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Permission key for employee volunteering

By Amanda Powell-Smith

4 June 2015

Volunteers Week is an important celebration. Over 20 million people chose to volunteer at least once a month; they provide critical support for charities, community groups and other not-for-profit organisations and in return, are rewarded by making a difference.

It’s a big number, but it should be bigger.

If you look at the corporate responsibility commitments of any major employer today, it is likely to include paid leave to support local charities. And if you look at the level of take up, it is likely to be less than 30% of employees.

The Conservative Party made an election pledge to give all public sector workers, and anyone working in a company with more than 250 staff, three days paid leave a year to volunteer but without a proper scheme within that employer and support of the senior management, it will have limited impact.

Combining volunteering and work is challenging from both a practical and emotional sense. Employees need more than ‘the right’ to help a local charity before they leave their desk – they need permission and inspiration.

Line managers hold the power to encourage much more employee volunteering and, as the corporate responsibility and employee wellbeing agendas start to collide, it is exciting to see how organisations are increasingly encouraging their colleagues to develop their skills and build their own sense of wellbeing while also benefiting a social cause and organisation.

From hands-on senior leadership involvement to linking volunteering with learning and development schemes and using it as part of appraisal processes, progressive employers such as KPMG and Astellas Pharma Europe are reaping the benefits of engaged staff alongside the charities themselves. Volunteering can never be a one way transaction – and with employee volunteering, it needs to be a win-win-win for the volunteer, the charity and the employer.

So this week, I am celebrating with the line managers who lead their staff into the community to make a real, rewarding and relevant difference. Happy Volunteers Week to everyone.