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Jo Geraghty

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Engaging in volunteering

Date added: 17th Sep 2014
Category: Employee Engagement

For those businesses which encourage volunteering it is a win-win activity. Employees gain valuable skills which they can bring into the workplace and they appreciate the business offering them the chance to volunteer. This strengthens employee engagement levels which in turn brings benefits in terms of increased productivity, a reduction in employee turnover and increased customer satisfaction levels.

A speech by Andrew Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England shone an interesting spotlight on the value of volunteering. His premise was that volunteering not only provided value to the recipient but also to the provider and to the wider society.

The value matrix is hardly surprising given some of the statistics quoted by Mr Haldane.  Formal volunteering accounts for just over 2 billion hours per year; which means, according to Mr Haldane, that “there are around the same number of FTE volunteers in the UK as there are paid employees in the manufacturing, construction and real estate sectors combined.” Add in a further 1.7 to 2.1 billion hours provided by informal volunteers and total volunteering amounts to the equivalent of almost 10% of the total hours worked by UK paid employees.

Putting a monetary value on these hours is no easy task and Mr Haldane covers a number of possibilities in detail.  But his final conclusion is that volunteers could be contributing as much as £50 billion annually to the UK economy, equivalent to 3.5% of GDP.  But the volunteering story is not just about the numbers.  Those who volunteer also report personal benefits both in enhanced well being and in a reduction in health problems through enhanced social integration and engagement.

When it comes to employment, the value of volunteering cannot be underestimated.  A YouGov poll in 2010 revealed that 96% of managers believed that workplace skills can be gained from volunteering.  Subsequent surveys have reported that leadership, communication and teamwork skills can all be enhanced by between 65% and 80% thanks to volunteering.

With these benefits on offer, the only surprise is that some businesses have yet to dip their toes into the voluntary waters.  Creating the conditions which enable employees to volunteer can be as simple as offering employees paid ‘volunteer days’ or agreeing flexi-time working to free employees up to volunteer.  The Volunteering England website has some handy hints for employers who want to set up a volunteer programme.

In fact, With Generation Z on its way into the workforce, employers may find that in a few years time if they want to attract quality candidates they will have to look at volunteering as part of the overall mix.  This generation has already been identified as being far more socially responsible than previous generations.  They want to help the world and they will be looking for employers who offer them the chance to make a difference.  As employees or as customers, if the business doesn’t reflect the same level of social conscience that Generation Z people have then they will look elsewhere.

For those businesses which encourage volunteering it is a win-win activity.  Employees gain valuable skills which they can bring into the workplace and they appreciate the business offering them the chance to volunteer.  This strengthens employee engagement levels which in turn brings benefits in terms of increased productivity, a reduction in employee turnover and increased customer satisfaction levels.

As Andrew Haldane says, “volunteering is tightly-woven into the UK’s social fabric – a fabric which is large, diverse, international and potentially growing.”  Weaving volunteering into the fabric of business life can make a huge difference to the employee, the business and to society as a whole.

 

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