Increasing number of companies using business skills to benefit communities

Organisations are increasingly using the business skills to benefit local communities at volunteering events. Skills-based volunteering is rapidly gaining popularity against traditional manual labour tasks.

A record number of people took part in Business in the Community (BITC)’s annual volunteering initiative Give & Gain Day on 16 May, and many organisations ditched the more traditional manual labour for skills-based volunteering, offering things like mentoring and employability workshops. 

In total, 14,343 employee volunteers from 186 companies took part in this year’s event in the UK, and over 25,000 globally (figures correct at the time of going to press). London has seen a ten-fold increase in the proportion of skills-based volunteering for the day in the past two years. 

“There’s growing recognition that one of the best ways for businesses to make a difference is to use their skills,” says Stephanie Hagan, BITC’s head of community investment. 

Simon Lucas is managing director of executive search firm Society, which has taken part in Give & Gain Day for several years. This year saw a change of focus, as employees partnered with local charity The Parent House to offer workshops, covering areas including CV writing, job searching and interview skills for long-term unemployed parents looking to get back into work. 

“We really wanted to do something that linked to our day jobs; something we can do that other people can’t,” says Lucas. “[Skills-based volunteering] just feels more meaningful. Anyone can do some gardening, but the skills-based stuff is very specific to what we do day-to-day and felt like a more worthwhile use of the day.” 

While Lucas still believes in the power of all types of volunteering to boost engagement, retention and collaboration, he says this is particularly potent with skills-based activities. 

“The team building element becomes even more successful,” he adds. “When people are doing something they are familiar with, they can collaborate even more closely.”

Hagan says many organisations are now able to build a solid business case for giving something back, tying it to engagement and even productivity. “Employee volunteering is starting to become so embedded in employee engagement,” she adds. “More and more organisations are now able to quantify the impact [of employee volunteering].”

This is certainly the case at Lloyd’s Banking Group, where 5,000 members of staff took part in this year’s Give & Gain Day, offering skills-based volunteering such as CV training as well as more traditional volunteering. David Littlechild, head of colleague engagement at the bank, says these activities have a valuable impact on the company’s people metrics.

“Our research shows that colleagues who have participated in activities [like this], are significantly more engaged than those who have not been involved,” he says. “This increased level of engagement is reflected in greater satisfaction, pride, advocacy and intent to stay. These colleagues are also more positive about growth and development opportunities within the company.”