How volunteering will lift your firm's performance

21 May 2015 -


While qualifications and skillsets are as important as ever, expertise outside normal job requirements is vital for talent development, says a leading HR manager

Steve Wilkins

The modern workplace is constantly evolving, and personal development plans need to evolve, too. In its recent report From Big Society to the Big Organisation, CIPD – the professional body for HR, coaching and mentoring – made the connection between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and staff upskilling as a means of adding value and helping both businesses and individual workers grow.

Its report flagged up how teamwork between the HR, learning and development (L&D) and CSR departments is crucial for developing the workforce – and most notably, stressed how volunteering can have a significant impact not just on an individual’s personal skills, but on a company as a whole.

So, how does voluntary work benefit employees?

On a big-picture level, volunteering can boost an employee’s attitude and expectations by offering them a different perspective on the world. But more than that, it can provide them with an enhanced set of “soft skills”, such as…

1. Improving appreciation for the community

Through volunteering, team members recognise how their decisions can impact the wider workforce, along with the environment and the communities they serve. This supports individual growth by encouraging them to think about their actions – whether that relates to recycling or switching off the lights. At FedEx, we encourage our employees to volunteer and support our noted charities. Indeed, our team members regularly donate their time to help renovate Action for Children centres. Furthermore, through increased awareness of CSR opportunities of that nature, employees are supporting a company’s vision and business philosophy by upholding its values and contributing to its success.

2. Enhancing communication skills

Volunteering encourages staff to communicate with a different audience, which enhances their confidence. At FedEx we introduced a CSR Steering Group, made up of people from different departments. The Group decides on the type of volunteering activities to undertake, as well as encouraging FedEx team members to take part. That provides for ample collaboration, giving employees additional responsibilities such as leading volunteering activities or organising fundraising – all of which allows them to mentor junior members, who will follow their lead and share in a range of different, new skills.

3. Building on existing knowledge

Enabling staff from different departments to work together is another key win in volunteering. Offering employees an opportunity to develop their knowledge through taking on roles they might not necessarily work in – and with people they don’t usually work with – allows them to progress in a range of areas. For example, in my free time I work with an organisation providing charities with guidance and support on HR issues, and I transfer any consequent understanding I gain of new audiences to my current role at FedEx.

4. Helping staff to become more “well rounded”

Taking part in CSR activities can enhance talents such as team building and skills sharing. Through volunteering, employees interact with a variety of people across an organisation, helping to boost camaraderie while reinforcing a company’s commitment to the workforce.

Overall, combining CSR initiatives with L&D provides a worthwhile addition to traditional forms of staff development. Volunteering gives individuals an expanded knowledge and skillset needed for their future growth. CSR can help develop the skills needed for management and leadership roles, allowing individuals to climb the ranks within a business. This is hugely beneficial for retention, and addresses skills gaps and behavioural changes while encouraging personal development. Cross-departmental teamwork and increased skills will improve an organisation, as individuals bring in new perceptions and expertise – contributing to the evolving workplace, and encouraging the business to grow and prosper.

Steve Wilkins is UK HR manager at delivery firm FedEx Express

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