Demos report finds workplace volunteer schemes could boost leadership skills, job satisfaction and slice businesses' training budgets by as much as two-thirds

Bosses should award promotions or pay rises to employees who have done the most volunteering, according to a new Demos report.

The think tank argues that in-house volunteering programmes are a 'triple win', boosting employees' skills and job satisfaction, reducing sky-high training costs for businesses and benefiting the local community.

The scheme could see employees given time off work to mentor pupils to improve their literacy, organise community sports events or give careers advice at nearby schools.

British businesses currently spend around £40bn a year on training, roughly equivalent to the government's annual spending on schools, with individual leadership training courses costing an average of over £2,500 per person.

Instead, Demos recommends bosses give their workers 'volunteer days' off work, in addition to their annual leave, and encourage a work culture of volunteering by including targets in performance reviews and using volunteer league tables amongst staff when deciding pay rises and promotions.

Figures cited in the report calculate the average cost per employee of running a volunteer program is just £381.10 a year, less than a third of the average cost per year of training a manager (approx £1,337).

The report includes polling showing 61% of employees agreed volunteering experience made them perform better in their job. Two-thirds (66%) saw a noticeable improvement in their communication skills, with negotiating (45%), team-working (43%) and leadership skills (41%) also noticing significant progress.

As part of the project Demos interviewed several business leaders, who backed the findings and reinforced the idea that employer volunteering schemes were a much more cost effective way of upskilling their workforce and retaining staff than expensive training courses.

The report is being published by Demos this Thursday, and will be presented at a summit attended by business leaders and policymakers in London to discuss the findings.

'A triple win'

Pick me - hands up for volunteeringThe report argues that work volunteer schemes also offer outstanding personal development opportunities to the 14.4 million employees who work for SMEs, many of which struggle to offer structured training programmes.

While 70% of FTSE 100 companies have some kind of employee volunteer programme, the figure drops substantially to 20% of medium-sized businesses, and just 14% of small businesses.

A recent poll showed 58% of employees are likely to volunteer if they receive support from their employer, with less than one in five (17%) unlikely to take up the opportunity.

The report makes a distinction between 'skills-based volunteering' – utilising the employees existing professional skill-set such as an accounting doing the books for a charity – and additional volunteering – boosting soft skills such as communication, leadership and organisation.

The Demos report also:

• Notes that the more an employee volunteers, the greater their job satisfaction.

• Highlights benefits to local communities, and younger generations, from greater opportunities to participate in schemes run by an increased number of volunteers.

• Urges voluntary organisations to develop accreditation schemes that formally recognise the skills obtained by volunteers.

• Encourages closer relationships between employers and broker organisations who co-ordinate volunteering options, allowing bosses to assign opportunities to staff based on the specific skills they feel are most valuable to their development.

Jonathan Birdwell, Head of the Citizenship Programme at Demos and author of the report, said:

"Getting more staff to volunteer is a triple-win for businesses.

"Employers gain workers that are more skilled, productive and loyal without having to pay out for expensive training courses. Employees gain new skills and the satisfaction of making a difference in their community.  And by encouraging their employees to work with young people, businesses unlock the potential of the next generation of workers.

"Lots of employees would like to volunteer but aren't being given the chance. We need to get businesses on board to make volunteering an everyday part of people's work life."

Wayne Bulpitt, Chief Commissioner of The Scout Association and successful business owner said:

"I am deeply passionate about the life changing everyday adventure we provide to over 450,000 young people across the UK. But I also see the difference such opportunities make to the 100,000 adult volunteers who give up nearly 37m hours a year.

"This new research reinforces my experience of employers who support their employees to volunteer gaining in skills, budget and the respect of the communities whose lives their employees help to change."

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