Volunteering has never felt more necessary. With COVID-19, Brexit, the environmental crisis and ongoing social injustice, it can seem overwhelming to know how to work together to solve these modern challenges and the issues they create.
Time off for volunteering is something that most employees look favourably on, yet many companies are still slow to offer time for altruistic activities as part of a paid benefits package.
Over 60% of UK employees don’t get paid days off in order to volunteer, something that is starting to change. For public sector organisations in England and Wales with over 250 employees, ‘Volunteering Time Off’ is paid for by the government in a recent initiative.
We believe volunteering is a net positive for society - a win-win on both sides of the table.
The benefits of volunteering go far beyond that warm little glow in your heart that leaves you feeling lovely - it’s something that can transform who you are at the core of your being.
Millennials are the first to actively seek employers who can allow them to volunteer:
“Many studies have found that millennial generation employees want to work for a company that’s also doing social good and contributing back to the community. They want to be part of an organisation that has values and a mission to help the world. To them, it’s not just a job. Who they work for represents who they are” - Guardian Business
Implementing a successful volunteer program in your business can be a fine art. Here’s some inspiration from companies that are well-versed in doing good for others.
Examples of company volunteer programs
Accenture, one of the leading global professional services companies, is leading the way when it comes to paid volunteer time, or as they like to call it, Employer Supported Volunteering, or ESV.
They know their staff are passionate, ambitious, and motivated. And in today’s hectic modern world, staff haven’t got tons of time to devote to volunteering. So they use an approach called ‘micro volunteering’:
"Micro-volunteering", as it’s known, allows employees to dedicate as little or as much time as they like to support their cause, and at a time that suits them. This approach helps society, empowers our employees and enhances our ability to attract and retain the next generation of talent.” - Accenture
The company offers different types of volunteering depending on the individual's availability. They’ve even partnered with the Prince’s Trust to offer mentoring, so staff can mentor a young person online as part of their volunteering efforts.
The UK arm of Japanese office equipment manufacturer, Ricoh, sells copiers, printers, digital cameras and office supplies. They offer staff two paid days a year for volunteering projects.
They see employee volunteering schemes as a single investment with multiple points of leverage - including brand value, attracting and retaining talent, fostering community cohesion, and minimising the impact on the environment
Some of the activities staff have carried out include litter picking, tree planting, offering CV workshops in schools, painting a primary school premises and improving a community garden.
They’ve also launched their own charity and volunteer events, raising money for different charities. Volunteering can take many forms - one such project is allowing staff to man the call centre at Children In Need, taking donations on the night.
Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia has a pretty bold approach to volunteering. Employees from all parts of the company are allowed up to two months away from their regular roles to work for the environmental group of their choice while continuing to earn their paycheque and benefits.
This may seem like a lengthy amount of time - but Patagonia believes they reap the benefits that fall directly in line with their commitment to environment sustainability:
“‘When interns return, they bring back stories, inspiration and a new commitment to our environmental mission.” - Patagonia
This kind of commitment may not be feasible for your business right now. But sometimes it’s good to be a trailblazer, flying the flag for what’s possible in the world of employee volunteer programs.
Structuring a volunteer scheme
It’s clear to see why a paid volunteer scheme is a great way to get kudos as a recruiter over other similar businesses, as well as contributing to the health of society.
If you’re champing at the bit to do something similar for your staff, it’s relatively easy to get cracking.
One approach could be partnering with a local charity, so that they have a wealth of helpful hands on board to support their cause.
To make the scheme feel seamless, incorporate volunteering days into your paid leave. So you might offer 25 days paid leave, along with a couple of days volunteering leave, to use however they wish.
You could even offer volunteering as an incentive for paid leave - meaning that for every hour of time they offer to help others, they get one free holiday hour back. A tempting choice for many employees - but one that would need to be carefully managed in a large organisation.
In terms of the red tape, most volunteer organisations require the candidate to be DBS checked and vetted - you’ll score extra brownie points as a recruiter if you can absorb some of that cost.
It’s wise to create a policy for volunteering, so staff know exactly what they’re signing up to.
If you’re looking to attract an engaged and enthusiastic workforce, implementing a volunteer scheme is a no-brainer, as the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial setup.
Thanks to writer Kerry Needs for her input on this article.