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Why social impact and volunteering improves employee engagement

6th July, 2021   •   4 min

How to increase employee engagement

We all know that what makes individuals disengaged at work is poor pay, poor working conditions and poor managers. Interestingly, fixing these is not enough to make sure that our team is engaged. The true benefits come when we take this a step further. The key elements that make individuals happy and engaged at work are RAMP: recognition, autonomy – more responsibility to do things their way, mastery – personal growth and development and purpose – feeling part of something bigger and like you are having a positive impact in the world are drivers of employee engagement.

One way to ensure you are RAMPing up your team is to ensure you have a social impact programme.

Millennials, who are estimated to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, are looking to join and stay at companies that contribute to social and environmental good. These individuals are looking for a rewarding, engaging and meaningful experience at work.

Companies that offer volunteering opportunities attract and retain talent, improve productivity and increase engagement. Also, by working in a new environment team members improve teamwork, learn new skills and get a fresh perspective that can lead to fresh ideas. All of this creates more valuable and committed employees.

Great Place to Work found that 82% of individuals felt more committed to their company if they had the opportunity to volunteer. Yet, 53% of under 35s want to volunteer more than they currently do.

So what can we do?

Here are five key things we do at Higson to improve employee engagement through social impact and volunteering. If you would like to chat through how to adopt these ideas further, we would love to hear from you.

1. Commit time and expertise to help charities and social organisations

We work with a charity a month pro-bono to share our expertise and help them improve. n

Some of the charity projects we have run this year include:

  • ‘Improving your mindset’ training with Crisis, the national charity for homelessness
  • Partnering with You Make It to deliver resilience training as part of their programme to empower young, unemployed women
  • Helping Coast 4C improve their pitching skills and tailoring their message secure more investment

Laura from Higson: “Seeing these statistics at our end of year team meeting was incredibly motivating. It means a lot to us to see the incredible impact we have had.”

2. Build partnerships and share profits

We have two key partnerships: one charity that helps tackle climate change and one charity that helps tackle inequality. These two areas are core to our values at Higson – people and planet. When building partnerships, it is key to ensure that they are authentic to your values and passions. This shouldn’t be a tick box activity.

Our planet partnership is with Cool Earth. We donate 15% of our profits and provide free quarterly training workshops to help grow and develop the Cool Earth team. We love the work Cool Earth does to tackle climate change, protect our planet and make communities stronger and more resilient. We are incredibly proud to partner with them.

Our people partnership is with Free to Be Kids. We donate 5% of our profits and provide free training and coaching to the founders and team. This helps develop their skills and processes, win more funding bids, and manage growth and scale of their team. We also volunteer on their residential projects directly with the disadvantaged children that Free to Be supports.

A real benefit of the partnerships is how much we learn from them. We have learnt so much from the volunteering with children that we have done. We have developed our communication skills, in particular negotiation techniques – negotiating what time to go to bed with a twelve year old is the best practice!

3. Develop a long term charity project

This year we launched the Higson Foundation, a six month training and mentoring programme for young people who would otherwise not have access to training and development. The aim of the programme is to help reduce inequality in the workplace, and give these individuals the skills and confidence to apply and step up into roles that help them reach their full potential. Some of these skills include developing a growth mindset, improving productivity, public speaking and adapting to different communication styles.

We are using our material and skills that we develop with paying clients and are then able to offer to these young people. It is a really rewarding programme for both the young people and the Higson team.

We encourage the team at Higson to volunteer, this time is paid and valued by the whole team. We have partnered with Goodsted a tool that the team can use to find volunteering opportunities that they care about and use and develop their skill sets.

The benefit to Higson is that we are learning new skills, the team are more motivated and engaged whilst giving back to the community. It’s a win win!

Eloise from Higson: “It is brilliant to have the opportunity to develop skills that are adding value to my role at Higson, while also helping support the important work that charities do.”

5. Build a sustainability strategy

The UK is also committed by law to be zero carbon by 2050. So, if we want our businesses to thrive long-term, we need to start taking our carbon footprint seriously. We have embedded these key things as part of our strategy at Higson:

  • Sustainability is one our core values – it sits at the centre of every decision we make
  • Sustainable travel – encouraging the team travel green, to avoid flying and take a train, or low-carbon travel option instead
  • Being conscious about our consumption
  • Sustainable rewards – for example planting trees, donating to a charity or supporting social enterprises
  • Monthly sustainability review – discuss ideas, areas for improvement at work and in our personal lives

You can read more about our sustainability initiatives here.

Companies that recognise the importance of doing good in the world will be the places that attract the best minds who do their best work. If you are interested in hearing more about how you can build these ideas into your company culture, please get in touch.