8 May 2015

Why should businesses consider a corporate volunteering scheme?

Are corporate volunteering schemes just an expensive extra, or do they have tangible business, as well as community, benefits? We look at the advantages companies can gain from having a scheme in place.

Corporate volunteering is increasingly popular, with an estimated 70% of companies offering paid time off for voluntary work, and companies like IBM, Unilever and PwC operating high-profile volunteering schemes. In the light of this, many organisations will be wondering whether to follow suit. The question is, is it worth it?

What is corporate volunteering?
Corporate volunteering involves allowing employees to use a certain number of work days each year to take part in community activities. These can be hands-on tasks like building fences, decorating community venues or clearing riverbanks, or skills-based activities like training, business mentoring or employability schemes.

The business benefits of corporate volunteering
Research shows that allowing employees to do voluntary work can benefit businesses as well as charities and community organisations.

The CIPD looked at companies that encourage employee volunteering. It concluded that volunteering can have benefits for businesses if they link schemes to staff development. It can also have a longer-term effect on an organisation’s success if integrated into the company’s learning and development strategy.

These findings are echoed in a report by The City of London Corporation. It commissioned Corporate Citizenship to look into the volunteering experience of employees of 16 City of London businesses. Most of the respondents, all of whom had volunteered in education, said volunteering had helped them develop competencies relevant to business.

Volunteering and skills development
Carrying out voluntary work can help employees develop skills in a number of areas:

  • Leadership and coaching: volunteering will often put employees in coaching and mentoring roles. 70% of Business in the Community employee volunteers said that taking part helped them develop their leadership and decision-making skills, while 85% of the executive volunteers questioned by business charity Pilotlight said volunteering improved their coaching skills, 87% also report that it made them more aware of alternative leadership styles.
  • Team building: having strong, bonded teams is important for all businesses. Working together on a volunteer project can help teams cohere.
  • Communication skills: the City of London volunteers reported that volunteering had helped them develop the ability to communicate clearly with a wide range of people.
  • Adaptability: volunteers will need to work effectively in environments that are often very different to the ones they are used to. This can help them in adapting to different work situations.
  • Developing empathy/understanding: according to the City of London study, 99% of volunteers taking part in mentoring programmes reported that their understanding of and empathy with other people had increased.
  • Engaging employees: according to a report by MGSM CSR Partnership Network, employees taking part in corporate volunteering have higher job satisfaction levels than those who do not volunteer and are more engaged with their employer. 
  • Attracting employees: Millennials in particular are attracted to employers whose CSR activities mirror their own values – see our report on turning a company into a talent magnet. A study by Bentley University also shows that 84% of this generation of employees believe ‘making a difference’ is more important than professional recognition. 
  • Impact on happiness and wellbeing: 89% of the business executives surveyed by Pilotlight said volunteering improves both happiness and wellbeing at work. When the University of Exeter reviewed data on volunteering it found that volunteers experienced lower levels of depression than non-volunteers, as well as enhanced wellbeing and higher levels of general life satisfaction.












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