AB Thinks  →  14th July 2022

Why volunteering can improve employee retention

Today’s workforce has evolved. As the lines between our work and personal lives continue to blur, and flexible working becomes ingrained in the modern workplace, colleagues are seeking work that fulfils them.

Particularly as the younger generation joins the workforce, we’re seeing a shift away from more top-down communications and the separation between work and home – today’s candidates want to give back, make a real difference and for their work life to be meaningful. They choose employers who champion causes, working to enrich both their community and greater society.

The modern workforce doesn’t just want to work for companies that share their values. They expect their employers to build opportunities to both develop and give back along their careers.

One way today’s organisations are encouraging extra-curricular impact is through volunteering. Volunteering in the community gives employees skills they can bring back into the workplace. Many companies now offer dedicated volunteering days, which can be taken on top of annual leave to dedicate to a cause. This could be planting trees in the local community, volunteering with children in schools or working with mental health services answering distress calls, among many other options.

There’s a huge range of benefits to extending the offer of volunteering days to your employees:

  • Retains top talent
  • Boosts productivity
  • Instils purpose and meaning
  • Improves employee engagement
  • Develops new skills
  • Raises the profile of your business in the community

So just how enriching can it be to take advantage of those volunteering days? And what are some of the options? We sat down with two of our employees to discuss their personal experiences in volunteering. We explore how these experiences impacted their approach to work, and the key skills they picked up along the way.

Gaby Terpougoff, Associate Creative Director

Why should companies encourage employees to volunteer in the community?
Because the community deserves it. We shouldn’t leave it up to local councils alone to help communities thrive, it’s for the people that live and work in those communities to also help out. It’s so important that companies provide these volunteering days, it not only benefits the local community, but it benefits your employee. They can come back to work feeling ‘renourished’ with a fresh, new perspective.

Can you tell me about a time you volunteered?
I actually did a whole year of volunteering work throughout 2020 for The Kids Network. I spent time acting as a mentor for a child outside of school hours. The Kids Network usually connects with schools to work collaboratively in finding a mentor for any pupil whom they believe could benefit from some out-of-school hours contact.

The child I worked with was full of energy. Every weekend we did outdoor activities, played football, visited museums, and did arts and crafts – I even took them for their first curry. More often than not, I found myself running around after them!

It was such a rewarding experience, I honestly built such a great friendship with the child as time went on.

How did this change your approach to work?
As a line manager, I learned quite a lot about mastering the true art of listening. Knowing how and when to listen and respond to employees’ personal issues in a nurturing way. I also learned to cope with some not-so-good behaviour – knowing how to respond in an open way and prioritising two-way conversations.

How can companies promote these volunteering days?
Companies need to instil them into their values. Then they can talk about realistic and beneficial actions that can be taken. As we strongly believe here at AB, invest in your comms, make it feel important and don’t just stick in an email.

Laura Air, Account Director

Can you tell me a bit about your experience with volunteering?
Well, one of the great benefits of our volunteering scheme is that you can break up days into hours which has been extremely useful to me and my volunteering. This flexibility allows me to divide up the two days into two three-hour blocks.

I volunteer as a Chair of Governors at the local school. So, this scheme allows me to fit in around five vital sessions per year without eating into my annual leave. It’s been great to work at a company which supports my interests in doing something charitable.

Why should companies encourage their colleagues to volunteer in the community?

It’s so important to be a key part of your local community. Since becoming a school governor, I realised the importance of the role in facilitating others to effectively do their jobs.

More importantly, it must be authentic. More and more people are interested in doing the right thing nowadays and no surprise – it makes us feel good!

Volunteering is good for everyone because we need fresh ideas all the time. The more people get involved, the better. And you might just discover a new passion.

How did volunteering change your approach to work?
Understanding how HR issues are dealt with in a unionised space has been very interesting. Also learning about preparing kids to be good citizens and how they can approach everyday life with confidence and curiosity. This has been a real reminder about what’s important in life. Giving back to my children’s school and being supportive and engaged with them has been really rewarding too, and it’s been great to see how proud my children are to see me around the school.

I’ve also spent time looking at budgets with a different hat on. I’ve never been involved in Capex projects before – funding has been a whole new kettle of fish for me. There’s also been a lot of stakeholder engagement, recruitment, building teams and making sure everyone has the right skills on the governing board, which has played a major role in shaping how I approach building the right team for project management. It has also allowed me to further develop my understanding of the varied skills needed in a team to deliver the best results.

How can companies promote these volunteering days?
Through team-building exercises and leading from the front. Look for opportunities in your local area and promote them internally. You can also invite local charities and organisations to come and talk to you. Make sure you create a space for employees who volunteer to share their experiences with others and what they’ve learned from them.

It’s clear that rich experiences of volunteering are incredibly valuable to any business – colleagues are renewed with purpose, grateful for the experience and equipped with new skills, which offsets any cost to the business. Volunteering will help your employees gain confidence, and hone a huge variety of skills, which can only be a positive for their work back at their desk.

If you’d like to learn more about increasing engagement amongst your employees, get in touch.