Volunteering: Just how much does business benefit?

In the week 9th to 13th October, Sopra Steria colleagues across the UK will take part in various volunteering and fundraising activities all in aid of ‘Community Matters Week’, an initiative set up to encourage people to give a little back. In 2016, we raised around £20,000 for various charities across the UK. As well as the funds, staff spent plentiful hours volunteering, getting involved in community projects; from transforming a local school yard to helping out at a local city farm and knitting outfits for premature babies, to name a few great projects.

The cynics among us may wonder why we spend precious working hours on things that, yes, are nice, but perhaps not essential to the task in front of us.

However, I believe that employee volunteering programmes can have a positive impact on the workforce and there is plentiful research out there citing the significant business benefits of these company-led initiatives.

Here are some thoughts on the positive impact volunteering can have on business and how Sopra Steria has been involved…

New Business Opportunities

By taking an active part in the local community, companies are able to raise their profile and enhance their reputation. Smart companies should take advantage of this free advertising by getting involved in volunteering in the areas most closely related to their business [1]. This work in the community can provide fantastic case studies to present to potential clients and could potentially set the company aside from the competition [2]. It’s fantastic to see various examples of this happening throughout Sopra Steria with employees volunteering at local coding groups, mentoring programmes with universities and facilitating work experience through the Career Ready initiative; all this voluntary work is included in our bid proposals and receives positive feedback from clients. Recently some of our clients have been so impressed with the voluntary work we do that they have asked us to get involved in workshops for them – a great opportunity for us to build long-lasting relationships and create future business prospects.

Improved Employee Engagement

Research shows that employees who volunteer through a company programme have increased levels of satisfaction in their work [3]. Companies who promote volunteering to the workforce are also found to have higher levels of morale among staff members [4] and it has been noted that voluntary activities can provide a great sense of achievement and team spirit among the workforce [5]. This is clearly evident among Sopra Steria volunteers; just ask any of them how they feel about getting involved with the local community. You will see them light up with pride and passion for the work they have done and the support they have received from the company!

Developing the Current Workforce

There is overwhelming evidence to support the correlation between volunteering and skills development amongst employees [6]. Employees who actively participate in volunteering activities gain a host of transferable skills – from problem solving, enhanced communication skills to teaching and mentoring skills [7] – all of which could have a positive impact on their working lives. This is an area where I have reaped the benefits, my involvement in the Community Matters programme and my ongoing volunteering with my local Girl Guide unit has allowed my confidence to flourish. Through my volunteering I have enhanced my communication and networking skills, as well as developed skills in coaching and mentoring; all of these things have had a positive impact on my working life.

Developing the Future Workforce

Volunteering programmes are particularly relevant to recruitment. Companies are finding that graduates of the millennial generation are interested in finding employers who share their values and beliefs [8]. As such, companies are increasingly asked what volunteering opportunities are on offer, companies who provide a program are more desirable and increasingly labelled as an ‘employer of choice’ among the workforce [9]. Working at the forefront of recruitment and on-boarding within Sopra Steria I can vouch for this:

Applicants are increasingly asking what we as a company do to help our local communities. The volunteering programmes are always a great selling point, people want to make a difference and see how the local community can benefit from that.

It’s clear there are many personal benefits to volunteering; it definitely promotes the ‘feel good factor’. But the benefits are not only at a personal level, volunteering has a bigger impact which can allow us to shape the future of our business. It is great to be involved in a company that is so passionate about the community and I encourage everyone (even the cynics) to get involved; I promise it will be worth it.

Discover more about Sopra Steria’s involvement in Community projects and commitment to supporting volunteering activities.

There is a plethora of information on the benefits of corporate volunteer programmes. For more information check out:

https://www.bitc.org.uk/services/community-investment/business-case

https://www.frontstream.com/3-benefits-of-corporate-volunteer-programs/

http://corporate-citizenship.com/wp-content/uploads/Volunteering_The_business_case.pdf

https://www.salesforce.com/uk/blog/2017/09/the-business-benefits-of-volunteering.html

http://www.employeevolunteering.co.uk/benefits-to-business.html

Footnotes:

[1] https://www.bitc.org.uk/services/community-investment/business-case

 

[2] https://www.frontstream.com/3-benefits-of-corporate-volunteer-programs/

[3] http://corporate-citizenship.com/wp-content/uploads/Volunteering_The_business_case.pdf page 67

[4] https://www.frontstream.com/3-benefits-of-corporate-volunteer-programs/

[5] http://www.employeevolunteering.co.uk/benefits-to-business.html

[6] https://www.salesforce.com/uk/blog/2017/09/the-business-benefits-of-volunteering.html

[7] http://corporate-citizenship.com/wp-content/uploads/Volunteering_The_business_case.pdf page 23

[8] https://www.frontstream.com/3-benefits-of-corporate-volunteer-programs/

[9] http://corporate-citizenship.com/wp-content/uploads/Volunteering_The_business_case.pdf page 69

I’m a beekeeper – what’s your super power?

