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Jamie Lawrence

Wagestream

Insights Director

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News: employee volunteering provides many benefits to employers

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Research released by volunteering charity CSV shines light on trends in employee volunteering (EV) and the ways in which employers can maximise its effectiveness.

The report, entitled ‘Employee Volunteering – Who’s Benefiting Now?’ [PDF, 335KB] analyses the relationship between different stakeholders, including businesses, employees and community brokers (who connect firms with local projects).

Employee volunteering comes under the corporate social responsibility (CSR) umbrella and was originally imported from the US in the early 1990s.

According to the research, EV is increasingly aligning with companies’ overall business objectives. Particularly during difficult economic times, employee volunteering helps firms access niche or wider markets, such as social enterprises, as well as raise their profile in local communities. These new relationships can also fuel innovation.

Private sector companies also stressed the importance of EV as a core strategy to increase employee engagement and retention: respondents said the rewards of “giving something back” and “making a difference” to a person or community organisation helps boost employee morale, satisfaction and pride in their employer.

EV was also identified as an important tool to develop employees’ professional and soft skills and to attract new talent.

In terms of take-up, there’s some evidence SMEs are falling behind larger employers when it comes to employee volunteering – just 14 percent of SMEs have access to employer-supported volunteering schemes, compared with 47 percent of staff working for companies with more than 250 staff.

One of the biggest emergent trends identified in the report is the move to skills-based volunteering, where a business uses its core skills, and those of its employees, to help charities and social enterprises succeed. Businesses can, for example, use their scale to help connect social enterprises to relevant supply chains. Or the skills can be core to the business – a web design company building a new site for a charity.

“Employees want to stretch themselves and be challenged,’ says Angela Schlenkhoff-Hus, CSV’s Development Manager who led the research. ‘Employers want to be able to offer the skills of their workforce to charities which need them, but they need to take into account people’s different motivations. Some staff are motivated by a desire to improve their softer skills. CSR strategies are moving away from practical team volunteering tasks to include skills-based volunteering, but employers will need to support their staff to do this.”

The report recommends businesses take the following action to increase the success of their EV policies.

  • Build consultation with community organisations into the CSR strategy development process
  • Be flexible and open to (new) ideas from community organisation
  • Utilise and listen to brokers for their expert knowledge, skills and understanding of community organisations
  • Offer a variety of different volunteering opportunities matching employees’ talents and personal motivations
  • Provide employer-supported volunteering opportunities – ensure employees feel supported throughout the process

This report is really important in reflecting a trend spreading throughout CSR, not just employee volunteering – alignment with both business goals and strengths. Companies are realising more and more that for CSR policies to work, they must coincide with the company’s core strengths or employees and the public are less likely to ‘buy-in.’ The overall effect is also magnified because the full weight of the company is behind the policy.

The research was based on 40 interviews across business and the voluntary sector and explores how relationships between corporates, their staff and the communities they work with are changing and whether everyone’s needs are being met. You can download the full report here [PDF, 335KB].

Author Profile Picture
Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence
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