Business must recognise the benefits of volunteering, says think tank

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Managers should recognise the benefit of employee volunteering and even offer staff extra leave to pursue it, according to the Scouting for Skills report by think tank Demos.

The advantages of this approach include reduced training costs, improved community relations and increased productivity, the report claims. 

Almost two-thirds (61%) of the employees surveyed said involvement in a volunteer programme improved performance in their regular role. Better communication (66%) was the most common benefit, followed by negotiating (45%), teamwork (43%) and leadership skills (41%). 

Businesses currently spend £40 billion per year on employee training, which is the same as the Government's budget for schools. This equates to an average of £2,500 per employee in the UK.

The report puts the average cost of running an employee programme at £381.10 per year. 

Volunteering schemes are fairly common in large corporates, with 70% of FTSE 100 companies running one. For medium-sized companies the figure drops to 20%, and it is even lower (14%) for companies with under 200 employees. 

Ian Wybron, researcher at Demos and co-author of the report, told HR magazine this is mainly due to lack of time and resources. He added that for all companies, the catalyst for volunteering should come from a high level.

"It's true that the culture will trickle down from the top," he said. "We find a lot of leaders are pleased to get involved. Sometimes the blockage can come when you get to middle-management, with many quoting time pressures as reasons why they can't get involved."

Wybron added that having volunteering or other community projects incorporated into their appraisals could drive change and encourage all staff to get involved in volunteering schemes. 

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