On Friday 23rd of June I used my Sopra Steria Volunteering Day to support the Scottish Beekeepers Association (SBA) at the Royal Highland Show. The SBA was setup in 1912 as the national beekeeping body in Scotland. Sopra Steria provides me with one day’s paid volunteering, as part of our Community commitments, so with the SBA being a charity I decided to use my volunteering day to help.

Every year the SBA have a massive “Honey Marquee” at the Royal Highland Show which is a 4 day event – it’s Scotland’s biggest agricultural event with over 1,000 trade exhibitors and 6,500 animals. In the Honey Marquee alone, the SBA plan for around 10,000 visitors per day and require teams of stewards to help. So I put my name down for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

SR-Outside-Honey-MarqueeAll of the stewards were avid beekeepers, ranging from people like me, i.e. beginners keeping a couple of hives in the back garden, through to bee farmers with hundreds of hives and decades of experiences.

We rotated our teams around the various sections of the hive covering:

  • Candle making – beeswax of course!
  • Observation hives – we had 3 glass sided hives with bees foraging outside at the show

Education – a “touchy feely” area where people can handle hive parts, honey  comb and a honey extractor.

Here’s a view inside the Honey Marquee:

SBA-Honey-Marquee-2017

How did I get into Beekeeping?

readman-family-beekeepersOne of my good friends from school has kept bees for many years and I’d always had “beekeeping” in my bucket list of things to. So when he said he had a spare colony for me I thought – “how difficult can this be?”. I took my first colony with his telephone support, joined the Edinburgh branch of the SBA and did their beginners evening course. My (then) 8 year old daughter came along to the Saturday practical sessions too, so this has become a bit of a family hobby.

2016 was a bad year weather-wise and we didn’t get any honey, but in May this year we took our first crop of 13 jars:may-honey-crop-wide

Bees and our environment

As you will have heard in the news, bees have had a bit of a bad time with a variety of factors leading to colonies failing, this includes Varroa Mites and Foul Brood. We’re all hoping that the Asian Hornet doesn’t take hold in the UK.

Discover more about Sopra Steria’s sustainability commitment and community activities.

Useful Links:

Three things I learned volunteering for The Prince’s Trust

 Sopra Steria is a proud Patron of
The Prince’s Trust – a UK youth charity that helps 13 to 30 year olds get into jobs, education and training.  We encourage our employees to be volunteers for The Trust to help run and lead programmes that inspire and empower these young people to realise their potential.

I recently volunteered to deliver a
‘Find A Work Placement’ workshop to help participants take responsibility for developing and raising their skills.  Here are some things I learned from this challenging and rewarding experience:

The participating young people wanted to make a difference to their lives

The young people participating in the workshop showed real potential to succeed.  They engaged in the workshop activities (including a role play where I played  an employer they were approaching for a work placement), listened to and positively acted on the feedback given and shared in celebrating success.  They demonstrated the right qualities we all need when looking for work.

The Prince’s Trust team were fantastic

The materials and support I received from The Trust Team were always practical and useful.  As a volunteer drawing from my own professional skills and experience, I was rightly expected to make the workshop a success; The Trust helped me by providing a structured approach and suggested methods for facilitating the session with clear, specific learning objectives for those participating. This empowered me to run the session effectively with other volunteers while giving us room to share our own relevant insights and experiences throughout the day. In addition the onsite Trust Team helped participants engage in the workshop activities constructively using a positive, collaborative approach.

It was challenging and personally rewarding for me

Like all Trust volunteers, it’s intrinsically satisfying to see young people get value from your engagement.  The experience also helped develop my own business skills as I needed to adapt my working style to succeed as a workshop facilitator.  By the end of the day I had helped participants create their own individual action plans to find work placements – a positive next step in them taking responsibility for unlocking their own potential.

Find out more information about The Prince’s Trust and how you can get involved.  And if you have any thoughts on this topic, leave a reply below or contact me by email.