Nowadays, having an employee engagement program in place is an undeniable advantage for any company. With the growing consumer demand for company involvement, more and more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are looking towards employee engagement as a concrete way to make a difference.
However, SMEs often struggle to implement these initiatives in a way that they will benefit from in the long-run, due to the limited amount of resources and the lack of CSR manager-like figures. We asked Chris Jarvis, Executive Director of the RWInstitute, to give you some tips on how to make the most of your corporate volunteering program, to point you in the right direction.
If you are planning to start an online volunteering program for your employees, you should also be prepared to face the different challenges that come with the digitalization of the processes.
You have to ensure that all of the participants know the basics of the remote work environment and know-how to navigate whichever software your company is using.
Additionally, employees have to be instructed on how to work around the lack of face-to-face interaction and their consequent diminished capacity to read other people and get immediate feedback from their body language.
Companies will find it very difficult to implement volunteering programs without a structured approach to it. As a matter of fact, employees themselves are often confused about the initiative’s goals and struggle to recognize if and when they have achieved those objectives, which can lead to frustration and demotivation.
The key to a rewarding volunteering experience – both from the employees’ and the employer’s point of view – is to make it more transformative rather than transactional. But how do you do that?
According to Chris Jarvis, to make the most of your volunteering program, you have to ask the question: “Am I meeting people at their highest level of contribution?”
If you have an employee that has been volunteering outside the company for more than 20 years, you should use that to engage others. Invest in their professional development and encourage them to point your company in the right direction. On the other hand, if someone has never volunteered before, take that into consideration, and set realistic goals for them to achieve, even if that is just showing up.
Ultimately, corporations should see corporate volunteering not only as a way to give back to society but also as a way to develop their own staff. “The biggest change that occurs is in the volunteers themselves,” explains Jarvis. Indeed, that is scientific indication that employees are more productive when given the opportunity to be part of social impact projects.
Relying on employee leadership and highlighting each person’s strengths will guarantee you a sustainable and growth-oriented path for the future of your company’s employee engagement initiatives.
Most of the global workforce is employed in small or medium enterprises where CSR managers’ roles don’t exist. Most entrepreneurs seem to believe that, for a CSR initiative to have a real impact, it needs to involve as many people as possible. However, in the long run, the initiatives that perform best are the ones brought on by small groups of people concerned with the community that surrounds them.
These small groups of people often have strong relations with each other that are based on shared experiences. To find what values your employees share, try to identify leaders and ambassadors among them, and open a conversation.
Remember that both employees and local communities they are helping are bringing something to the table. Everyone can contribute with something, whether it is new insights, skills, content, or connections.
The most crucial factor for an effective volunteering program is, as Chris Jarvis says, people: “They are the key to the most sustainable kind of change in the long run, incremental change.”
In conclusion, contrary to what one might think, SMEs have the chance to make a real impact. It can be done through corporate volunteering, investing in concrete, long term, and easy to manage initiatives of the utmost relevance to the community. This enables them to gain the edge of a closer relationship with the environment that they are themselves a part of.
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