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Most of us know that employee volunteering is a powerful force for supporting charity and social initiatives. And few would argue that it also provides business value by helping to improve employee engagement and skills development.
But does it, really? How do we know these things? Often, we don’t – at least not for sure. Many organisations invest considerable time and money into volunteering programmes, and while uptake is commonly tracked, many fail to make a proportionate effort to measure the value that the programme delivers. While the principle behind employee volunteering is clearly a good one, many companies are in the dark as to how the business is benefiting from the programme, or how they could be made more effective.
One reason for this is that measuring the social impact of volunteering – or the whole charity sector, for that matter – is inherently difficult. It doesn’t lend itself to charts, graphs and numbers, and relies heavily on the charity involved, who generally provide qualitative or anecdotal evidence. Solving that one has no easy answers. The value that volunteering provides to a business, however, can be easier to measure, and gives you some control over tracking and evaluating the success of your programme.
Here are three things to watch to help make sure your volunteering programme is producing real value for your business.
Employee Satisfaction and Engagement
Employee engagement is a key driver of productivity and employee retention, and as a result many companies regularly gather survey feedback to monitor how their employees are feeling about work. You should be gathering data from your employees who volunteer to find out about their individual experiences. However, try going one step further and asking how important volunteering is to their overall job satisfaction. Or, try comparing the job satisfaction of employees who volunteer with those that don’t. Metrics such as these will allow you to assess how much impact volunteering is having in employee engagement, and allow you to track improvements.
Companies and employees each have a range of skills to offer, from the relatively unskilled to the highly specialised or technical. You should decide what your skills strategy for volunteering is (which skills you want to develop and which are the most valuable to charities), and then track whether or not you’re hitting the right areas. Are your volunteering opportunities too heavy on soft skills, or are the specialist skills in your organisation being utilised to their full extent? If they are, you can also assume the charity is getting a lot of benefit, too.
Where volunteering fits in your overall CSR Strategy
Finally, it can be useful to keep track of how volunteering fits within your wider CSR strategy. For example, if a goal of your company is to achieve a reduction in food waste, perhaps you are encouraging employees to volunteer at food banks. If your volunteering programme is not related to your wider goals, try to think about how it could be used as a resource to help you achieve them. Keeping in mind where volunteering fits in your overall CSR strategy will allow you to ensure that it stays relevant.
Employee volunteering is good for its own sake, and, while anecdotal, the evidence for its positive impact on charities and their work is good. However, keeping an eye on the business results can help you justify your programme, and make sure that you’re getting the most value from your efforts as possible.