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Volunteering tips

Corporate social responsibility – or, as an employer, engaging in activities that benefit the wider community – is a win-win-win proposition, if done well. Why three ‘wins? For the community, for your employees (who are honing their skills by doing it) and for you, the employer that ends up with a more skilled and committed workforce.

Volunteering

Sounds good? Yes, but those benefits only accrue when the specific activity is managed properly. Take volunteering, for example. Volunteering (or employer-supported volunteering, to give it a more descriptive name) involves employees taking paid time off to work for the communal good, e.g. supporting a charity or a local community group, say. A new report from the CIPD acknowledges that reaping the benefits of volunteering (remember those three ‘wins?) takes some effort and strategy. Helpfully, it outlines 10 tips which will help any employer get it right.

Top ten tips

  1. Top down – if the boss and senior managers / board don’t support volunteering, nobody will take it seriously, even if they want to. Lead from the front and get a senior body or two involved.
  2. Set your policy – how many days of paid time off do you want each employee to have for volunteering? Be flexible (one size rarely fits all) but do give everyone the same opportunity to take part.
  3. Choose the right beneficiaries – choose which charities and organisations to help based on which fit best with the goals and values of your company.
  4. Choose the right beneficiaries (part 2) – equally, remember that the volunteers’ preferences are a factor too (they’ll feel more committed to helping an organisation if they’re personally interested in what that organisation is aiming to do) so try to offer a choice.
  5. Sell your successes – sometimes people need to hear a success story or two before they can join in; telling the whole workforce how volunteering is working can encourage more take up.
  6. Champions – to encourage people to participate, it helps to have a human face or two and not just anonymous corporate messages. A champion is an influential individual (not necessarily senior), committed to the idea of volunteering, and with personal experience to share.
  7. Communicate widely – with both employees, customers and the wider world, let people know what you’re doing and how you’re making a difference. Successful volunteering can really boost your brand and public perception of you as a company.
  8. Don’t waste the learning – one of the main pluses of supporting volunteering is that employees apply and hone their work skills in a new environment, with you the employer benefiting from a more skilled workforce. You can encourage this to happen by linking volunteering to whatever formal systems you have in place for learning and development; e.g. if you use personal development plans and learning targets, then include the volunteering in that process.
  9. Mention it when recruiting – volunteering can be a plus point to jobseekers. Attract the best candidates by mentioning your volunteering commitments in your advertising and by giving credit for skills developed during unpaid activities.
  10. Evaluate! – like any other learning opportunity, the volunteering experience is more beneficial when properly reviewed, with the feedback being used to improve how you manage the process.
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