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Optimum Talks Blog

The Lesser Known Benefits of Employer Sponsored Volunteering

by Optimum Talent
October 29, 2015

Organizations that support and empower their employees’ volunteer efforts generally have lower turnover rates and higher corporate returns.  We know that volunteering makes people feel good and can make the world a better place, but how exactly does this translate into a positive impact for a business?

To understand the business impacts, often we need to look beyond the ‘feel good’ aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programs and consider the less altruistic motives. What organizations often fail to consider when developing a CSR program is that empowering employees to volunteer and participate in their communities can actually save them costly training and development dollars!

Free Training & Development

During tough times, many organizations look at their bottom line with concern. Costs such as training and development are typically seen as extraneous and as such take a hit. Despite the need to make some cuts there can be several ways to maximize these budgets and one, often over looked way, is through employer sponsored volunteerism. Let’s say that an employer sponsored volunteer program offers employees four hours per month to volunteer. Certainly, this would result in a cost to the business, but I would argue that it would be a minimal expense to the overall organization as the benefits will greatly outweigh the costs.  Let me explain further…

If employees in your organization have been identified as needing enhanced business acumen skills, and in particular financial expertise, what could be a more cost-effective way to develop those skills than supporting them in joining an organization where they would receive training in this area?  For example, you can encourage your employee to volunteer on a board thereby helping hone their financial acumen and business expertise. While they might have to take time off for board meetings, the skills they acquire will be well worth it.

Another area where not-for-profits offer cost effective training and development is leadership.  With many organizations seeing their bottom line shrink, they might not have the ability to offer as many promotions or incentives as they might like.  This can mean that even top-performing people are being passed over due to the changing economic realities.  As such, leveraging volunteer opportunities to help those employees develop new or additional leadership experience can be a very cost-effective way to develop your team with a small cost to your organization.

Imagine the surprise of your employees if at your next career development conversation, you took a supportive role in identifying target volunteer organizations where they could develop and enhance their skills. As part of this process you should explore opportunities that will offer them training on both the skills that you need them to have and those that will help them achieve their career aspirations.

Access to Experts

Many not-for-profit organizations have exceptional training and development programs and in some cases, access to training budgets that some private organizations would envy.  Many not-for-profits participate within larger umbrella organizations that have access to robust governance training and development programs that private sector businesses might see as a costly spend during times of economic uncertainty.  These organizations provide the ability for their volunteers to complete training in governance, strategic planning or risk management through larger not-for-profit or community development organizations.  Many of these programs are led by groups of volunteers and offer cutting edge development, at a minimal cost.

In addition, many volunteer organizations have a diverse group of individuals on their board, many with significant leadership experience. Being given the opportunity to work with these individuals can result in both learning experiences as well as coaching and mentoring opportunities for your employees.

Fresh Ideas and New Approaches

Another hidden benefit of volunteering is exposure to new ideas.  By and large, employer sponsored programs allow individuals to volunteer with organizations that are very different to where they work.  This provides employees with the opportunity to be exposed to creative thinking and new innovations that they might not witness in their own company.  Often due to minimal budgets, not-for-profit organizations are forced into creative approaches and can be at the forefront of innovation.  If your employee comes to work and shares their learnings with their peers, other employees may adapt new ways of thinking and the larger organization could benefit from this expanded worldview.

There is no question that volunteering has a multitude of benefits, but what’s often overlooked are the benefits that the employer of the volunteer can receive.  From enhanced training and development, to access to experts, through to introduction of new ideas, employers are poised to benefit significantly from small spends such as a dedicated time allotment per month for volunteerism.  It is time to take a broader perspective on the benefits of employer sponsored volunteering and consider both the altruistic and business reasons for reviewing your policy today.

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