Employee Volunteer Programs (EVP) have been gaining popularity over the last decade, and it is one area in which the pandemic might not have affected the upward trajectory. In fact, since many companies are continuing to finetune their virtual offices, the need for human interaction and a sense of self-worth through doing good may arguably have increased. Every business, regardless of the number of employees, has the potential to implement a successful EVP. However, priority must be given to developing an effective strategy from the onset of the program. Just as with an efficacious business plan, there is no one-size-fits-all model; however, the core principles for developing a successful EVP remain unchanged.
An employee volunteer program has the potential to create immense positive impacts for the employer, the employee, and the community at large. While these effects should be lauded and admired, too often, an EVP fails to harness the full potential by initially focusing on the outputs rather than taking a step back and focusing on what motivates their employees to volunteer in the first place. To bolster future success, it is worth considering what drives your employees and what might boost their engagement in an EVP. Here we have laid out three questions that will enable you to concentrate on the process and assist in steering your EVP in the direction of success.
Why do your employees volunteer?
Why your employees want to volunteer might seem like a fundamental question; however, it is one which organizations often overlook or allocate their own assumptions without any empirical evidence. Research conducted through Points of Light’s Corporate Service Council found that there are three types of employee volunteers, namely:
- Social-oriented employees (49%);
- Career-oriented employees (26%); and
- Employees that can’t be convinced to join an EVP (24.2%).
Socially-oriented employees are motivated by the potential for fun and being able to volunteer with family and friends. In this survey, they were found to be inspired by their ability to have a direct impact. On the other hand, career-oriented employees are motivated by an EVP’s opportunities to garner new skills and the potential for career advancement. The survey also isolated a large cohort of employees who had no interest in volunteering whatsoever, which is worthwhile data for defining realistic participation goals. Further research into the barriers that this subset of employees have towards volunteering may also be valuable.
Where and how are your employees going to volunteer?
Once you have your finger on the pulse of what drives your employees to volunteer, it becomes easier to concentrate on the process of designing an EVP for maximum impact. From the beginning, it is instrumental to define realistic goals for the program. These can be individual goals for all stakeholders involved, but with a universal overlap. Being open and honest about having goals that benefit everyone involved will improve transparency and communication and make the program more inherently sustainable. Combined with understanding why your employees volunteer, these goals can then finetune how and where your program will occur. No one should expect an EVP to solve world hunger; however, you can narrow it down to achievable tasks within the constraints of the resources available.
How will you recognize your employee’s involvement in the EVP?
A successful employee volunteer program needs to be motivating. Just as it is perfectly acceptable that a company expects a return on investment for your EVP, so too can the volunteer, though the benefits may not always be easily quantifiable. Nevertheless, it is instrumental to design a program with auditable data. Not only will this define the baseline, but it will also allow for the continuous finetuning of the program and the stretching of goals within realistic parameters. By applying metrics for success, it becomes more straightforward for employees to see their impact (social-orientated employees) and to be recognized for their achievements (career-orientated employees).
Consider asking your employees what perks would drive them to be more involved in the EVP. Isolate unique and creative ways to interest your staff, such as prime parking, company products, or flexible time off from work. This process is ever the more integral to international companies in which interests and motivators might vary by location and be culturally specific. Understanding your employees’ motivations will better enable an EVP to be fueled by the interests of its employees and continue to be tweaked towards success for all involved.