Hands Up For Volunteers – Purpose Drives Engagement
This recent news report cites some improvement in UK engagement figures and says that larger private companies are increasingly offering staff volunteer opportunities to improve employment engagement.
Most of my book ‘The Brain-Based Boss’ cited the research of others but the biggest piece of primary research I actually conducted myself was on volunteers. The news report above was about businesses allowing their people (or compelling them to ‘volunteer’) to do some charitable work as part of their ‘real’ paid work. There’s a bank in New Zealand that does this with their ‘Closed For Good’ campaign. The bank actually shuts for a day and sends the staff out to plant trees and such. It’s a nice effort and probably good marketing but that’s not where genuine benefits or lessons from volunteerism comes for businesses.
And by ‘volunteers’, I’m not talking about spending a few hours collecting for charity or running a barbeque outside a shopping centre for the swim club. I’m not talking about volunteers who coach kids’ sports or do the club paperwork. I’m talking about people who show up on a regular, formally scheduled basis to perform specified tasks with other people with defined outcomes, standards and so forth. You know, like a job. But for free.
Volunteering enables people to learn new skills or keep their hand in at existing ones supporting people moving towards mastery. Having leaders with a shared point of view stimulates an autonomy supportive environment. The ‘no surprises’ policy and differentiation strategy makes volunteer organisations sense of purpose obvious. Ultimately that purpose when volunteering is about positively and effectively influencing others.
Leaders of paid employees can learn a lot from those leading volunteer workforces. I know I did.