Introducing an employee volunteering programme is a great way for employers to support staff wellbeing and mental health and bring about social impact in their local community. But you are unlikely to get full employee engagement. It isn’t as simple as signing up to a volunteering platform, firing off a team email, and expecting everyone to get stuck in. Embedding a culture of volunteering takes time and effort, and results won’t happen overnight!
Our research shows three reasons why employees don’t sign up straight away.
1. They don’t know about it
Quite simply, they don’t know about their employer’s commitment to helping the community. When introducing an employee volunteering policy, communication is king.
But sending a couple of emails out to the team and hoping they’ll digest the existence and value of your volunteering offer is probably wishful thinking. The team is always uber-busy, emails get lost in inboxes, and often get skimmed rather than properly understood.
Create a space
Carving out a regular timeslot to promote and share your commitment to employee volunteering, and your aims for the new programme, could become an upbeat fixture on your weekly team agenda. Social Good Champions and early active volunteers can share reasons for getting involved, placement successes and personal inspiration stories. In a pre-Covid world, a noticeboard in a prominent part of the office would have worked too, but homeworking means we all have to be a little more creative.
Some businesses who’ve signed up with Social Good Connect have created a Slack or Teams channel dedicated to social responsibility. They encourage their team to share updates, success stories, ideas for community impact, and news of lesser-known causes that might need support.
An all-important part of our partnership with the companies who come on board is a ‘Lunch and Learn’ webinar (remote working means that these sessions are currently a lot more ‘learn’ than ‘lunch’ but you get the drift!).
This workshop is a chance to get the whole team together to discuss employee volunteering and inspire fellow team members about the difference it can make. It brings alive the benefits and opportunities of volunteering and it’s a great forum for answering questions and concerns from anyone still on the fence.
2. They don’t understand the ‘why’
Why should your staff care that you’ve signed the organisation up to a volunteering platform? What’s in it for them? They’re already exceptionally busy, some already volunteer in their own time and others may have never given community work a second thought.
Well, this is a great chance to make them aware that non-profit groups and charities in your community are in urgent need of support and that you need your team’s help to bring about tangible social impact. Not only is your ‘why’ about supporting overstretched and under-resourced charities; it’s just as much about supporting your team’s emotional and mental wellbeing in a meaningful way, especially while many homeworkers are feeling increasingly isolated.
The more people you get involved and the more they create impact and offer feedback, the more it can inform the onward development of your social responsibility strategy. There are so many reasons to get involved with employee volunteering, so let your team know yours!
Again, communication is king. If your team understands why your organisation cares so much about employee volunteering and what you’re trying to achieve, they may be more open to getting involved.
While many companies choose a ‘charity of the year’ and encourage staff to support them in volunteering or fundraising activities, it’s worth considering the importance of individual choice. Each person in your team has their own passions, skills, interests and causes close to their heart. Any employee volunteering programme that doesn’t take that into account runs the risk of alienating potential supporters.
If the goal is to support your people and your community, we encourage businesses partnering with Social Good Connect to make sure their team know that they have the flexibility to volunteer for whatever cause they like, and even to recommend non-profits to us who are not already Social Good Connect partners. This has the double impact of giving autonomy and choice to employee volunteers and reaching those (often smaller) charities who are responding to a wide variety of important issues in the community, and who may not have as much awareness or support as larger charity brands.
3. Perceived overload – volunteering is seen as additional, unmanageable work
Feeling ‘too busy already’ is a common barrier to involvement with employee volunteering. If you haven’t communicated the context and the benefits, busy employees are unlikely to volunteer just because they’ve officially been ‘given’ a couple of hours a month to volunteer during work time.
It’s important to stress that your company’s employee volunteering programme isn’t compulsory. The personal benefits of volunteering are greatly reduced when it’s not under your own free will! But if enough team-mates share their volunteering stories, the sense of purpose and personal (as well as community) reward will speak for itself.
Presenteeism (employees feeling the need to ‘show up’ for work or put in ridiculous hours even when they’re sick or simply not contracted to) is another barrier to employee volunteering. In some organisations, even though each employee has a number of volunteer hours that they’re entitled to take, they may fear a perception among colleagues that they’re ‘slacking’ if they take these hours. This is a company culture issue, and again, communication and leading by example is king.
Not all volunteering has to be physical or face-to face. There are many virtual volunteering opportunities out there that often only require around half an hour of commitment at a time. Telephone befriending, for example, is a quick and easy way to brighten someone’s day and provide meaningful impact without having to leave your desk. Using your professional skills to help with charity PR, accounting, or website development projects is another great way to help remotely.
Employee volunteering may not be for everyone, but ensuring that your whole team knows how to get involved, and why they should care, might just be the nudge that introduces a few more people to the joys of giving back.
If you‘d like to know more about how Social Good Connect partners with and supports businesses to get their team onboard with employee volunteering, give our Business Engagement Manager, Sarah a shout here, or send us a quick email – we’d love to help you make a difference in your community and increase your social impact!