Promoting a culture of “Employee Volunteering” in organizations

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Social responsibility is the duty of every individual. Corporates are no exception. Most of the organizations realize its importance and are trying their best to create a framework and formulate policies and SOPs to make it a more structured program.   

“Employee volunteering, when collectively practiced by everyone in an organization, strengthens employee satisfaction and creates better relationship with the stakeholders”

Employee volunteering generally happens as part of the CSR activities that are being conducted by the organization. Volunteering for such activities keeps the employees more engaged which proves quite beneficial to the organization.  Several studies have shown that there is a strong linkage between such CSR / Socially Responsible activities and employee engagement.  

As per a Study of ‘Employee Participation’ in CSR activities and Its Impact on Employee Engagement’ published in International Journal of Management and Social Sciences Research (IJMSSR), employees are not participating in CSR for their personal benefits or because it is included in their KRA or for earning more points in the performance appraisal, but for the following three motivating factors:

  • To support organization in working for the betterment of the community (78%)
  • Employees enjoy doing something different than the routine job. (74%)
  • They feel more connected with the organization when they participate in CSR. (73%)

Requirements of a good Employee Volunteering Program:

Over the last couple of years, Employee Volunteering has not only gained momentum in terms of increased contribution, but also getting integrated into the core business.    Employees too want to see a sense of purpose and seek fulfillment beyond their jobs by participating in volunteering programs. 

Though one time activities like visiting government schools, clean-and-green programs, distributing cloths books, taking up training sessions etc., are important, activities that are impact driven, sustainable and innovative are also required for building a culture of volunteering. 

Organizations that have some schemes, policies, processes and methods to incorporate employee volunteering as part of employee routine not only support the aspirations of employees to contribute to a better cause, but also gives them time and option to choose from variety of programs.    Thus, a few things to take care of while designing Employee Volunteering Program are:

  • Policy: When there is a policy that drives employee volunteering, it becomes more focused rather than confined to some individual contributors who are passionate about this whole thing
  • Giving Time off: Only when there is a provision of taking time off can employees leave their busy schedule and wholeheartedly choose and contribute to an activity
  • Awareness: Sometimes employees may want to contribute to a social cause, however may not be aware of the opportunities.  Hence, creating awareness will create momentum and bridge the gap for them to come forward in making a choice.  
  • Choice: An ideal volunteering program should give employees enough choice in terms of the number of programs, kinds of activities etc., to select from, so that one can opt for programs depending on their comfort level, interest and inclination. 
  • Planned activities: If there is a ready-made platter available with all kinds of programs where employees have the option to choose from, their time and efforts are put to greater use.     
  • Customize: Customize the program so that everyone can contribute as per availability of time, vicinity and interest
  • Skill based programs: Programs can be designed based on skill sets of the employees. For example: IT professionals taking classes on digital literacy in government schools, Pharma employees collaborating with hospitals to take up health awareness sessions etc.
  • Flexibility: There should be flexibility for employees to contribute towards any initiative, anytime and anywhere, depending on the time at their disposal. 
  • Scalability: At any point in time, employees, individually or collectively, should be able to scale up the activities, enhancing the overall experience. 
  • Repeatability: The programs should be designed in such a way that it gives opportunity to employees to participate again, so that a general mood and momentum is created across in a sustainable way. 
  • Lead by example: Leadership participation gives the required impetus to the other staff in the department to come forward and take part in activities. 
  • Impact: The focus of the activity can be for a particular cause which will impact either individual, family, community or the society at large.  Measuring the impact will help to know how the organization has progressed in volunteering over a few years.
  • Rewards and Recognition: When employees fulfil the required number of hours as per policy and go beyond the expectations and requirements for employee volunteering, there should a platform to recognize such efforts.   This could create ripple effect that will lead to enhanced participation. 

Once policy and processes are introduced, a few steps in the right direction would help organization to ramp up as well as maintain the culture of volunteerism. 

  1. Keep the momentum on for a longer period of time
  2. Making this part of employee goal sheets, to create a discipline
  3. Create online platforms for awareness of opportunities and registering for volunteering including app, portals, etc.
  4. Periodic monitoring and evaluation of programs, activities and participation
  5. Visibility and participation of leadership team
  6. Have surveys to gauge the level of involvement and impact created through various programs
  7. Sharing success stories
  8. Showing / making them believe that, every action, however small, makes a significant impact

Employee Volunteering is thus becoming one of the most important tools of engagement as it creates a healthy motivated workforce, helps them to relate company values and culture, drives performance at the same time making a difference to the lives of the communities.   

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