Corporate volunteering involves employees dedicating their time towards social, environmental and economic development projects. But beyond creating a societal impact, volunteering also provides substantial benefits for employees and businesses. Recent studies have shown the following:
Given recent issues of low engagement, rising mental stress and attrition in the workplace, this means that volunteering can also become an effective tool for businesses to improve employee engagement, well-being and skills.
A latest report —“Volunteering in 100 Top Companies in India” by India Welfare Trust outlines these benefits and identifies volunteering trends across leading companies across different sectors in India. Here are six key insights from the report:
Need for greater reporting and disclosure of volunteering data
While 78 percent of the 100 Top companies disclosed employees participating in some form of volunteering programs or activities, only 26 percent of them reported number of volunteers and 39 percent reported number of volunteering hours. This could be due to low-priority of disclosing volunteering data as part of annual reports, or limited capturing of volunteer data due to lack of volunteering data systems.
Formalising volunteering policies and incentives can facilitate scale-up
A volunteering policy is a set of guidelines that outline how a company’s employees can participate in volunteering programs, including the types and nature of volunteering activities. Volunteering policies may also include incentives like volunteering time-off and volunteering matching grants.
While, volunteering time-off allows an employee to volunteer during company hours, a volunteering matching grant includes a company’s donation of money to a non-profit to match an employee’s contribution of time.
However, “formalisation” of volunteering policies and incentives in corporate India is currently in its nascent stages. Only 16 percent of the 100 Top companies have a formal volunteering policy. Further, 22 percent of 100 Top companies provided volunteering time-off compared with 66 percent in the US, and only 7 percent of 100 Top companies provided volunteering matching grants compared with 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.
Given the median employee participation rates in volunteering programs is 22 percent in companies in India, compared with 33 percent in the US companies, it shows a positive correlation between volunteering incentives and employee participation rates.
Setting public volunteering targets can make volunteering a “cultural asset”
Currently, 9 percent of the 100 Top companies have a public target towards their volunteering initiatives. Targets are typically set on achieving a certain number of volunteering hours or engaging a certain percentage of their employees or business divisions to volunteer. Tech Mahindra, Tata Group, Dell, Salesforce are examples of companies who have set public volunteering targets in order to mobilise wider organisational participation and leverage employee volunteering as a “cultural asset”.
Integrating employee involvement within CSR projects can bring synergies.
As per the report, 49 percent of the Top Indian companies currently disclose/involve employees as volunteers in CSR (corporate social responsibility) projects. With annual CSR spending in India crossing Rs 26,000 crore in FY 2023, corporates thus have a wide possibility to involve employees as volunteers in their social development projects, develop an employee’s pride in a company’s social and environmental activities, and build a deeper connection with their local communities.
Volunteering programs can be designed as an end-to-end HR solution
Companies in India can also curate volunteering programs as an HR tool across employee on-boarding, training and engagement. For instance, in Indigo, all the new hires have half day of volunteering activity as part of their training modules to learn about Indigo’s culture and philosophy.
Companies like Titan and Bosch have placed their senior professionals on the board of NGOs to help them develop and improve their leadership skills. In order to build greater employee engagement, IT companies like Infosys, SAP and Google also offer “social sabbaticals” to eligible employees to take extended time-off to work on social development projects.
Conducting impact studies can help link benefits of volunteering to business outcomes
Ultimately, benefits from volunteering will only be appreciated once it has been experienced – so companies are encouraged to gather more impact data on their volunteering programs to ascertain if/what business benefits are accrued from their volunteering programs.
For instance, Cognizant has found that volunteers in its “Outreach” program have 11 percent lower attrition than other associates. Consequently, as corporate India continues to tackle evolving workforce dynamics and technological advances, volunteering programs offer a significant opportunity to HR, CSR and corporate leaders to achieve both, societal impact and business results.
—The author, Kartikye Aggarwal, is Growth Strategist at India Welfare Trust, and a Chartered Accountant and INSEAD alumnus with 10 years’ experience at J.P. Morgan (India & USA) and Essilor (Singapore). He leads India Welfare Trust’s efforts to support corporates in scaling up their volunteering initiatives.
(Edited by : C H Unnikrishnan)
First Published: Aug 21, 2023 2:32 PM IST