How employer supported volunteering can open doors to employee engagement

Over the last few years employee engagement has taken on greater significance than ever before. Organisations are increasingly recognising the importance of engaging their staff and many associated benefits include an increase in workplace morale, employee retention and the organisation’s bottom line. Simply put, engaged employees are happier, work harder and stay longer.

So how can organisations engage their staff?

Research has found that employees are engaged because of six main areas:

  • Work – they are interested in their tasks, agree with the processes and have a sense of accomplishment.
  • People – they have strong interpersonal relationships with their colleagues.
  • Opportunities – they feel that there is space for learning and development and this leads to career opportunities.
  • Rewards – in addition to salary and benefits recognition plays an important part in creating a rewarding environment for staff.
  • Organisations reputation – employees feel that the organisation has a good quality of brand, strong reputation and a diverse workforce.
  • Lastly quality of life – employees are happy with their physical work environment and feel they have a balanced work/ life.

So how can Employer Supported Volunteering engage employees in those areas?

From the work we have done with ESV organisations through Investing in Volunteers for Employers we have found that ESV develops employee skills such as communication, leadership and confidence. Employees have reported feeling that they have an improved sense of purpose and believe that they are contributing to the community. ESV is also a way for employees to gain recognition and build stronger relationships with colleagues, particularly through team challenge days. ESV is also a ways for organisations to enhance their profile and be seen as investing in their local community, which furthers supports the employees feeling of giving something back.

Overall ESV can support most if not all of the above areas of engagement.

Now…to get your employees volunteering

That’s great I hear you say but how do we get them volunteering? In the recent research which NCVO conducted with CiPD “On the brink of a game changer” we found that only a quarter of employees with access to an ESV programme engaged with it.

I’ve got 5 top tips for engaging your staff in ESV programmes:

1. Promotion, promotion, promotion

Employees can’t get involved unless they are aware that your organisation offers an ESV scheme and what the opportunities are. Consider how you get the message out particularly if you have a geographically spread team. How about using bulletin boards in staff areas, work intranet or web platforms, HR inductions, team meetings or supervision.

2. Case studies and feedback

If you have employees going out and doing great things in their local community get talking about it! Promoting your employees ESV efforts will help raise interest. Encourage employees to feed in what worked, what didn’t and what could be improved this way you are strengthening your programme as well as demonstrating to your employees that you value their opinion. The more your employees feel heard and supported in volunteering for causes they care about, the more passionate they will be about supporting your organisation’s ESV programme.

3. Healthy competition

Create a buzz around your ESV programme:

  • Get employees to feed in
  • Offer suggestions of names for the programme
  • Advocate particular charities to volunteer with or sponsor
  • Present prizes to those that volunteer the most
  • Communicate loudly and honour the winners publicly
  • Guaranteeing interest, fun and engagement.

4. Who are your employees?

What sort of skills and experience do your employees have? What are their interests? Consider a skills and interest audit – this will help you know more about your employees and what roles they are most suited and interested in. Employees will feel more prepared for their role, do better work, have a greater sense of accomplishment, and be more likely to volunteer again. This kind of skills-based volunteering will increase employee interest and engagement in ESV; helping to maximize the impact of your programme on your organisation and in the community.

5. New skills anyone?

ESV is a great way to develop your employee’s skills. Let them know that you are keen for them to develop new skills that will not only benefit them in their current role but throughout their careers. For instance by giving them a group of volunteers to manage, they will gain skills in management, project planning and leadership.

These are just a few ways in which you can engage your employees through Employer Supported Volunteering, leading to more happy and productive staff.


Do you have you have an ESV programme? Would you be interested in sharing your story, if so please email

If you’re thinking of setting up an ESV programme, we’re running a half-day workshop on 18 March, aimed at developing your understanding of the charity sector and helping you make a business case for ESV within your company.

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Patricia is NCVO’s Investing in Volunteers programme manager. She is responsible for managing both the Investing in Volunteers and Investing in Volunteers for Employers Quality Standards. Patricia has worked in the voluntary sector in volunteer management roles for over 10 years and is passionate about supporting volunteering.

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