We all know how important it is to engage our employees and finding ways to do this is key to showing them that you are an employer who really does care.
At Social Good Connect, we work with many companies just like yours, who know that providing employee volunteering opportunities is one of the ways they can show that their organisation cares about their people, the community and their customers.
Why should you offer volunteering opportunities to your employees?
Have you asked your team if they already volunteer? You may find that many already volunteer in their own time. In 2017/18 20.1 million people volunteered in the UK alone, and these figures have remained pretty steady since 2001.
There are so many ways that people can volunteer their time to help others. Contributions range from formal volunteering with local groups or clubs, helping improve shared areas in the community, befriending and even virtual volunteering.
One thing you can be sure of though, is that volunteering matters.
It can improve physical and mental health. It strengthens social networks and bonds within and between communities, and can help to create experiences and connections that lead to better lives* (volunteering, health and wellbeing, Volunteer Scotland, December 2018).
Volunteering can be a life-changing experience and an important chance for employees to build new skills and take on new responsibilities.
How do you get started with employee volunteering?
Ok, so you’ve decided you would like to offer 3 days per annum volunteering for each employee – brilliant! Off they go into the volunteering sunset right?
Not so fast!
You still have to work on engaging with employees and encourage them to take up the volunteering opportunities you have offered. You need to be proactive in your approach to ensure that the team get involved.
So, how do you demonstrate that volunteering in the local community is a priority for your organisation?
Here are 5 ways you can encourage your team:
1. Let them know that they will be paid for their endeavours
First, make sure that you communicate to your employees that your organisation is providing paid time off for volunteering purposes.
Include the fact that you care about your team and the community in which you live, work and serve.
2. Show them where to start
How do you find volunteering opportunities locally? While some companies like to partner with a charity that aligns with their business goals and encourage their staff to contribute to this charity, this can be demotivating for employees who prioritise different causes.
It is a good idea to send out a survey or ask all staff members asking about their current volunteering habits and which charities they already give time to. In fact, over 70% of non-profits find word-of-mouth referrals to be the most effective recruitment tool.
Work out where your team’s passions lie and think about how you can help them make a bigger impact towards the causes they already support.
3. Create a focus group or sound board to allow employee engagement
How about drawing on your teams’ strengths:
- Does Susie draw in her spare time? Could she work with the local mental health charity doing art?
- Mary’s children have food allergies, could she make a list of allergy friendly suggestions for charities or community groups who support allergy sufferers?
- Mike spent years leading the football team as a teenager, could he get involved in supporting young people into sport?
With a little creativity, almost anything can become an opportunity!
Maybe as a company you can work towards supporting a different charity each quarter? Or perhaps you want to create a space where your employees can share information about the causes they care about through blogs or presentations?
Giving your employees more autonomy and bringing them into the decision making process shows that you respect their interests and see them as people with their own individual needs and passions.
4. Ensure there is something for everyone
Make sure there is a volunteering option for everyone.
Not everyone will be able to do physical tasks like painting or gardening. Seek out other opportunities such as reading to children or the elderly, writing, website coding, digital art, etc. Also consider mixing daytime opportunities with evening and weekend events.
Can you offer volunteer projects that can be done in a day or completed over the course of several months?
5. Recognise employees for work well done
Don’t let your employees’ volunteering efforts go without recognition. Track and reward volunteer work to make everyone feel appreciated as this will encourage others to join in.
- Take volunteering into account when doing annual appraisals. This would demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to employees and the community,
- Reward top volunteers by making donations to a charity of their choosing, or
- Have ‘volunteer of the month’ programmes or ‘volunteer appreciation day’, public recognition of their efforts across your intranet (maybe even a personal video message from the boss).
Recently, the Scottish Government released their “Volunteering for All” national framework. A report which informs the development of a Volunteering Outcomes Framework to support the critical role that volunteering plays in Scotland for volunteers, beneficiaries and wider communities. Read the report here.
Encouraging employees to volunteer may seem like hard work at first, but the benefits to your company, people and community are well worth it. Once you establish a culture of giving within your organisation, volunteering will become second nature.
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