Organise a day of corporate volunteering on the same day as your Christmas do and you’ll have a real reason to celebrate, says Suzy Barber.
At best they’re an opportunity to drink yourself stupid for the night with your boss’s money, and at worse a grim couple of hours in a corner of the office sipping warm white wine from a plastic cup.
The work’s Christmas party is often the dreaded date in many employees’ calendars, the time when you’re suddenly meant to celebrate with people you know little about beyond deadlines, spreadsheets and Monday morning meetings.
The works do would at least be more appealing if people felt they had something to chat about, if they knew each other better than just as Sheila from accounts or Dave from IT. That’s where employee volunteering comes in. Spend the day with Sheila or Dave serving lunch to the homeless, mentoring young care leavers on CV writing or showing elderly pensioners how to use the internet and not only do you a see a side to your colleagues you didn’t know but it will give you something to talk about when you meet at the party later. You still get the celebration in the evening, but the day has been spent putting the goodwill back into
Christmas, doing something amazing and making real impact.
More and more people are wanting to work for a company that demonstrates social responsibility, with a survey from Net Impact (*1) stating that 45% of employees would be happy to take a 15% pay cut to work for a company that gives something back.
In a study this year, Deloitte’s(*2) found that 81% of Millennials they’d interviewed would prefer to work for a company that’s making a positive impact and in another report, conducted by Business in the Community(*3), 87% of employee volunteers reported an improved perception of their employer as a result.
Corporate social responsibility can take many forms and helps businesses build networks, improve reputation and boost performance, but it’s employee volunteering that delivers specific learning and development benefits for individuals.
According to Linz Darlington, CEO and Founder of Benefacto, the skills learned from employee volunteering are the ones that should be honed and developed in every organisation. “I work with around 35 small charities in London and they are always absolutely thrilled with having small numbers of employee volunteers to support their service delivery,” says Linz. “The feedback from employees is improved confidence, teamwork, communication, patience and empathy. Aren’t these the same skills we want to be fostering our workforces?
“In a performance management round it’s not going to be the guy with the best financial analysis or presentation skills to come out on top, but the one who charmed a client with his combination of patience, empathy and well-timed confidence.”
How to make impact and make your Christmas party go with a real swing:
• Put the idea of employee volunteering out to staff and ask if they know of a charity they would like to nominate. Engagement will be higher if the staff are more passionate about the cause.
• Select a number of charities. Few organizations can manage more than five new people turning up to work on one day, let alone a small charity.
• Nominate a member of staff to coordinate each group of volunteers to each charity, to maintain motivation.
• Are the line managers involved? Employee volunteering is far more successful if bosses engage with the activities too, as it’s seen as being ‘allowed’. They will learn from it too!
• Think beyond environmental activities like painting or gardening and focus on charities delivering specific frontline services, such as food banks, homeless shelters or organisations helping the elderly, vulnerable young people or long-term unemployed. The impact you will have on the charity will be more meaningful and the benefits to the volunteer more profound.
• Many charities throw Christmas parties for their services users – could you help with that?
• Your employee volunteering activities are great news to share across the company website and social media channels during the festive period. Make sure to take lots of photos.
• Why dish out the goodwill just at Christmas time? Develop a relationship with your chosen charities to keep the mutual benefits building and strengthening throughout the year.
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