Corporate volunteering: a win-win for the world and your organisation

Learn how corporate volunteering can be an effective tool to recruit and retain new staff members!

Corporate volunteering: a win-win for the world and your organisation

While we do not want to join the choir and become another harbinger of doom, it is hard to avoid the dreaded six-letter C-word these days. It's obvious that these are not the easiest of times, and we’re all feeling the pinch – although for some, the word vice seems more appropriate. Employers are feeling the pain as well. There is a labour shortage in virtually every industry and jobseekers get to pick and choose – and quite often, they don't pick you. And when they do, their choice is often short-lived. Attrition rates in the UK are higher than ever before.

So, the grass continues to appear greener on the other side. Which options does that leave you, as an employer, to liven up your lawn? It has never been this rewarding to level with your potential employees and understand how you can become and remain attractive for them. What are their values, their needs? As it turns out, corporate volunteering can be an effective tool to recruit and retain new staff members.

Who is your new employee?

If only you knew, you’d have found them in a flash! On second thought, there's quite a lot we can say about your new colleague. After all, the current labour force is largely made up of millennials: people born approximately between 1980 and 2000. Definitions vary a little, but this means we're roughly talking about the working population between 22 and 42 years old.

A generation then, that was reared with the internet and has been bombarded with advertising. The latter, by the way, is one of the reasons why millennials are wary of marketing and promotion – including yours. We also know that this generation attaches much more value to job satisfaction and social engagement than previous ones.

The same millennials, also referred to as Gen Y, experienced the full impact of COVID-19. Additionally, they are the ones who are driving the Great Resignation.

Yes, money matters – and with today’s bizarre inflation rates it probably matters even more – but for millennials, it is not the be-all and end-all. They want their job to be about purpose and meaning as well.

Corporate volunteering helps attract engaged employees

Corporate volunteering is not new. At least for two decades, companies have been collaborating with VCSEs to create positive impact, with their staff working with a charity during work hours.

Many larger UK-based companies have integrated volunteering in their mission and strategy. Red Bull, Hunkemöller, H&M, Atlassian – these are only a few examples of companies with a vision that expands beyond the bottom line. When deciding on a volunteer project or organisation to support, it is important to draw on your company's strengths. This will increase your chance of impact. But how does it actually work?

Employer branding

When your organisation commits itself to creating positive impact, it puts your company in a different light.  You go beyond pretty words and hollow phrases: you put your money where your mouth is.

In the Netherlands, employees of Red Bull – a company with significant expertise in marketing and communication –  supported Amsterdam-based Cordaan. They gave wings to the care organisation by devising a communication and distribution strategy for the new product line of Bijzonder Amsterdams: a project where local people with an intellectual disability make unique products.

Such an initiative lends an entirely different image to Red Bull. The producer of ultra-sweet power drinks and sponsor of extreme sports turns out to be a genuinely engaged partner. And that makes Red Bull a more attractive employer for the current generation of jobseekers. A clear example of how doing good does good for your employer branding.

Employee engagement

Sorry if this upsets you, but at the core, we humans can be quite simple: we surround ourselves with people who are like us. And that makes sense. If someone makes the same choice as I have, it confirms that I made the right choice. Overall, I am quite happy with myself, and this means that I am probably also happy with people who are similar to me. And I automatically feel closer to people who resemble me, and share my values and standards.

We can discern the same mechanism in the relationship with an employer. Employees feel more at home with an employer with similar values. And for the current, socially engaged millennial, this means they want to be with an employer who creates positive impact.

Good employment practices have been at the top of the priority list for a while and corporate volunteering is a big part of that. To gain acknowledgement as a preferred employer, a solid corporate volunteering programme is simply indispensable.

Atlassian has distinguished itself with its social strategy for years. The company organises a range of team activities that connect employees with Atlassian's social mission on a personal level. The company is one of the founders of Pledge 1%, a movement of corporate philanthropy, with companies donating 1% of their annual profit, 1% of employee hours and 1% of their own assets to non-profits.

The dedicated Atlassian Foundation organises many different activities. One of them is a project where volunteers cook with socially isolated elderly people. Employees report that their volunteering not only elevates the mood for all participants, it also promotes a strong team spirit. After all, is there anything better than working together with your colleagues to put a good meal on the table and smiles on people's faces?

At Red Bull, the company’s social engagement contributes to its employee engagement as well. Jorien Zuur, Brand Manager at Red Bull Netherlands, explains that their contribution has helped the cause, and also boosted the team morale. And: “It was great fun to apply our expertise in an entirely different professional field.”

Purpose marketing

And it's OK to tell the world you’re committed to positive change. Nowadays, people demand that corporations make clear choices and choose sides. Besides, surely you want to inspire others as well?

55% of the millennials are prepared to pay more for products or services from companies that are committed to positive social or environmental impact. By now, many companies sell more than a product; they also sell a purpose – a goal to which they have committed themselves. So we can see Coca-Cola employees creating moments of happiness for ill children, ING staff coaching literacy projects and Nike workers promoting sports in schools and communities.

Be careful, though. It is of the utmost importance to be honest and transparent in your efforts and communication. As noted, millennials can be sceptical, and many initiatives undergo serious scrutiny. Justifiably so, as over the last years, we have seen quite a few organisations jump the sustainability bandwagon without any genuine commitment. So be real, and you won’t be accused of greenwashing.

Getting started with corporate volunteering

In short, corporate volunteering can be a powerful way to contribute to a fairer, more sustainable and better world. And by committing your company to making positive impact – in words and deeds – you are more attractive for employees and customers. But you have to do it right. Some recommendations to get you going:

· Develop a corporate volunteering strategy. Start looking for a goal and activity that tie in with your company's DNA. Involve your staff in your mission of change. And, crucially, assign accountability for your social contribution to a dedicated employee who can drive your mission.

· Stay with the facts. You must be able to measure your impact. Make your efforts SMART, so you can report transparently and effectively about your corporate volunteering. Set up a solid system to measure and promote what your company is doing for society. Without it, you have nothing to present to the public.

· Be the change you want to see. Senior management needs to lead the way. Your employees want to see that the expensive suits are not afraid to get their hands dirty. And just imagine the opportunities to enhance relations within your organisation!

Do you have any questions? Perhaps you need a bit more to make a good start? Deedmob has years of experience connecting volunteers with organisations, using today's tools. Just reach out, without any obligation.

Boudewijn Wijnands

Founder & CEO

Boudewijn is the founder and CEO of Deedmob.