by Kerstin Sandow and Dr. Suska Dreesbach-Bundy

These days, many prospective employees are looking for more than a steady paycheck from future employers, instead seeking to balance professional development with creating social value. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is increasingly being seen as an indispensable initiative for impact-minded individuals who are likely to choose to work for a company or organization that engages them outside the typical work environment. One way to contribute to the community is corporate volunteering, but is it right for every employer and employee?

Kiron Open Higher Education, the educational platform for refugees, recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Suska Dreesbach-Bundy, the CEO of Volunteer Vision, to get some takeaways from her new book, CSR und Corporate Volunteering, regarding the business benefits of engaging employees through volunteering programs.

 

Insight #1: Corporate Volunteering is becoming an integral part of employee professional development

Corporate volunteering for professional training purposes is based on the expectation that volunteering provides employees with opportunities to practice business-related skills in real-life situations, to adapt to unfamiliar audiences, as well as to explore new sectors.

More and more firms seem to have identified this opportunity, resulting in 46% of the Civic 50 (the 50 most community-minded US companies) to formally use community engagement activities for professional skill development purposes. German companies are also increasingly integrating corporate volunteering among their official training and development programs.

Insight #2: To implement corporate volunteering, companies must weigh the benefits and costs

To use corporate volunteering as a strategic training tool, companies need to understand how to measure as well as enhance its ability to professionally develop employees.

The two core criteria to look for when measuring the impact on employees’ professional development are training performance (skills acquired) and transfer performance (skills put to use in favor for the company). Without the latter, volunteering is limited to solely personal development, so there’s no business case for the company.

Corporate Volunteering:

“These days, many prospective employees are looking for more than a steady paycheck from future employers, instead seeking to balance professional development with creating social value. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is increasingly being seen as an indispensable initiative for impact-minded individuals who are likely to choose to work for a company or organization that engages them outside the typical work environment.”

Here are 10 essential steps to take in order to build a successful corporate volunteering training program:

 

  1. Get to know corporate volunteering as training – Familiarize yourself with the HR potential of corporate volunteering (CV)
  2. Conduct a stakeholder analysis – Analyze the CV as well HR interests of your key stakeholders
  3. Define evaluation targets – Understand what your evaluation goals are
  4. Identify program specifics – Prepare an individual evaluation concept for your own CV program
  5. Measure training + transfer performance – Conduct the measurement process
  6. Analyze the data – Review your findings and report among your company’s KPI structure
  7. Set benchmarks – Compare your CV findings with the internal training & development KPIs
  8. Analyze strengths and weaknesses – Understand your program’s CV as training performance
  9. Identify and implement potentials – Conduct program optimization together with HR experts
  10. Performance tracking – Track your yearly progress and support your CV activities

Insight #3: To acquire the right skills, corporate volunteering must be clearly structured

Training performance is best achieved when putting corporate volunteering in a similar context as every other professional development activity — that volunteering offers employees the opportunity to acquire new skills. The right mind-set does make a vital difference. Furthermore, a preparatory training session introducing training objectives, and teaching new concepts, knowledge, and structure is key. Volunteers need to have a clear understanding of what behaviors are desired and how they can obtain them. In an ideal setting, volunteers also receive continual feedback on their performance during as well as after volunteering.

To achieve transfer performance, companies must pick a volunteering type that fosters skills that are relevant to their operational success and, of course, can actually be applied on the job. A similarity between an employee’s daily tasks and volunteer tasks enhances that chance. Further, as with any skill, the more one practices the more one automates those skills, resulting in effective, high-intensity volunteering formats. With all the expertise needed to manage volunteering, close collaboration with the internal HR department is definitely helpful.