How & Why Employee Volunteering is Employee Development

Case studies, research and lots of links
Jul 12, 2011 3:30 PM ET

How & Why Employee Volunteering is Employee Development

Very few executives would argue against the importance of developing the skills and abilities of their employees. When companies invest in employee development they can expect to see gains in performance, organizational commitment, and innovation. Beyond the skills imparted to the employee, training programs indicate that the employer is willing to “invest in its human capital that both builds employee capabilities and increases their degree of job satisfaction.” (Read more here) Ultimately, employee development is essential if companies hope to adapt and develop within a constantly changing business environment. 

Typically employee development takes place through some type of formalized training. Much of the training has to do with "hard skills" such as process and procedure. An example of this may be how to properly wrap cheese in the dairy factory. On the other had, "soft skills" have to do with abilities that are essential for employees to know and understand but can be difficult to measure. Some examples may be teamwork, problem solving, public speaking, networking, negotiating, etc.   If you’d like to check out your own skill level when it comes to ‘soft skills’ you can take a little quiz here.    The Cost of Employee Training   Given the importance soft skills play in creating competitive advantage (remember, these are all intangible resources), many businesses invest in providing some type of training to increase the abilities of their employees in these areas.   But training isn’t cheap.   The Society for Human Resource Management reported in 2006, that the cost of employee training averaged out to $995 per employee. More recently, Bersin and Associates estimated that the average spending per employee in a training program in 2010 was $1202. Interestingly, the largest single area of expense (21%) is in leadership development and management training - soft skill stuff.  

The Training Potential of Employee Volunteering Programs   Employee Volunteering programs offer companies a unique opportunity to act as good Corporate Citizens while enabling their workforce to acquire relevant work related skills. By creating opportunities for employees to volunteer in the community, companies are able to leverage one of their most valuable assets towards addressing social and environmental concerns. In the process, the employees gain experience and understandings that make them more effective in their roles with the company. Usually, employees acquire soft skills such as communication, management and leadership. Beyond individual skills, employees become better at working in teams. Barclay’s Bank discovered that of the employees who volunteered in the community, 61% increased their team-work skills. Probably more impressive, 58% of Barclay’s managers reported a visible improvement among their staff’s attitudes towards each other following a volunteer experience.   A number of other examples are available thanks to the recent report "Global Companies Volunteering Globally" produced by the Global Corporate Volunteer Council (GCVC) of the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE). Here are some examples, but click here to view the entire list:

Timberland All service projects are led by employees who learn new skills and gain valuable project management and leadership experience to forward their professional development.   Marriott Volunteer activities bring a new dimension to the meetings and strengthen teams both within and across functions.    Samsung Volunteering with NGOs complements in-house training programs to enhance professional competencies, especially negotiation and communications skills with external audiences.   Telefónica contracts with universities (in four countries) to provide training for employees on how to develop projects and make presentations.  Conflicted about Developmental Goals 

But not all volunteering is created equal. Much of the perceived gains in employee development through corporate volunteering programs are only available via skills based volunteering.   

Read the entire article here.