• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Corporate volunteering: Future of sustainability?


A successful year for most corporate organizations is often underlined by how healthy the profit margin for the fiscal year was. Make the shareholders very happy and everything is alright, but is it really?

How about a year in which employees feel like they are actually part of something meaningful, something life-changing; like their contributions were really making the dream impact in the lives of everyday people?

A survey conducted by Deloitte – Deloitte’s 2016 Impact Survey – found that prospective employees would be more inclined to join a company that are not just profit driven but seeks to change people’s lives positively.

Similarly, in the 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study, almost 75 per cent of employees said their jobs were fulfilling only when they were provided opportunities to make a positive impact at work. 51 per cent of employees said they would not work for a company that does not have strong commitment to creating positive social and environmental impact.

It is part of a growing trend, in which prospective employees seek more than a steady paycheck from their future employers. The job fulfilment determinant has gone beyond financially buoyancy to doing something seen as relevant and valuable to other people.

READ ALSO; Youth: The Power of Volunteering

What is corporate volunteering?

It is primarily a simple and effective way for businesses to contribute to the community. Usually, companies embarking on corporate volunteering give their employees an allowance of paid time off annually, which they use to volunteer at a charity of their choice.

For instance, employees of Access Bank Nigeria could be given a week day off their normal work that will be dedicated to giving back to communities of their choice in Lagos. They might decide to do it as a group or individually but each has to come back with evidence of having touched the life of a community or people they chose. This enables the employees to make a difference in as little as an afternoon, learn new skills and has incredible potential for community impact.

Corporate volunteering is not the same as when employees in their spare take part in charitable activities. Corporate volunteering rather is a structured company policy that not only supports employee’s own efforts but gives them the time and opportunities to do so.

Suska Dreesbach, the CEO of Volunteer Vision and the author of CSR and Corporate Volunteering notes that for professional training purposes, is based on the expectation that volunteering provides employees with opportunities to practice business-related skills in real-life situations, to adapt to unfamiliar audiences, as well as to explore new sectors.

Deloitte’s survey also found that skills-based volunteering presents an opportunity for employees to develop their professional and leadership skills, and often results in increased productivity, and ultimately increased employee retention.

In other words, it could be a major contributor to company’s sustainability. Notwithstanding it being voluntary, a significant number of big organizations are introducing it and are reaping the beneficial impact on the behavior of their employees. Its growth in the United States for instance has led to the formation of the Civic 50 – the fifty most community-minded US companies. 46 per cent of them has formally used community engagement activities for professional skill development purposes. Mars Incorporated, the company behind notable brands like Wrigley, M&M’s, and pet brand Pedigree, places high premium on volunteer programs for their associates. One of the programs they offer is the Mars Vounteer Program (MVP).

The European Community also promotes it with the Volunteering Awards which has clear guidelines for prospective recipients.

In Nigeria, a bank such as Access Bank Plc, a chief advocate of corporate volunteering, has gone as far as organizing an Employee Volunteering Awareness Day, which details all the community projects executed and completed by their employees.

How does corporate volunteering impact businesses?

One way corporate volunteering could impact a bank like Access Bank is increased collaboration among its employees. By working together to execute a project, employees can improve collaboration in the work place. This is quite unlike what an organization will get from having endless meetings. While volunteering the employees feel uninhibited to relate. At that point they are not competing for a position or gain favors, they are simply working together to change the course of life for an underprivileged. In essence, they are connecting on a human level, an opportunity you do not find in the office environment.

Another benefit of corporate volunteering is potential to change negative narrative or press against the company. Agreed, it may totally transform the company from a black to white, it does certainly help to give people a fresh perspective about an organization. According to the Pulse Survey, 40 per cent of a company’s reputation is determined by volunteering and corporate social responsibility.

Corporate volunteering also imbues a new sense of self-awareness in an employee that goes beyond just the volunteer experience. This awareness has an impact on decision making, the ability to coordinate and manage conflict. The awareness could come just from listening to a project recipient express their pains and tell their life stories.

Corporate volunteering is also becoming a major staple for attracting millennials for organizations. A Gallup report found that about half of millennials said they value things other than a fat paycheck when searching for a new job. They prioritized opportunities for growth and development ahead of big salaries. In other words, millennials are most likely to stay with an organization that has opportunities for development.

It is equally important to note that millennials are looking for opportunities to give back in tangible ways. The 2015 Millennial Impact report showed that 77 per cent of millennials want to donate skills rather than money. According to an expert, millennials are altruistically motivated, “They want to leave their world better than they found it.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers also noted in a recent study that 88 per cent of millennials gravitate toward companies with proven corporate social responsibility programs.

Finally, corporate volunteering also offers an opportunity for networking for employees. Mick Yates, a HR expert wrote “Corporate volunteering should be done with networking in mind. The opportunity is too valuable to miss. Naturally, volunteering provides so much more value than just adding contacts to the phone. That being said, the chance for networking to add value is unprecedented.”