CREATING AN EMPLOYEE VOLUNTEERING PROGRAM TO REFLECT YOUR NEEDS
Creating a successful employee volunteering program is a process that requires recognizing a company’s individual context and circumstance to ensure the program fits its employee’s unique needs.
Surveys taken by the London Benchmarking Group (LBG) Canada, indicate the following regarding employee volunteer programs: (1) 11 out of 36 companies have “no clear internal understanding of the value of employee volunteering”, (2) 13 out of 36 companies “lack of staffing resources to manage the program effectively”, and (3) 12 out of 36 companies have a strategy that is “unclear”.
LBG Canada is a network of companies seeking to achieve the highest standard of community investment. Below are some examples that address these challenges in the process of employee volunteering program creation.
Design and Implementation
Designing and implementing an employee volunteering program is the most important step as it lays a strong foundation for program success. This provides an internal understanding of the value created by the employee volunteering program, and the required staffing, training, and resources to manage the program. LBG Canada best practices that can be taken into consideration during this stage include: clearly defined goals, focus areas for impact, and an evaluation plan that measures outputs and outcomes.
When launching an employee volunteering program, it is recommended to implement in phases. This allows time to modify to the program before it is launched company-wide. This principle can be adapted on a smaller scale – when introducing a new aspect of your employee volunteering program or when testing a pilot program with a subsection of your staff.
Many employees work from remote locations or are unable to volunteer during working hours. It is important to have viable volunteering opportunities to meet the needs of all employees. An example of this can be seen with Cenovus, a Calgary-based oil and gas company, which decided to extend its Dollars-4-Doers program to spouses and family members. This allows employees to volunteer with their families and create company ambassadors.
Additionally, many LBG Canada companies experience a lack of management support, which can arise from conflict between work priorities and employee engagement opportunities. For this reason it is important to communicate the importance of community investment activities with middle- and senior-management. This could also include creating programs specific for top level management volunteering.
Once your employee volunteering program is implemented, it is essential to regularly communicate about the program with internal and external stakeholders. It is important to explain the purpose of the program and what success looks like.
In order to gain acceptance of the program, an identity should be created and communicated so activities can be made into a compelling narrative. This includes telling the program’s story in multiple ways including using qualitative and quantitative data. This allows for stakeholders to see the human side of the program as well as the value created by the program.
In addition, this includes communicating information using multiple platforms to reach your key stakeholders, such as through: print, the company’s website and social media, the company’s Intranet, company publications, and at new employee orientation.
An employee volunteer program’s outputs are generally measurements of value, while outcomes are more frequently expressed by a description or characteristics. In order to properly communicate the rationale for a program, it is imperative to measure both. This includes changes that result both within the community, and amongst employees.
As program objectives, goals, and purpose are clearly defined in the development stage, these can be used as a tool to evaluate if the program fulfilled its intended purpose. In many cases, program outcomes may require interviews with employees and staff at nonprofit organizations to fully encapsulate the impact the program is having within the community.
There is no one-way or step-by-step guide to create a successful employee volunteering program, so understanding the unique challenges and opportunities your company faces is imperative to success. It is important to assess the needs of employees in order to reflect their desires in an employee volunteering program, and to take into consideration the limitations (resources, funding, time) that affect the organization.