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Employer Supported Volunteering or ESV is all the rage with big business, but what’s the reality for smaller organisations?

Allowing employees to use worktime to volunteer for good causes has traditionally been seen as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The tried and tested formula is the team challenge, where staff leave the workplace to go paint a community centre or clear litter from a park. In short a nice neat chance to ‘give something back’ and create some good local PR vibes with maybe a few soft team-building benefits for the business. 

But things are changing, a 2015 CIPD report pointed out that Employer Supported Volunteering (ESV) could be a valuable way to invest in staff learning and development, with wider community benefits and a boost to corporate image as an added bonus. In fact around 70% of FTSE 100 companies have established ESV programmes. 

A richer experience builds better skills

Volunteering Kirklees have found that when people get the chance to use their professional skills in a different setting they can gain a lot; gains that they will bring back to the business. For example, a firms’ IT specialist helping a community organisation to sort out antiquated software, will need to use communication-skill muscles that might not have been stretched for a while. A different setting with different goals can hone existing or new skills.

What can ESV look like for small businesses? 

We’ve boiled things down to a list of four:
1. Workshops to inform – offering specialist knowledge, such as a quick guide to health and safety laws, to local community organisations in an hour-long session. Sometimes a good way to dip your toe into ESV.
2. Know-how in a new setting – sharing skills can take many forms, from designing an accounts system to mentoring care leavers to you name it. This one is about knowing what you want to achieve and finding a partner organisation that shares your values.
3. Short chunks of time – many organisations need extra person power at certain times. It could be as little as an hour out of an employees day once a week, month or year.
4. Team challenge – a clear goal, a limited amount of time and team spirit to build.

What are the challenges?

Making ESV happen takes time and that needs to be recognised up front. Long before weighing up the thorny issue of how much staff working time you want to allocate to it you’ll need to be clear about what you want ESV to achieve for you.

There are ‘broker’ organisations operating across West Yorkshire. Working with a broker can help ensure that expectations on both sides of the relationship can match reality. It’s also vital that leaders in the business believe that ESV is a worthwhile thing to do. That it has worth in terms of skill development and boosting staff morale as well as giving back and being one of the good guys.

Find out more at the Volunteering Kirklees website.