When the organisers of the UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021 (COP26) in Glasgow reached out for volunteers there was a backlash online almost instantly.  Volunteers will be expected to work six shifts over the duration of the event and attend training but, unlike at the delegates who will be well renumerated for their attendance, these hard-working volunteers will be repaid in ‘civic pride’.

As a city committed to achieving the Living Wage for the employees of their local businesses, why can we not offer a fair wage as repayment for their hard work - especially during this time when the pandemic is a major stress on people in the city’s income?

Of course, I’m not armed with all of the facts, so my opinion is based purely on the news I have heard, and perhaps there is good reason (other than financial ones) for COP26 to request volunteers rather than staff.  So instead, I offer another option where COP26 gets a high standard of help, and the volunteers still get compensated for their time - employee volunteering.

Connect Three offers all of its employees the chance to spend four days during the working year volunteering for causes that they believe in, and still get paid their normal wage.  Why on earth would they encourage us to work for other people while they pay us?  Easy, it makes us happy - and that’s not all...

The benefits of Employee Volunteering

Employee Volunteering (EV), also known as Corporate volunteering, is a great way for businesses to contribute to their community.  By giving their employees an annual allowance of paid time to be used to volunteer at a cause of their choice, it has been proven to increase their wellbeing and engagement with their organisation.  It can also be a useful way to attract and retain talent – after all, what organisation would not be made better by hiring employees who care about the world around them?

The traditional perks of health plans and bonus schemes are not enough anymore.  Great people are looking for a great workplace, somewhere they can feel rewarded, engaged, and like they are part of something meaningful.

So, it’s not entirely selfless!  Employees at firms with volunteer days are proud to tell others where they work.  They’ll probably even share their EV work on social media.  It can be great for your brand, for team building, leadership development, and for upskilling your employees.

How to do Employee Volunteering well

A successful EV strategy should not just support an employee’s own efforts, but also give them opportunities.  It does not have to be a solo activity; team volunteering events are becoming more and more common, and there are even ‘brokers’ who will do all of the organising for you.

There is always fear of controversy when it comes to choosing a charity – especially in larger companies where you are likely to cause offence by selecting the ‘wrong’ cause, but charities are not the only option.  You can volunteer for environmental events (like tree planting or COP26), or even school, college and university mentorships.

To find out more about Employee Volunteering, this free CIPD resource is a great place to start.