In his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen R. Covey explains that everyone should take time to decide what they want out of life. For Covey, this means that we “Begin with the End in Mind”. We should “begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.” Often we get caught in the tyranny of the urgent and forfeit the important.
This is good advice for life. It is also good advice for designing and managing employee volunteer programs.
One of the earliest steps in creating an employee volunteering or workplace giving program, is identifying the purpose and parameters of the program. Ask yourself, “What are all the good things that could happen as a result of this program?” These benefits should be based on ideal, desired outcomes. Don’t worry – you will be adjusting them later based on potential constraints and other realities within your context. But for now, list as many objectives as possible. Here are some possible benefits that may be of interest to you:
- Improved image as a good corporate citizen
- Increased brand recognition and customer loyalty
- Increased employee loyalty
- Increased employee health and lower health care costs for company
- Decreased employee absenteeism
- Increased ability to attract new talent
- Positive perception as solid investment
- Increase in employee morale
- Enhanced employee skills
- Leadership development for employees
- Increased team work
- Improved networking among employees across departments and divisions
- Acquisition of new skills and competencies
- Increased social capital within the broader community
- Decrease in unemployment in community (fascinating study here)
Identify shared benefits
After compiling a list of objectives, separate the list into the three groups who will benefit from the program: the company, the employees, and the community. For example, take “recruit new talent” and place it in the category that benefits the company. Similarly, take “improve employee morale” and place it in the category that benefits employees. Some objectives will fit into more than one category. It is important that employee volunteer programs are built to offer benefit to all three categories. When the objectives are separated into categories, choose the 3 or 4 top goals that appear to be highly beneficial for everyone.
Find collaborators in other departments
Employee volunteering is not philanthropy. In order for the program to function as a part of the company’s CSR/corporate citizenship strategy, it is essential to integrate the program within other functional and departmental strategies. In some cases these connections may be fairly obvious.
For example, if one of the benefits of the employee volunteer program is the ability to better recruit new talent you should be talking to Human Resources. Without a doubt, your HR department already has a recruitment strategy in place. This is a great opportunity to integrate employee volunteering with the existing HR strategies for recruitment.
Another natural connection with HR is in employee development. Here’s an example of how this might work based on a great bit of research by Corporate Citizenship based in the UK. (Read Volunteering – The Business Case here).
The corporate responsibility team at Société Générale engages with the HR department with regard to the development of training programmes. Typically, the head of CR will look at programmes which have been developed by HR and see if there is scope to add a CR element. Training which tends to lend itself to this kind of input includes leadership, resentation, confidence, listening and innovation development. Discussions between the two departments have begun regarding individual development linked to realising managerial potential. HR identifies areas for development for individuals and volunteering can sometimes be used creatively to fill that need.
Take some time to discuss the potentially mutual benefits of employee volunteering or workplace giving with other departments and business divisions. Ask for input on the program objectives and determine whether or not there is potential for working together. This process will not only provide essential information, it will begin to offer each department the opportunity to buy in to the employee volunteering program before it even launches.
There’s still a lot of work to do at this point – but you’ll be on the right track. What’s more – you won’t be the only one invested in the program’s success.
Here are some practical steps to take when designing your employee volunteering and workplace giving program. Be sure to read part one of the series “Starting An Employee Volunteering Program? What Do Your Employees Think?”