As workers return to worksites rather than working from home, businesses are looking for ways to help their employees re-engage – with each other and their organisations. At the same time volunteer-involving organisations are looking to redevelop their volunteer programs, many of which were put on hold, or underwent significant changes during 2020.
Corporate volunteering can meet the needs of many and have a positive impact on the communities in which businesses operate. Corporate volunteering activities can range from an annual volunteering day to tracking and recognising individual involvement and impact, or providing employees with opportunities for volunteer leave. It can offer employees an opportunity to socialise with each other, and to gain satisfaction from contributing.
Volunteering WA is one place where you and your organisation can find out more about setting up corporate volunteering. CEO Tina Williams says,
“WA businesses are making a huge contribution to the community through their volunteering programs, and we are delighted to be involved in their facilitation. The increased sense of connectedness, productivity and overall job performance of employee volunteers are just some of the employee engagement ripple effects that come from well organised corporate volunteering programs.”
Engaging in volunteering has also been shown to contribute to understanding how workplaces operate which is one way employer demands for a work-ready workforce can be met. Murdoch University is taking its lead from organisations such as Volunteering WA in recognising the value of volunteering to enhance individual professional experiences and tackle the student employability agenda.
Murdoch’s Bachelor of Commerce students offer students the opportunity to try volunteering as part of the University’s commitment to facilitating authentic learning experiences necessary for improved individual employability outcomes. Alongside internships and workplace projects, volunteering can be recognised through involvement in a volunteer activity, by volunteering through the Guild Volunteer Hub and receiving recognition from the University.
The keys to success in corporate volunteering and university student volunteering are similar.
Be authentic in your commitment
If engagement is your goal, then authenticity is vital. Individuals are the first to know if your commitment to their volunteer activity and the community is merely an attempt to polish your company image. Genuine commitment breeds a genuine response and great interactions with the communities.
What benefits are you seeking?
To engage individuals, make sure the volunteering experience works for them. This means planning, good communication with stakeholders and getting a good understanding of what it is you are hoping to gain for your volunteers. For student volunteers, we ask host organisations to find out if students want to enhance their curriculum vitae and offer them ways to learn and gain skills, or if their goal is to build networks and make friends. If you want them to meet people from across your organisation, then make sure the volunteer activity provides opportunities to mix and socialise. Similarly, if you want them to have some fun then build in “fun”.
Don’t forget the many stakeholders
Remember you are looking to include host organisations in your planning – find out what they need as well. Be up front about the benefits to your business and work out what will benefit the community organisation. Including all stakeholders is the foundation for ongoing relationships and repeat collaborations.
Be organised and informed
Everyone will be disappointed if the volunteering activity is not as expected. We’ve all heard the stories about the team who turned up to find they had been diverted to what they saw as “busy work” (such as repainting a wall that doesn’t need painting), or the community organisation who set up an activity only to have too few volunteers. Prepare everyone for what to expect, make sure you do what you say you are going to do and ask for help if you need it. Volunteering WA has more than 30 years of experience working with stakeholders and can offer great advice for those wanting to get involved.
Be inventive and welcome new ideas
Volunteering is evolving all the time and its evolution is based on organisations being willing to listen to suggestions and ideas. Experiences beyond the workplace are likely to spark thinking about doing things differently and feeling heard is a universal key to employee engagement.
Employee engagement is one of the fundamentals of managing your business. Engaging employees is an underpinning philosophy in our new HR Management and Analytics major in the Bachelor of Commerce. Staff involved in designing curriculum to enhance opportunities to engage in professional business practice curriculum remark that,
“As a student, volunteering in a not-for-profit organisation was one of the ways I found out I was interested in motivation and employee wellbeing. Finding out what you are interested in is part of the development of professional identity” Cassandra Spencer (Murdoch Alumni)
With Murdoch Commerce students being introduced to corporate volunteering as an effective employee engagement tool that can provide improved opportunities for employability, we encourage Western Australian businesses to offer volunteering initiatives in their workplaces in support of the corporate and student volunteer.