This blog was featured in Forbes.com.
Most companies recognize that investing in employee engagement and development are vital to remaining competitive in a constantly evolving business world. When companies spend time and money improving the skills of their employees, they send a message to workers that they want to invest in their future. And in return, companies expect to see increases in job performance, organizational commitment and job satisfaction from their workers.
Employee training and development often focus on hard skills; the basic proficiencies needed to perform one’s job duties. But good employee training also generally also covers soft skills such as teamwork, leadership, problem solving and public speaking - the unquantifiable abilities necessary to give companies a competitive edge. This doesn’t come cheap: according to human resources think tank Bersin and Associates, the average training cost per employee in 2010 was $1200, with most of that money going towards developing soft skills such as management and leadership abilities.
So if soft skills are as vital as hard skills - and pricier to boot - where can employees acquire and cultivate these talents without breaking the bank? One place to look: employee volunteer programs.
Corporate volunteering and corporate giving programs not only help fulfill a company’s CSR mandate; they also offer workers a unique opportunity to participate in teambuilding efforts and develop job-related skills. On top of that, these programs are a bargain. According to the Trends Of Excellence In Employee Volunteering Series by Points of Light Institute, a company will spend about $416 on each person that participates in an employee volunteer program. That’s significantly lower than the $1200 that it costs per employee for one training program.
Clearly, businesses can reap much organizational value from supporting employee-directed corporate philanthropy. So why do so many companies under-fund their employee volunteer programs? You wouldn’t expect an athlete to do well on a starvation diet, right? Well, your employee volunteer program can’t thrive on twigs and berries either.
When a company’s volunteer activities don’t align with its values and cultures, management often doesn’t see the correlation between volunteerism and how it benefits their company. Since successful volunteer programs should relate to a company’s core business, it’s important to first define a company’s corporate philanthropy strategy, expectations and goals. That’s often missed in the “check the box” mentality which overwhelmed administrators sometimes apply to their company’s volunteerism.
What’s the solution?
Give ‘Em Choice
When empowered by their companies, employees tend to be more engaged and happier in their work. One path to empowerment is in supporting causes that are important to employees and offering them an environment in which they can make an impact. Long gone are the days of relying on United Way because that’s all your lone, part-time administrator could handle. A new era is upon us in the field of corporate philanthropy, and that innovation must trickle down to your employees. Engagement comes from meeting employees where they are, not expecting them to mold their passions solely around your CEO’s signature cause.
Walk The Talk
Volunteer programs also work best when supported by the company’s top executives, so senior management should lead by example by participating in and promoting their initiatives. When employees are clear about their company’s vision, they’re more motivated to represent the company’s brand, build relationships and strengthen their communities by sharing their skills and passions.
Turbocharge Your Systems
Other reasons for under-funded employee volunteer programs are a lack of employee enthusiasm due to disorganization, too much tedious administrative work and difficulty in calculating a return on investment. An efficient program management system like Causecast’s Community Impact Platform addresses these challenges with its well organized and easy to use interface, tools to measure and communicate community impact, a menu of volunteer opportunities and creative giving options that allows employees to support causes they care about in the ways they want, and a personal concierge service to help administrators adopt novel strategies and execute their volunteer programs throughout the year. An effective employee giving and volunteering management resource eases administrative overload and greatly expands the possibilities for corporate volunteer programs.
Companies today recognize that maintaining a competitive edge requires investment in their number one asset: their employees. Employee volunteer programs - when well-fed and supported by corporate management - offer a cost-effective way to develop the skills of a company’s workforce while improving the lives of those in need.
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