POTENTIAL CHALLENGES IMPEDING THE SUCCESS OF YOUR EMPLOYEE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM
Having an employee volunteer program integrated within your company continues to be a growing expectation among Canadian companies. In 2013, 89% of LBG Canada companies report having an established volunteer program. Yet, community investment professionals can face low employee volunteer participation and even limited enthusiasm.
Based on LBG Canada audited company data and annual company survey responses, here are some potential challenges that those companies with an established volunteer program may see as an impediment to its success:
1) Too many volunteer options can be a deterrent for employees
Providing employees with multiple options can engage different audiences, but it can also be overwhelming and seem unfocused to company strategy, especially when employees have no direct line of sight to cause or purpose of the volunteering opportunity.
Companies with extensive volunteering commitments (DwH, NwH, D4D) also require adequate management resources in order to be successful. In 2013, 72% of LBG Canada companies offered opportunities in DwH, NwH, and D4D programming. Re-allocating resources and focus to those programs with the most volunteer participation my provide both clarity and enhance program success.
2) Opportunities offered are misaligned with employee interests
Integration of community investment and employee volunteer programs with one large, multi-year investment (flagship project) provides the opportunity to engage numerous cross-cultural stakeholders throughout regions around a consistently themed-initiative. In 2013, 63% of LBG CDA companies reported having either a DwH or NwH volunteering program tied to their flagship programs. It also builds momentum and awareness of company community investment priorities, which focusses employee attention on making a difference in community, particularly important during challenging economic times.
3) Even the most existing volunteer program needs management infrastructure to be successful.
The strength of the management infrastructure supporting a volunteer program is as important as employee interest in the opportunity itself. 28% of LBG Canada companies report having an established DwH program, but do not identify as having associated policies or guidelines in place. Not having policies or guidelines can also mean no buy in or official support for the program, and can create implementation road blocks and mixed messaging from different levels within the company.
Employee participation in a volunteer program can be negatively influenced if there is no clear application process for DwH leave. 55% of LBG Canada companies report have an established DwH program but no specific cap on volunteering. 55% report having no clearly documented and accessible process in place to obtain time off for DwH volunteering. Volunteer guidelines should always provide guidance on how volunteering requests must work for all concerned (management and employee). Allocating a formal allotment of during working hours (DwH) volunteering time has shown to increase uptake as it addresses management concerns of overuse.
No formal communications budget for volunteering programs remains a challenge facing volunteering programs. In addition, not providing information on volunteer programs at new hire orientation can limit participation in programs. 19% of LBG Canada companies report no communications budget to support volunteering programs. 53% of LBG Canada companies do provide information at orientation.
If your employee volunteering programs are not yielding high participation rates, it might be a good time to step back to analyze the programs you have. By looking at the number of volunteer options available to employees, taking into consideration what volunteer opportunities are more aligned with employee interests and ensuring your program has proper management structure, your organization might gain the push it needs to reach those high participation rates.