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Is voluntary work a cost effective way to train?

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Is voluntary work a cost effective way to train?

The City of London Corporation has released a
report which shows that corporate volunteering offers significant financial
benefits for business.  Volunteering has
been shown to be a highly cost effective and motivating way to develop the
skills and competencies of employees. It has the potential to save as much as
£1000 per person when compared to the costs of traditional training

Produced by Corporate
Citizenship, the report – ‘Volunteering: the Business Case’ – tracks the
learning and development of almost 550 employees from 16 major City firms volunteering
in schools and colleges across the UK. The report was launched by the Lord
Mayor of the City of London, Nick Anstee at an event that attracted over 150
business leaders.

Andrew Wilson, Director of
Corporate Citizenship and the report’s main author outlined the key findings: The
research shows that employee volunteers are able to develop a wide range of
skills and competencies related to their personal effectiveness, including: communication
skills, their ability to coach others,their adaptability and
ability to be effective in different surroundings and influencing and
negotiating skills.

The experiential nature of
volunteering makes it hugely valuable in the skills development process and
sets it apart from more traditional approaches to training. Volunteering
requires employees to step outside their normal working role and build
relations with people who have a very different world view from their own.
Employees report that moving outside their “comfort zone” in this way is
extremely useful in both developing their skills and transferring these skills
back into the workplace.

In addition, the skills
development observed by volunteers is not simply a self-reported gain. The
evidence was corroborated by the overwhelming majority of their line managers
who feel that volunteers acquire useful skills from their volunteering
experience. Many of these skills feature in the mainstream competency
frameworks used by companies to monitor and guide staff development.

Most importantly, developing
skills through volunteering is more cost effective that traditional training
programmes. Overall, the average annual cost to support each volunteer is £381
per person per annum. This figure includes the full costs including direct
management costs and all additional costs involved in running an effective
volunteering programme. In contrast, data from a UK survey on training costs
shows that the typical training spend per employee can be as much as £1,400 per
person per annum.

Alan Tapnack, Executive Director and board
member of Investec commented:  ‘’After
many years of philanthropic giving we launched our formal Social Investment
programme in 2008, with education as a major focus. We didn’t set out with the
intention of developing the skills of our employees through Social Investment,
but many of our volunteers have said that they have learned and gained much
through being involved in
our education initiatives. We are pleased to be involved in this research
project as it will encourage more businesses to invest in their local
communities, whilst also delivering valuable benefits to their employees.”

Michael Collins, Head of
Corporate Responsibility at Société Générale, commented: “Business heads quite
rightly demand a solid business case to justify investment.  The City of London report will add
substantially to our ability to build the business case for volunteering.”

The Lord Mayor of the City
of London, Nick Anstee, commented: “Having worked in the City for the entirety
of my professional career, I am well aware of the mutual benefits a well run
corporate volunteering programme can bring to business and to local

He added: “Communities
clearly benefit when businesses choose to partner local organisations and when
they encourage their employees to devote time and energy providing
opportunities for people living in difficult circumstances, often in seriously
deprived areas. “The reciprocal benefits for businesses are equally apparent –
a commitment to Corporate Responsibility (CR) can boost a firm’s reputation
whilst also helping to create a highly-skilled, well motivated workforce. All
of this provides a distinct advantage when it comes to the recruitment and
retention of top talent.

is for these reasons that the City of London Corporation has a long-standing
commitment to community involvement. Not only does the City run a structured
volunteering programme for its own employees but it also runs the Lord Mayor’s
Dragon Awards to celebrate the most innovative and successful corporate

involvement programmes run by London based
organisations each year.”


11 May 2010

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