Today we saw an interesting announcement about employee volunteering, suggesting that a future Conservative government would pass a new law that would require public sector employers and companies with more than 250 employees to give staff up to three days a year to do voluntary work.
We recognise that employee volunteering can be challenging for many employers and therefore look forward to understanding more of the detail, but potentially this could be a great thing for not only charities and local communities, but also employers and their employees.
For over thirty years we have worked alongside business to tackle a wide range of issues that are essential to creating a fairer society and a more sustainable future. In a large part, this has been powered by employee volunteers and last year 67,000 of them provided 500,000 hours enabling our work to take place.
Approximately 70% of FTSE 100 companies already have a volunteering programme, but when you look outside of larger businesses, the picture is very different. Only twenty per cent of medium-sized businesses offer volunteering to their employees (Demos 2014). From an initial understanding of the proposals, these medium sized businesses would not be affected by the change in the law, but creating a wider culture of volunteering within society could be a challenge.
A survey by vInspired (2014) found that over half of managers were concerned about the financial and time costs of allowing their employees to volunteer. They also found that less than 4 in 10 managers rated their organisation as good or very good at supporting staff to volunteer. At the same time a survey by Demos for the Scouts found that at least 58% of employees are likely to volunteer if they received support from their employer.
The business case for employee volunteering is overwhelming and numerous studies have shown a range of benefits including:
- Reputation and credibility: 75% of the public now believe that it is either very important or absolutely essential for companies to act in a socially responsible way (The Social Market Foundation 2011). Research from CSV demonstrates that 88% of consumers are more likely to buy from a business that visibly supports and engages in activities to improve society.
- Recruitment and staff retention: According to the Corporate Leadership Council employees who are most engaged with their employer perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organisation. A recent PwC study (2014) found that more than half of recent college graduates are seeking a company that has corporate social responsibility values that align with their own, and 56 percent would consider leaving a company that didn’t have the values they expected.
- Staff morale and work performance: Employee Volunteering increases morale, commitment and performance, driving benefit straight to the bottom line. Employees actively engaged in community programmes are more satisfied in their work, with 85% saying their perception of their company had improved and 71% of employees citing volunteering programmes as key to improving personal well-being (YOUGOV 2010).
- Training and development: In a 2010 YOUGOV survey, 96% of managers believe that workplace skills can be gained from volunteering, 57% of managers feel that skills gained from volunteering can help fill gaps in the workplace. A 2014 report from the CIPD clearly highlights the ‘double benefit’ of volunteering and identifies ten key skills and behaviours that are developed including coaching and mentoring, confidence, communication, team-building, self-awareness and creativity.
- Local connections: Volunteering demonstrates a visible commitment to local communities. These communities are made up of current and potential customers, suppliers and employees. Building strong relationships with these local stakeholders can translate into clear benefits in the form of stronger supply chains, access to a wider pool of talent and consumer engagement.
This growing body of evidence has meant that we see many of our Members integrating employee volunteering into their Learning and Development strategies and those employers that have successfully set up volunteering programmes are reaping the rewards.
Waitrose donate 75,000 paid hours a year for staff to give their time and skills to support local good causes. For a retailer, the levels of engagement that this generates among staff and the relationships built in the communities where their customers live and work are invaluable.
PWC focus on developing a mix of activities to offer their people. This level of choice leads to approximately a third of their workforce volunteering. Within the opportunities available to staff, they favour those that use their professional skills, and in the last year 53% of volunteering was in this area. Having invested a lot of their time and expertise in measurement they know that this balance of activity is leading to greater satisfaction among employees that volunteer and they feel that it has contributed to their professional development.