A mainstay of the majority of Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives continues to be employee volunteerism. However, corporate volunteering initiatives frequently fall short of expectations in terms of levels of involvement.
While 89% of the organizations polled had employee volunteering programs, the recent Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP) Giving in Numbers Report showed that in 2021, participation in these programs would only be 17%. This level of interaction can and should be considerably higher.
The benefits for businesses that successfully manage employee volunteering are substantial in a competitive job market. Numerous studies have demonstrated that volunteer programs raise employee engagement, boost productivity, and enhance hiring and retention. For instance, a Cone Communications Millennial Employee Study indicated that 83% of millennials would be more committed to a firm that helped them make a difference in social and environmental concerns, and 64% of millennials won't accept a job if their employer doesn't have a strong CSR strategy. In addition, a Deloitte report indicated that 77% of the workers polled agreed that volunteering is crucial to improving employee wellbeing.
Employees express a desire to volunteer, in essence. But the majority aren't coming. The query is, "Why?"
Two plausible explanations exist, one conceptual and the other operational.
The conceptual hurdle is that many businesses have a transactional perspective on employee volunteerism. Volunteer activities frequently take the form of passive, irregular occurrences. Benefits for the corporation, organization, and personnel are transient and assessed by input/output (for instance, boxes of food delivered). Although the activity is unquestionably worthwhile, it only lasts for a little period of time, and the sensation of success is transient.
Social responsibility should, at its root, be transformative and purpose-driven rather than transactional. Employees should be aware of who they are assisting and why, and that purpose should be both authentically stated and clearly defined. Volunteering is one of the most practical ways to pursue a purpose since it requires you to speak up for something and then invite others to do the same.
The purpose of a volunteering effort should be to truly link workers with NGOs and the people they serve, not to accomplish a short-term goal. This entails considering volunteerism as a part of an ongoing story; an experience that fosters empathy and sustained commitment for all parties involved. Volunteer involvement is all about this concept of authenticity, of forging real connections and enduring relationships. Most importantly, these connections and this engagement are lasting; they will keep workers interested and motivate them to spread the word.
We now come to the operational obstacle.
The majority of volunteer programs fall short not for lack of effort or motivation, but rather because it's challenging to balance conflicting priorities, opportunities, and resources. Volunteer programs are often seen as transactional because for many businesses, that's all they are capable of becoming; the thought of a greater scope is scary. These operational issues may be solved by technology, allowing volunteer programs to grow.
Here are some detailed pointers:
1. Give staff power
Giving members a sense of ownership over (and involvement into) the process is the first step in making the experience meaningful. So that members feel they have a voice and a stake, get feedback at the planning stage. Utilize whatever connections or affiliations they may already have with organizations. Allowing employees to pick their volunteer team and choose activities they are passionate about will allow them to build relationships with their coworkers and introduce themselves to new members of the organization.
2. Loosen tension
People won't have a transforming experience if they are preoccupied with logistics or have little access to information. Clear information up front, such as a description of the activity and timetable, together with advice on what to dress and how to get there, helps eliminate ambiguity. Once more, technology may be useful in this situation by offering an unified portal for all sign-ups, logistical information, reminders, and monitoring of volunteer hours.
3. Address the motives
A transformative experience involves dialogue because it gives context and a framework for understanding both the current event and upcoming actions. What sets transformation apart from transaction is the why.
Make time for conversation before and after the event. This is your chance to discuss the motivations for and significance of this particular endeavor, as well as how employee actions will contribute. Having said that, don't speak exclusively; solicit input, permit staff members to express personal experiences, etc.
Two words of warning: Don't merely quote statistics, to start. Think on the human connection instead. Second, avoid pontificating or over-persuading since these behaviors could have the opposite of the desired outcome. You can have a discourse that offers folks the room to care about something without telling them to.
4. Appreciate connections and complexity
The goal of volunteering is not to create a perfect replica of reality. It opens a gateway to a deeper, more nuanced comprehension of society. Employees who are more engaged at work are more inclined to challenge preconceived notions, address bias or injustice, feel better about their work, etc. Be careful not to portray volunteers as heroes and beneficiaries as victims as part of that. Instead, concentrate on connections. Remind participants that everyone will occasionally play the role of both the helper and the person being helped.
5. Look for helpful tools
Getting back to the first subject: The practical and philosophical hurdles to successful volunteering. There are a million minor reasons to "simply miss this event," and employees are frequently unsure of the wider context (and hence not interested). Employee involvement will suffer if they have to go through emails, HR systems, and spreadsheets to locate what they need. They need a mechanism to interact with coworkers and managers about the programs and have access to all the information in one spot. This may be especially true in a bigger firm where some employees could believe it's too difficult to obtain the necessary information or offer input.
Although CSR technology platforms can't by any means address every issue, they can make it simpler to exchange information, go further into an opportunity, sign up, get reminders and details, connect with others, see who they're working with, measure results, and take time off to volunteer (VTO). In other words, make it easier for members to bond with one another and connect with the cause.
Volunteering offers a potent chance to increase engagement and alignment, and when done correctly, it can be a life-changing experience for everyone involved. However, the success of employee volunteer initiatives depends on strong participation. HR executives may see notable gains in this crucial CSR program by highlighting the genuine, purpose-driven goals and removing the operational roadblocks that stand in the way.