Employee volunteering


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Companies in Malaysia are actively involved in community investment, one of the key components of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. Community investment compromises a company’s contribution to the community, whether financial and in-kind contributions or employee’s skill and time (notably, contributed on company’s time). There seems to be an interesting shift in the way community investment programmes are currently run and reported in Malaysia.

Not so long ago, the trend of companies in Malaysia was to pose next to orphans with a life-size mock cheque wedged in between them. This seemed to be the predominant way of giving back to the community – giving away money with no strings attached.

Today, a quick scan through the local newspapers and annual reports shows that companies are increasingly shying away from mock cheque presentations. Instead, companies are now seen supporting community initiatives via employee volunteer programs.

In a newspaper report – “Company X decided to give back to the community by organising an adopt-an-orphan day where the employees brought a group of orphans to the zoo for a day out.”

In a 2011 annual report – “Our employees outdid themselves by clocking up a total of 11,308 man hours for community projects for the year 2011 compared to 2010’s 4,320 hours. This is the highest EVER man hours achieved for our community investment programme since it was introduced 4 years ago.

It is commendable that businesses support their employees (and their efforts!) to do volunteer work in the community on company’s time and resources. However, from a strategic viewpoint, what exactly does those man hours indicate? What is the impact of those hours invested? What is the impact of a one-off outing for the community, employee and the business?

The business case for employee volunteering is straightforward: it is good for the community; good for those who volunteer; good for the company itself. Below are some ways of organising a sound employee volunteering programme which demonstrates a company’s commitment to both its employees and the community:

Engage the community

Never assume you know what the community needs. It takes coordinated effort to realise the company’s CSR strategy, pull together relevant employee skills and the needs of the community to a win-win-win situation!

Embed volunteering into the corporate culture

New research from the Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey 2011 suggests a link between volunteering and employees’ perception of positive corporate culture.

Focus on skill-based volunteering

It makes strategic sense to do what you’re good at. Leverage on that advantage to enable the community to develop solutions to problems that they face.

Develop a volunteer program structure and policies

Written and communicated policies on employee volunteering help keep it focused and easy to manage. Also, this keeps the process fair when it comes to recognising employees for the volunteer time.

Make the programmes sustainable and packed with real value

There is nothing wrong with one-off short intervention programmes although we do wonder what real value this adds to the community, employee and business. Most problems faced by the community require time to solve. To a certain extent, continued effort can portray the commitment of the employee and company.

Measure and evaluate

Collecting the numbers of hours volunteered by employee is a great start but just not good enough to gauge how successful the employee volunteer programme is. Other possible areas to look into is how it helped the community, internally measure benefits (such as skills, satisfaction) received by the employee, and whether the program meets the overall mission of the company. No one should be left out in the evaluation.

CSR Asia is a leading provider of training, research and consultancy services on sustainable business practices in Asia.


Photo Flickr: User ~Lauren Parker

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