Like many other people, I started to reflect on my contribution to the world last year and decided that I wanted to explore ways to support others and came across a volunteering role for Victim Support.
I completed the specialised training that would enable me to help those who have experienced serious crime, domestic abuse, stalking and more recently, serious sexual violence (SSV). This experience has been beneficial to me in so many ways, and I hope to inspire others to consider volunteering, not just for themselves but for their employees too.
Why consider volunteering?
Volunteering is said to be one of the most effective wellbeing initiatives for leaders and employees. Not only does it give people a sense of purpose but it really does make you feel good if you do something to help another person.
It’s not as simple as giving people a couple of days a year to go and do something; the most meaningful volunteering requires a bit of thought
Volunteering has given me a breadth of skills that I hadn’t realised would benefit me in my day-to-day work as an HR professional. It is also good for the general employee population to be exposed to things they may not have otherwise had access to, widening their knowledge of the world.
Choosing the right volunteering opportunities
I had investigated volunteering as a business initiative in the past and contacted several charities to see what might be possible and was told by one charity that they did not want a highly paid individual to spend the day helping paint a school, preferring that we donated money so that they could get an experienced painter in to do that. This got me thinking about the types of volunteering that would be most useful to organisations.
It’s not as simple as giving people a couple of days a year to go and do something; the most meaningful volunteering for both the person and the organisation requires a bit of thought including:
The time someone has to dedicate to do something – many of us are very busy in our day to day jobs, consider allowing employees time off to do volunteering or finding things they can do around their work.
The type of volunteering that would be beneficial to an organisation – find things that are appropriate to the type of skill set the employee has.
The type of volunteering that the employee will find satisfying – empower employees to find their own opportunities or provide information on opportunities for employees to choose their own experience.
At my organisation, we investigate and share potential employee volunteering opportunities once a quarter as I had previously found that employees struggled to find relevant activities where they could use up their one allotted annual charity day.
As an HR professional, managing people issues daily and coming up with solutions to problems, or sometimes just being a listening ear, is a large part of the job
Keeping this initiative fresh and talked about ensures that it happens. There are some initiatives that might take an afternoon, such as giving blood, which might be easier for busy individuals to participate in.
Harnessing and developing the skill set of an HR professional
As an HR professional, managing people issues daily and coming up with solutions to problems, or sometimes just being a listening ear, is a large part of the job. This skill set is incredibly valuable and not something everyone feels comfortable to do. My experience of volunteering has given me a breadth of skills which are relevant to my HR work as well as general day to day interactions with people. These include:
When talking to the clients (as we call them at Victim Support), my ability to remain calm and use active listening – something which I have trained mentors to do – is key. Everyone responds to trauma in different ways, and although my support is short term, I have to work quickly to build rapport so that they trust me enough to confide in me.
The focus is to help them cope and recover, which might require talking about what has happened or putting a practical plan in place. My years of HR experience has helped me recognise the approach needed. Developing this skill further through volunteering has given me more confidence when handling employee issues and putting together plans of support within the workplace.
Diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion is partly about being able to speak to all people, no matter what their background, with confidence and without judgement. It would not be possible to do the support role effectively if clients were able to detect a hint of bias.
It is hugely rewarding but most importantly, the people that you support will know that someone out there cares
My experience has brought me into contact with all kinds of people with different backgrounds, ages and situations and this role has made me reflect on how I speak to others and how to be approachable and friendly enough that they can share their feelings with me. These people don’t know anything about me, the conversations are focused on them. Having no personal agenda is a good thing to experience.
HR giving back
It’s clear that HR professionals are well placed to consider if they have the time and energy to invest in emotionally supporting others through volunteering. It is hugely rewarding but most importantly, the people that you support will know that someone out there cares, which is one of the most meaningful things you could give to another human being. If we all took a few days out of our year to help others, imagine the good that would come from that.
Interested in this topic? Read Does your organisation need a wellbeing manager?