Skills-based volunteering can boost employee engagement

Social prescribing, such as group gardening projects, can help to mitigate loneliness and mental ill health.
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With younger employees increasingly believing business should be a force for good, Bruce McCombie from Pilotlight looks at how skills-based volunteering could help drive engagement.

Let’s imagine the future workplace for a second. And no, I don’t mean hanging work pods, virtual reality rooms and communal allotments. I want to look beyond that and delve into the chief motivations of the future workforce, the things that will incentivise and motivate the Generation Zs of the world.

Right now, employee engagement is the biggest obstacle for employers, as revealed in a recent report from Cascade where nearly half of respondents cited employee engagement as their greatest challenge. Solving this issue will most likely fall within the remit of HR professionals.

This might seem like a scary task at first – boosting employee engagement is not easy – but times are changing. Employees are becoming increasingly aware of their social footprint and businesses need to shift focus when it comes to attracting and retaining staff. Achieving a healthy bottom line will always be critical to a company’s success, but it’s no longer enough; companies now need to cultivate a social purpose.

Greater diversity

Today’s workforce is more complex than ever before, with greater diversity in age and demographic, which ushers in a new set of challenges. The perks of the past – gym passes, dress down Fridays and other incentives – simply won’t cut it anymore.

Younger people expect their employers to take social responsibility seriously. Senior managers, in turn, need to become role models that emulate the behaviour and values of the future workforce. HR, as a result, needs to embrace this shift towards social responsibility when forming engagement and development strategies for employees.

This doesn’t mean holding a couple of bake sales a year to fundraise for a cancer charity of the company’s choice. This means embedding social responsibility into corporate culture and encouraging employees, no matter how junior or senior, to take part. Doing so can mean boosting employee engagement levels and making waves among local communities.

Skills-based volunteering

At Pilotlight, we believe in managed, skills-based volunteering programmes that recognise our business members are time-poor and skills-rich and the leverage effect of using those skills effectively. We use our expertise to match charities with business leaders, who coach the charity to plan for its sustainability, development and growth.

When a partnership is successful, the benefits are mutual. Business leaders can develop their skills outside their usual day-to-day environment, giving them renewed focus and perspective, both professionally and personally. And the charity can come away with a plan that will enable them to thrive.

To put the employee benefit into perspective, 79% of business participants reported higher job satisfaction after taking part in the programme last year and 70% said the initiative had complemented their career development.

In terms of delivering a meaningful benefit to charities, 98% of charity CEOs reported having a greater strategic vision after taking part in the programme and increased the number of people they helped by an average of 50%.

Appealing to the modern workforce

If businesses don’t wake up to the value of social responsibility, they could be set on a collision course that might cause their workforce to become further disengaged”

It’s also worth noting that this kind of charitable engagement doesn’t only help employees “give back”; it can have an immense impact on how people perceive a business, which can be incredibly powerful when it comes to driving business growth and appealing to the modern workforce. These days, companies need to stand for something bigger than themselves.

Businesses need to recognise that in order to prosper, society needs to prosper. This involves embedding social purpose within the fabric of the business and understanding corporate social responsibility isn’t a box-ticking exercise. It’s a way to bring about meaningful change and help staff develop their skills and become more invested in their work.

If businesses don’t wake up to the value of social responsibility, they could be set on a collision course that might cause their workforce to become further disengaged.

While purpose on its own cannot ensure the retention of a business’s workforce, it can help increase an employee’s awareness of the company’s values and mission, which can ultimately secure their commitment for the future.

Bruce McCombie

About Bruce McCombie

Bruce McCombie is deputy chief executive of Pilotlight, an organisation that links business leaders with charitable organisations.
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