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Eight ways corporate volunteering benefits business

Georgie Scott/VSO

Don't miss these key takeaways from the Transformative Impact corporate volunteering conference, kindly hosted by Credit Suisse, VSO and IAVE, and sponsored by Department for International Development and UPS, to learn how volunteering could boost retention, innovation and productivity.

1) It improves recruitment and retention

When former business consultant, Gib Bulloch, set up Accenture’s Development Programme, people said he was crazy to think that employees would volunteer their time for a fraction of their normal salary.

Now there are 50,000 people across the business world on the waiting list to do just that. What’s more, a study showed a 32% reduction in the attrition rate of high performers who had taken part in the programme. He says: “People don’t just want money, but meaning in their careers.”

gib bulloch Georgie Scott/VSO

Gib Bulloch, the founder of Accenture’s Development Programme

2) It increases productivity

Tom Levitt, former Labour MP and author, found through research that there was a statistical relationship between lost productivity and reduced employee engagement in the UK.

He said: “Anything that motivates employees to be more engaged, to be more loyal and take less time off sick is going to increase productivity.”

3) It promotes mental health

Gib Bulloch echoes Tom’s point but goes further, saying that volunteering “benefits the wellness of people” especially in organisations where staff are often burnt out or “bored out” through a macho culture of working long hours and being seen to play hard.

Absenteeism is an issue but so is “presenteeism” - people who are turning up to work but not really present. Giving employees an opportunity to work on another short-term project can help them find perspective.

Randstad and VSO speaking at a conference in Canary Wharf Georgie Scott/VSO

Randstad and VSO have partnered up to create new ideas.

When you bring together highly trained volunteers and local people to tackle a problem, great things happen.

Dawn Hoyle, VSO’s country manager in Tanzania.

4) It drives innovation to help tackle worldwide issues

A strategic partnership between a business and a volunteer organisation that’s closely aligned, like the one between recruitment experts Randstad and VSO, can create new ideas.

Dawn Hoyle, VSO’s country manager in Tanzania, says: “When you bring together highly trained volunteers and local people to tackle a problem, great things happen. We can then replicate this innovation in other countries or situations.”

Different business models like volunteer programmes can also treat the United Nation’s strategic development goals as new business opportunities. How can our work help to nourish, educate and provide clean water and energy to more and more people, as well as financial services and sanitation?

5) It proves purpose

The Global Citizen Programme provides opportunities for employees to go abroad, whilst the Board Connect volunteer programme at Credit Suisse places experienced staff onto the boards of local NGOs and, according to Eva Halper, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Credit Suisse:

“Among other things – it demonstrates our values.” One of which, according to their website, is: “to give employees the opportunity to gain new experience by working abroad or in different business areas as part of their professional and personal development.”

people sat on a stage at conferece Georgie Scott/VSO

Sana Ali (third from left) from the healthcare organisation MSD volunteered for the Infectious Diseases Research Institute.

6) It meets personal development goals

Placing individuals out of their comfort zone teaches them new skills. Sana Ali from the healthcare organisation MSD volunteered for the Infectious Diseases Research Institute for three months, and said:

“How has volunteering changed me? Well, now I respond to challenges and stressful situations in a much calmer, more composed way because I’m not so limited by resources or capacity [as it was at the IDRI]. We get caught up with the idea of meeting our team’s KPIs or performance objectives but now I have more meaning.”

Similarly, employees at Fujitsu are given a chance to do something that’s outside their normal role, such as teaching. As a by-product, they influence young people and hope they’ll be interested in a future career in the company.

7) It invests in social impact

At Spanish bank, La Caixa, social impact is one of the six performance goals to which each employee commits. The other five are related to revenue. To gain their annual bonus, staff are tasked with taking part in activities that also benefit local society.

“How has volunteering changed me? I respond to challenges and stressful situations in a much calmer, more composed way."

Sana Ali, healthcare organisation MSD.

8) It improves employment prospects for young people

Mentoring programmes, internships, apprenticeships and placements run by volunteers act as a vehicle for social mobility. The Bank of America Merrill Lynch helped to found the Ada, the National College of Digital Skills in Tottenham, London. This is the first new further education college in the UK for 23 years, which aims to help plug the digital skills gap at a time when there is 11.5% unemployment amongst 16 to 25-year-olds in the UK.