Julia Grant: Employer-supported volunteering schemes can still be game-changers

Although employers and staff might have different priorities, ESV programmes still help to develop communication, influencing and negotiation skills

Julia Grant
Julia Grant

Earlier this month, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations published research showing that people who organise their own volunteering have higher satisfaction rates than those who take part in employer-supported volunteering

We hear a lot about how little thought is invested in setting up many ESV programmes. As a result, the mismatch of priorities between employers and volunteers that often occurs is perhaps not that surprising. Nor are poor satisfaction levels associated with them. Indeed, it would be peculiar if they were anything but, given the quality of so many ESV schemes at present.

Yet I still see real value in them because of the potential within skilled volunteering.

The survey In Volunteering – The Business Case, published by the consultancy Corporate Citizenship, says that skilled volunteers reported developments in their communication, influencing and negotiation skills coming from their participation in these programmes. This tallies with my own experience of working with skilled volunteers.

I am also encouraged to see a consensus emerging around the importance of developing those abilities. This quote from a blog by the training provider Mind Tools really gets to the nub of the issue for me: "While your technical skills may get your foot in the door, your people skills are what open most of the doors to come."

If employers can take the time to properly design programmes that use volunteers’ professional abilities, the associated boost to their interpersonal skills – their EQ – will benefit all parties today, tomorrow and well into the future.

The report Artificial Intelligence: The Next Digital Frontier?, published by the consultancy the McKinsey Global Institute, estimates that jobs based around social and emotional skills will be more in demand than ever by 2030, as employers place more of a premium on EQ over IQ.

I would like to see more thought put into the design and delivery of ESV schemes to ensure that the skills of volunteers are used and stretched by their engagements in a way that delivers real value to the charities they serve.

This will be to the benefit of employers and volunteers because the skills gained will leave them best equipped to embrace the opportunities provided by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, for example.

Julia Grant is chief executive of Pro Bono Economics

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