By Caroline McKenna, CEO and founder of Social Good Connect
We often talk about rest and recuperation being antidotes to work stress and burnout, but I think wholeheartedness is an equally good tonic. Doing something that makes a difference to someone else’s life, expecting nothing in return, offers a real sense of meaning and purpose. And that can be as true for businesses as it is for individuals.
An ideal way to get the ball rolling is through employee volunteering. It’s a powerful way for businesses to use their vast range of skills for good and it means that struggling charities of all shapes and sizes get their needs met by willing, capable people who care enough to give their time, but never knew where to start.
Ooni, Thorntons, Insights and DC Thomson are among the larger employers involved in employee volunteering and it’s heartening to see SMEs on board too. Purpose HR, Ninja Kiwi and Wells Gibson are all giving their time to communities in really interesting ways.
They report that not only is employee volunteering helping charities and communities in need, it’s helping improve relations between their employees. At a time when many staff have disengaged from their employer and their own work after 18 months of remote working or being furloughed, volunteering helps them regain a sense of purpose and belonging. They’re giving back on work time, supported by their employer.
The following five tips will help you get your employee volunteering efforts underway:
Read the success stories
There are inspiring examples of how employee volunteering goes so much further than annual charity teambuilding days and ‘charity of the year’ donations. One-off contributions have no longevity and don’t improve company culture. Employee volunteering is sustainable and involves offering time and talent regularly.
Think outside the box
Give your employees access to a process or platform that allows them to seek volunteering opportunities that match their skillset, interests and passions. Find options to allow virtual as well as in-person placements – not everyone is comfortable with mixing again yet. As well as classic roles like shopping for the elderly, your employees could use their skills to help charities develop their PR or HR capability. Or help with tech or financial operations or befriend someone with a long-term illness on the phone each week.
Feed professional development
A bonus of employee volunteering is how it allows people to develop new skills, test out unused skills and network outside their usual workplace. Volunteering encourages people to meet new types and get involved. And, from a recruitment perspective, your capable and motivated employees are connecting with a whole new audience of people who might be interested in working with you one day!
Nurture employee wellbeing
Share recent case studies to emphasise how volunteering rekindles our sense of purpose. If someone’s working world has been turned upside down by the pandemic or they’re feeling flat after a chaotic (or uncomfortably quiet) year, volunteering is a great way to stay connected, stay active, feel useful and offer sought-after skills.
Boost workplace morale
Set up a regular time and (virtual) place for staff to share stories of their volunteering experiences, and involve the management team. It creates a real lift for people and brings a useful sense perspective and achievement back into the workplace. People feel better about themselves and their role at work, having made a huge difference outside of it. There’ll be a buzz in your team as people share what they’ve done and how they’ve helped!
In 2021 running a business has simply got to be about more than just profit. We hear much talk about social responsibility, but how many businesses and business leaders do we know who are really walking the walk and providing employee volunteering as a staff benefit? The public and employees increasingly demand more clarity and action from companies about their social impact.
And, as the ‘great resignation’ shows, they’re willing to walk away from companies that don’t meet their expectations. Employee volunteering is proof of putting your values into place.