will in the long term be beneficial for both us and the businesses involved. A company and its staff are more likely to maintain a volunteering programme if the reciprocal benefits are clearly stated and recognised.
Ablaze is keen to identify and map these benefits when businesses volunteer with us. We do this through monitoring training, highlighting skills, gathering feedback on the volunteer experience and evaluating the impact of the programme for the young people who participate.
To facilitate sustainable staff volunteering it helps for companies to have a clear CSR policy in place, agreed at senior management level and promoted throughout the workforce. People are more likely to sign up to volunteer if they feel they have permission and that this time is valued by their organisation. Some companies include volunteering in their staff personal development records. This is a great acknowledgement for the individual’s effort as it formalises the development benefits of volunteering. In addition it provides a way for companies to track the acquisition and transferring of key skills of their workforce.
We know that volunteering has a reciprocal benefit to companies. A recent CIPD report, ‘From Big Society to the big organisation?’ states that HR professionals believe there is a tangible link between volunteering and skills development. When asked what the top three skills entry-level candidates with volunteering experience demonstrate they said teamwork (82%), communication (80%) and an understanding of the local community (45%).
Applying volunteering to learning and development activities can be a key tool to foster employee engagement and retention. Encouraging volunteering enables employees to hone transferable skills and learn new ones. Where ESV activity is linked to staff development evidence shows employees with voluntary experience demonstrate proficiency in
- communication skills
- coaching and mentoring
- time management/prioritisation
- problem-solving and adaptability
A workforce that is proficient in these skills can only be beneficial to the organisation they work for. Staff are more loyal, motivation and retention is higher. It also offers a non-traditional, and significantly cheaper, way of providing training and development for employees.
Externally a well publicised programme helps to boost the organisation’s brand among the public.
Andy Haldane the Bank of England’s Chief Economist has estimated that the economic value of volunteering could exceed £50 billion per year – 3.5% of annual UK GDP.
Andy talks about the ‘volunteering onion’ that has three layers
- the economic value of goods and services created by volunteers
- the private value of volunteering – the benefits felt by volunteers themselves
- the social value
In addition evidence from Ipsos MORI surveys shows Employer Supported Volunteering (ESV) can play a significant part in giving businesses a competitive edge and enhancing corporate reputation:
- 84% of the public think that knowing a company’s activities within society are important when forming an opinion
- 82% of the public felt it was important that a company shows a high degree of social responsibility
Benefits for individuals
It is also important to acknowledge the benefits that ESV has on the individuals who take part. Evaluation of volunteers shows these to be the most common benefits cited by people who have taken part in activities.
- meeting people and making friends
- broadening life experience
- boosting confidence
- reducing stress
- improving physical health
- learning new skills
- reinforcing transferable skills
Barriers to ESV
A survey was conducted in 2013 by the National Literacy Trust which asked staff at three large companies what stopped them from volunteering. Some said they weren’t interested but those who were but didn’t put themselves forward cited these as the main reasons.
- work commitments
- lack of support from line manager
- low awareness of opportunities on offer
- lack of endorsement of volunteering by senior management
- lack of confidence in own skill set
- lack of awareness of the positive impact volunteering can have on life and career
Currently only a third of organisations have a clear, written ESV strategy or policy in place. Less than two-fifths incorporate volunteering into employee development or engagement strategies. Clearly there is an intention to action gap. (Mann, Lopez et al 2010)
Organisations need to be more proactive in managing the employment relationship. What are the barriers to wider adaptation and implementation of ESV?
There are many issues associated with creating and managing an ESV scheme. Ablaze has held a number of discussions with CSR leads in a range of companies. These discussions identified the following hurdles that need to be overcome to make an ESV programme work.
- To enable sustainability through staff and particularly management changes an ESV programme must be clearly aligned to organisational aims and strategies.
- HR should be involved in shaping the ESV programme from the beginning and all volunteering should be linked to staff learning and development. All learning and development benefits should be mapped for every volunteer.
- Before embarking on an ESV programme a clear, written policy should be agreed at all levels of the company. This policy should state the organisation’s commitment to the following
- volunteering time for staff – both paid time and unpaid leave
- the support structure for staff who wish to volunteer
- how the impacts and benefits to staff will be measured
- how the impacts and benefits to the community will be measured
- the link from volunteering activity to individual learning and development
- a clear structure for recruiting staff to volunteer
- Ensuring that middle and line managers, the shop floor decision makers, have the structures in place and feel supported in releasing staff to volunteer
To help businesses overcome these barriers Ablaze has a suggested good practice checklist for anyone who is intending to implement an ESV scheme in their organisation.
- Develop a clear CSR policy which states your organisations social responsibility aims and priorities and how your intended activity will align with these
- Write a volunteering policy which clearly states your organisations commitment to supporting volunteering activity which includes objectives, guidelines for implementation and an action plan
- Collaborate with internal HR to formalise volunteering as part of staff development
- Secure senior management support and consent
- Secure line management buy-in
- Identify dedicated personnel to co-ordinate and manage activities
- Communicate your message internally and externally
Ablaze has developed a template volunteering policy for businesses which covers every aspect that needs to be considered when embarking on an ESV scheme. Please contact us if you would like access to that policy or if you want to discuss how we can support you in the process of setting up a scheme in your business.