When it comes right down to it, the success of your company’s employee volunteering program rests on its ability to form, mobilize, and manage teams across all of the regions in which your company operates. Not only is the global nature of your company a hurdle, the various departments and business groups can make things very complicated. Here are three steps to success.
By Chris Jarvis
Step One: Finding the Right Employees to Lead Your Teams
First, you’ll need to identify the group of employees who will be instrumental to your program’s success. In order to generate widespread participation in the program, it is essential to find and collaborate with employees who are already volunteering in the community, either on their own time or through your company’s volunteering program.
How can you tell if you’ve found the “right” leader? Good question. You are looking for employees who demonstrate strong leadership skills through the practice of prosocial behavior such as volunteering. These are people with the existing enthusiasm, experience and energy upon which to build your program.
Sometimes senior managers appoint people to lead the program at their site or in their region. This almost always leads to failure. A solution we’ve found very successful to identify team leaders is through a simple interview process.
Potential leaders typically possess distinguishing characteristics:
- They already volunteer somewhere – or have in the past for significant periods of time.
- They think everyone who gets into volunteering will love it. Volunteering is a way of life.
- They have strong personal reasons for wanting to volunteer. It’s not about doing something for others as much as it’s about doing something for themselves.
- They regularly invite other people to join their volunteer activities.
- They understand the issues for which they volunteer and are eager – but are not pushy – to share their knowledge with others.
- They have strong opinions about the issue for which they volunteer – particularly regarding the use of resources and the types of activities.
Step Two: Engaging Employees and Forming Teams
The goal is to invite these employees to form volunteer teams with their colleagues who will participate in the company’s employee volunteering program. These team leads will be tasked with engaging fellow employees in company supported or sponsored volunteering activities. At volunteering projects, the team leads will ensure projects are well planned and executed. They will also provide onsite leadership at the projects for other employees ensuring that everyone knows the expectations, guidelines, purpose and objectives of the volunteer project.
Step Three: Set Your Team Leads Up for Success
Team Leads need a lot of support to be successful in their role. If you’ve been able to interview and select the right people, they bring with them extensive experience and insight. But corporate volunteering programs are unique. Volunteers are assessed not only as volunteers, but also as employees – their performance in the program has an influence on how they are viewed at work. Most employee volunteers are aware of the risks and require constant communication ensuring that the actions they take will not adversely affect their career or position within the company.
You will need to provide clear policies and guidelines, strong communication, and a user friendly online management tool. Along with regular (at least monthly) trainings these elements are essential components in a supporting ecosystem of community investment. The most successful volunteer teams will also have a support network comprised of fellow employees. This can take the form of peer teams meeting to share successes, barriers, and even concerns.
Here’s a list of success elements to consider for your program:
- Provide a formal orientation and assessment process for new team leads.
- Conduct a review process including references, a brief interview, orientation, and an assessment of previous experience as a volunteer.
- Provide practical tools for project development and execution, such as email templates (to invite other employees), scripts, guidelines, and planning forms. Here’s an example of what we mean.
- Offer training and other activities that provide insight on the social and/or environmental issues the volunteer team is addressing.
- Develop a mentoring process that clearly communicates the purpose, values, goals, and expectations of the company’s employee volunteering program. Experienced team leads may be paired up with new team leads for an effective transfer of knowledge.
- Ensure visible support at volunteer projects from senior leadership (remember: everyone is wondering how this “really” affects their career).
Equipping employees to play key leadership roles as part of a volunteer team ensures your company’s employee volunteering program is both engaging and sustainable.
Some ways we can help
Most of the blogs we write are geared toward managers responsible for employee volunteering, workplace giving, and sustainability programs. Our intention is to help you be more successful – whether you engage us formally or not. The work you do is critical to addressing the huge social and environmental issues facing our global society. The role you play in the company you work for is key to humanity’s future.
If you’d like our help with your employee volunteering or workplace giving program, please feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a comment below, or call us at 855-926-4678. You can also reach out to us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.