Over the last few years, it has been made abundantly clear that consumers increasingly want (and often expect) the companies they buy from to practise business sustainably and ethically, with social media empowering noisy protest where this is found lacking — from the boycotting of tax-evading companies, to the public shaming of those whose abhorrent workplace cultures were exposed.
Millennials are one group for whom this is particularly true, with 73% acknowledging they would pay more for a product to get it from a sustainable brand, and 81% expecting their favourite companies to be open and honest, making public statements about their commitments to corporate citizenship.
As such, it is hardly surprising that when it comes to recruitment and retention this group is also looking for a significant level of corporate responsibility from the company they choose to work for. 76% of millennials say they consider a company’s commitment to the community when looking at roles according to a 2016 employee engagement study, while a whopping 64% would turn a job down if they felt an employer didn’t have a strong enough CSR policy.
For businesses looking to attract and retain a young workforce (and let’s not forget, millennials will comprise 75% of the workforce within the next 10 years), it is time to dust off the CSR Statement and think about how to get the most impact from this in practice.
One valuable solution could be the implementation of an employer-supported volunteering (ESV) scheme.
The benefits of employee volunteering
A 2016 report by Accenture makes very plain the business benefits of supporting employee volunteering across all staff — not only millennials. A survey of their own staff volunteers, numbering 2,591 in 2015, found that 89% reported increased job satisfaction and 87% reported greater pride in the company.
The boost to staff engagement and productivity offered by employer-supported volunteering is also reflected in YouGov survey data from the 2010 research, Volunteering is the Business: Employers’ and employees’ attitudes to workplace based volunteering.
Among the findings, which demonstrate the positive impact employee volunteering can have on staff morale, motivation and job satisfaction, YouGov found that among employees participating in a volunteering scheme 71% felt the programme improved their personal wellbeing.
Volunteering also clearly offers an opportunity for learning and development; the YouGov survey identified the three most important skills gained through an ESV scheme as teamwork (56%), confidence building (50%), and communication skills (39%). But we should not forget that underpinning any volunteering policy is a desire to look outwards rather than inwards, and the community benefit of corporate volunteering is a key consideration.
A well-organised volunteering programme facilitates cost-effective giving, in which the administrative burden is removed from the relevant charities, so that they are provided with a steady stream of engaged volunteers for whom they can focus on providing meaningful work in an easy-to-manage way. So, the community has a lot to gain.
In 2009 for example, the Co-Operative had 10,240 employees volunteering, contributing ‘the equivalent of 136,834 hours or 18,244 days’. A donation of time equating to a value of £1.66million.
Corporate volunteering is no longer simply about manpower and the equivalent time donation, however. Increasingly, opportunities are opening up for professionals to contribute by sharing their knowledge and skills. On the one hand — as reported in the Business in the Community whitepaper — this could mean businesses providing skills training directly to the charity itself, with business development, marketing and accounting identified as those areas in which key professional skills were urgently required.
On the other, employee skills could be directed via the charity directly to those community members who need most help — from providing digital support to older people, or literacy classes to those for whom English is not a first language, to supporting younger people with employability initiatives like CV writing and interview practice.
So, if the business case is clear and the benefit to the community is huge, how do you go about supporting a volunteering programme in practice?
How is this done?
At TotallyMoney, we have a staff of around 50 and had previously found it a bit of a struggle to get total company buy-in to our charity efforts, which we attributed to the fact that not everyone felt inspired by the same charitable cause.
So, when a member of staff posited the idea of a volunteering scheme at the end of last year, we knew it was an initiative that would be beneficial on a number of levels, but were concerned we could struggle to enthuse staff to participate, and that offering a number of charitable opportunities could require a lot of admin to manage.
Upon consulting our Employee Advisory Board (EAB), however, the idea was received very positively. It seemed like an opportunity staff would invest in far more readily than supporting a single charity set by the business — if we could find the right links.
After a bit of research into how best to administer the programme, we found Benefacto, a broker in the voluntary sector who helps partner up companies with around 40 small charities in London, covering a broad range of causes that really benefit from one-off corporate support.
By working with Benefacto, staff can log in and choose where they would like to give their time — putting them in control of managing their schedule and what inspires them most — while HR is able to keep a close eye on the process through the admin dashboard, viewing live volunteering data as well as impact.
Through Benefacto, we are now well connected to lots of small local charities that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to reach.
As TotallyMoney is based on Old Street, one of our first forays since launching our volunteering scheme has been with Finsbury & Clerkenwell volunteers — a charity that provides a lunch club for lonely people in the local area.
In fact, at the time of writing, four of our staff are helping to support a special carnival-themed tea party for F&C Volunteers, so we look forward to hearing how they get on!
Looking to the future
For TotallyMoney, then, 2018 will be the year of volunteering, one from which we hope to expand our CSR, build upon the ethical values of our company mission and culture, and start increasing our positive impact in the local community. But we can’t get complacent.
In their Workforce of the Future report, PWC suggest that in the world of 2030 ‘corporate responsibility isn't just a nice-to-have but it's a business imperative’. It’s always a good time to look around and think about how you could be doing more — before your staff challenge you to do so.
About Felicity Winkley
Felicity Winkley is HR Manager at TotallyMoney, a private equity backed fintech startup in East London’s Tech City helping thousands of people take control of their finances, protect their credit rating and unlock their best credit match options, every day. Felicity has a PhD from UCL and a background in delivering outreach in museums and engaging new audiences; skills she now enjoys using to promote employee engagement and staff well-being, with the aim of creating a fantastic workplace culture.