While ESV schemes are generally rewarding experiences for those involved, they still lag behind other forms of volunteering, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has found.
Just 39% of employees who give their time to volunteering through employer-organised or employer-supported activities reported being 'very satisfied'. This compared to 56% of non-ESV volunteers (those who've organised their volunteering experience themselves).
The research stated that employers can sometimes be more invested in the benefits that ESV can bring them, such as improved reputation, increased productivity or extra funding, than in the experiences of employees.
It found that organisations’ main reasons for providing ESV opportunities were a need for volunteers (48%), strengthening a relationship with a corporate (30%), accessing funding (20%), accessing skills (16%), and accessing future partners (16%).
However, for employees, volunteering is more about purpose and making a difference, with their top motivations including helping people (36%), the group or organisation being important to them (26%), or the cause meaning a lot to them (25%).
This mismatch of motivations can create tensions, the research stated. However, when there is a focus on shared values and purpose, it can lead to a range of benefits for all involved, it said.
“We found that for employers, often the focus is on building a relationship with a corporate rather than building a relationship with their volunteers, which led to it being less of a positive experience than it could it be. Unfortunately, the experiences of the employees themselves can be omitted, which can lead to some tensions,” head of research at NCVO Véronique Jochum told HR magazine.
The report, Time Well Spent, also looked into how charities and other volunteer-involving organisations can provide a rewarding experience. Jochum encouraged organisations to start by opening up a discussion.
“It’s not always easy to do, but employers need to open up more conversations with volunteers to check in with them, and to make sure they’re getting what they want out of it,” she said.
“Ask questions, and make sure that volunteers actually know what’s involved. Sometimes we found there was confusion from people on ESV over volunteering and team building. If senior people get involved in ESV and lead by example, that can really help too.”
Jochum added that volunteering has a wide range of benefits: “There are so many benefits to ESV. People who volunteer tend to be really engaged, and when people feel they are making a difference it can be hugely beneficial to their wellbeing and provide a positive impact in and outside of organisations.”
The NCVO research was based on a national survey of 10,103 employees and employers.