You may have witnessed a rise in volunteering and increased interest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) during the pandemic and concluded that now is the perfect time to support your team with an employee volunteering policy. Good thinking!
You’ve done your research, you know that the best policies allow paid time off to volunteer, offer flexibility, give employees the chance to choose which cause they want to support, and you’ve created a formal volunteering policy document.
You’ve taken all the right steps, and some of your team are excited to get involved. But why do others seem less interested?
The answer is simple – you need to embed volunteering in your company culture. It needs to feel like the most normal thing in the world to be doing.
Research shows that 1 in 5 employees will not be interested, but some barriers to employee volunteering can be easily overcome.
Here are three reasons why your employees might not be engaging – and here’s what you can do about it.
1. Lack of Communication
If your employees don’t know that your employee volunteering scheme exists, they definitely won’t participate! It may seem obvious, but SCVO’s 2019 Employer Supported Volunteering report found that around half of respondents said their employers did not ‘actively encourage volunteering’ and a further quarter did not know if their employer offered opportunities for volunteering.
It’s not enough to send out one email when you introduce a new volunteering policy or sign up to an employer supported volunteering platform, and to hope it’ll register with everyone. You need to think bigger.
Make time during team meetings to give an update on any volunteering activities and gently remind to staff to use their volunteering hours. Or create a volunteering area on your company’s intranet or relevant software for internal communications (Slack, Teams, etc.). If you’re in an office space, why not create a noticeboard where your team can (keeping a safe distance!) celebrate each other’s achievements and be reminded every day of your volunteering policy?
And it’s not just internal communications that make a difference. Posting externally about your company’s commitment to employee volunteering on social media not only spreads the word to your employees, many of whom follow company activities online, but it can help build your reputation with the wider public.
One of the benefits of a strong commitment to CSR is that it builds brand awareness and customer loyalty. Don’t be afraid to shout about your social impact and highlight the positive work of your employee volunteers online!
2. Lack of Understanding
Be open about what you’re hoping to achieve with your employee volunteering policy. Are you trying to become recognised as a purpose-led business by pursuing B-Corp accreditation, or looking to support employee mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, or helping your team with their personal and professional development by providing opportunities to gain new skills?
Let your employees know what your goals are and why it matters that you improve your social impact, and they’ll be more open to getting involved.
Another common barrier is a lack of clarity on how to get started. In your written volunteer policy, be clear about any approval and sign-off processes, as well as how much time employees are entitled to for volunteering activities, and make sure this document is widely accessible to all members of staff.
Be aware that people may feel discouraged to take time to volunteer if there are very few others in the organisation getting involved. They may fear being penalised or looked down upon for taking time away from work for these activities, even though it has been encouraged. You can mitigate this by publicly celebrating any volunteering activity that occurs, and perhaps even providing small incentives to get involved.
3. Lack of Ownership
Another very common barrier to involvement that we see is a lack of ownership in the organisation. Assigning a willing ‘champion’ within the organisation – someone who’s responsible for promoting and driving forward social impact activities on a daily or weekly basis – is the highest impact method to encourage engagement.
It’s a role that can be added to someone’s regular duties or split between a couple of employees if necessary. A Social Good Champion’s main responsibilities include regularly promoting social impact activities, speaking to colleagues to assess their feelings and hesitations towards employee volunteering, and acting as a go-between for higher level management and the wider teams. The Social Good Champion’s job title or seniority is less important than choosing someone who is confident and happy to speak to everyone on the team, and open to hearing and acting on their opinions. Ideally, they’d already be socially aware and enthusiastic about your potential impact on the community.
Finally, one of the most important (and often overlooked) ways to encourage engagement with employee volunteering is simply to say thank you. Don’t let any good deed go unnoticed and be sure to acknowledge the hard work and positive impact that your employees are making.
It could either be something simple, like an ‘employee volunteer of the month’ noticeboard, a shout-out on Slack, or a small ‘thank you’ message at the end of your next team meeting. Or it could be something bigger, such as a reward for ‘most committed volunteer’, or even a competition between departments about who can collectively volunteer the most hours.
Think outside the box, get creative, and most importantly – say thank you!
If you are having difficulty engaging your staff with your employee volunteering scheme and want to know how Social Good Connect can help you to build a strong culture of giving in your organisation, come and chat to one of our team or get in touch to tell us more! We’d love to hear how you’re doing.