Volunteering: How Employers can Empower The Workforce and Enhance Workplace

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Should Employees be volunteering
Photo Credits - Annie Spratt via Unsplash

The rise of social consciousness has pushed employer-supported volunteering (ESV) to become a crucial part of improving employee engagement. With significant societal events happening, the focus and perspectives of employees have shifted – and more employees have expressed the desire to give back and make an impact.

The search for better work-life balance has driven employees to seek employers who can suit their career as well as their personal passions – including giving back to the community. Many companies have taken this opportunity to incorporate ESV as a platform for employees to actualise these desires, as well as contribute to their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.

This has various effects – both positive and negative – for companies as well as their employees. Knowing the benefits and pitfalls of ESV can help employees decide if they should take part in volunteering.

What is Employer-supported Volunteering (ESV)?

Companies have initiated ESV to support employees in their passions for community and social impact. According to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), ESV is where employers provide their employees with the opportunity to volunteer during working hours. Companies have done this by granting volunteering leave.

This practice has been in development for some time now – as mentioned in an article in the Journal of Management, close to 90% of companies in 2006 supported employee volunteering in some fashion. However, events that have happened in more recent years have spiked the interest in volunteering further – with various multinational companies encouraging their employees to volunteer for local communities.

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ESV programmes have proven to be beneficial in some respects and have continued to be improved and studied over time.

How Can ESV Benefit Employees?

Many researchers have studied ESV and its impact. It is an accepted notion that ESV can contribute positively to employees, which in turn will benefit the organisation they are employed in. Among the benefits, the main thing that has been seen to come from ESV is the development of skills.

Skills that have been shown to develop from ESV include:

  • Negotiation, relation and listening skills
  • Communication skills
  • Stress management, time management and prioritisation
  • Accountability and assessment reporting
  • Budgeting skills

Other than skills, ESV has shown to be useful for the further development of employees in various aspects which include:

  • Increased respect for diversity and understanding of others
  • Heightened sense of innovation when approaching problems
  • Amplified calculation when risk-taking
  • Increased positive outlook that channels empowerment

These benefits show that ESV can create positive contributions to employees, which in turn will benefit their employers. However, inadequate ESV frameworks can cause a new array of problems to arise.

What are the Potential Pitfalls of ESV?

Although it is generally accepted that ESV brings various impacts in favour of employees and employers, it is important to note that improper practices and superficial motivations can lessen the benefits of ESV.

In an article within the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, there was a focus on the motivation that drives employees to volunteer. It is known that employees are motivated to volunteer due to their own personal interests, and not because of their employer’s wishes.

Companies implementing ESV to increase their brand image have the danger of not having genuine interests in supporting social action, community impact and employee development.

Employees have expressed that they do not see the benefit of volunteering further as their employers assign them the same amount of work – even though they were allocating some of their working hours for volunteering. This demotivates employees as they do not want to be overloaded with more responsibilities.

The benefits of ESV have shown that employees should be supported to volunteer. However, proper implementation is needed to avoid ESV serving as a superficial way for companies to exploit employees for increasing their own brand image in society. If proper ESV programmes are in place within a company, more employees will be motivated to participate – creating a range of positive impacts for the community, themselves as well as their employers.

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