Many employers see volunteering as a way to boost team dynamics and give something back. Skills-based volunteering takes this one step further and offers mutual gain for both the employees who offer their time and those who benefit from their skills and ideas. Bev Frain explains.
In today’s financial climate, organisations are increasingly trying to do more with less.
Opportunities to engage, develop and retain talent can be challenging to find in this environment, but the right volunteering opportunities can both enable employees to develop new skills and make a meaningful contribution to society.
Skills-based volunteering programmes, such as Talent Matters by Volunteering Matters, match professional volunteers with charities who will benefit from their professional advice and expertise.
Ambitious employees, keen to test their abilities in new environments and expand their networks, welcome these opportunities.
While many employers still value team volunteering days for their capacity to boost staff morale and make a tangible difference to communities, skills-based volunteering has become increasingly popular.
In the 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey: Building Leadership Skills through Volunteerism, 82% of recruiters said that they would be more likely to choose a candidate with volunteer experience on their CVs.
The study also revealed a preference for skills-based volunteering, as it is viewed as an excellent way to develop strong leadership skills.
More than nine in 10 recruiters also agreed that volunteering improves employees’ broader professional skill set.
This type of volunteering can also help staff develop and demonstrate flexibility. Since charities face an increasingly tight funding environment, volunteers’ creative ideas can add significant value.
Through working with charities to find solutions to their organisational challenges, volunteers learn how to manage change by understanding their core strengths and learning how to apply them effectively.
Skills-based volunteering can also broaden employees’ perspectives on life, boost their self-esteem and help them to develop strong character traits.
Great employees know how to consider the views of others while standing up for their own ideas; skills-based volunteering can help them develop this skill and make decisions in a confident, balanced and thoughtful manner.
Working with charities can also enhance creativity by testing employees’ skills in a different context and environment.
For example, Volunteering Matters and National Grid run Good Leaders, which recruits volunteers to support charities with a project, which could be anything from developing a communications or business plan to coming up with a fundraising strategy or a new website.
This is not pro bono work – the volunteers do not complete the work for the charities. Rather, they act as “critical friends” who support and guide.
The volunteers have to adapt their skills to a completely different set of resources and challenges, which leads to a new way of learning.
The 2014 CIPD report, Volunteering to Learn explored the link between volunteering and skill development, and found that volunteering provides a viable alternative to traditional forms of employee development.
In an age where cross-cultural working is highly prized, the report found a clear link between employees volunteering and developing a wider perspective about their world and their community.
It highlighted that in some instances employers recognise that a volunteering experience might actually be more effective than a formal diversity training programme.
Volunteering within an employability or education setting can also help employees to become more self-aware about their own goals and aspirations. Talking to others about their future careers can help employees reaffirm why they enjoy working in their sector.
And let’s not forget the massive personal benefits that can be gained through volunteering and how it provides an excellent opportunity to build networks and relationships both internally and externally.
Skills matter in the workplace, of course, but who we are as people is just as important. Careers are enhanced through the development of positive personal attributes such as empathy and curiosity.
Whether employees are at the start of their career or are more established, there is strong evidence to indicate that volunteering enhances career development and leadership skills.
Employers that consider setting up a skills-based volunteering programme for their employees will see for themselves the benefits it brings for their staff and the broader community.