How to Integrate Virtual Volunteering
into Your Work Culture
Since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic last year, businesses around the world have been forced to embrace remote working. This shift has been enabled by advances in digital technology, such as the rise of online meetings and conference call services, which allows employees to coordinate their efforts in real-time.
Instant messaging apps specially designed to streamline remote collaboration have seen massive uptake as a solution to the needs of the virtual workplace. Competition for the best alternative to Slack is now fierce, with some of the biggest software developers in the world offering messaging apps geared toward professional communications.
As well as changes in the way we communicate with colleagues, the way we engage customers has also evolved. We are introduced to terms such as Google Analytics Ecommerce, which takes us a step further to reaching and engaging customers . As the world turned to the internet for its social and corporate needs, companies that were quick to invest in their online presence and adapt to the new reality reaped the rewards of increased engagement. They earned a measure of brand loyalty that has proven invaluable as traditional business models and the revenue streams they generated collapse.
But of course, a business is more than just the product or service it sells. The happiest employees are the ones who are not just satisfied with what they do but invested in the success of the business overall. Here’s how to create a positive work culture - and to use these same apps and tools to integrate virtual volunteering into it.
Achieving a Healthy Work Culture
Happy, satisfied employees who care about the success of a business are key to what we call work culture. A healthy workplace culture is one in which all employees feel valued and share in the company’s ethical and social vision as well as its business goals.
Many corporations run charitable initiatives and volunteering schemes as a way to make a positive impact on the world while cultivating a shared sense of purpose and boosting workplace morale and employee engagement. Sadly, with the imposition of various lockdowns and the curtailment of so many face-to-face activities in the last year, many opportunities for volunteering and other charitable endeavors have been lost or delayed.
The good news is that virtual volunteering has sprung up to fill some of the holes left by stay-at-home orders. With the technological shifts of the past year, companies looking to instigate volunteering programs among their staff now have the option to do so over the internet.
What Can Your Company Offer?
If you want to integrate virtual volunteering into your work culture, a good question to ask yourself is what kind of skillset your workforce could bring to the charitable or voluntary sector? You should consider the skills your employees have and try to partner with an organization that needs these.
For companies working in the digital sector or with a high level of digital literacy among their workforce, virtual volunteering is a natural way to channel people’s desire to do good. For example, in April 2020, teams from eight companies came together virtually for the We vs. Virus hackathon to propose solutions to some of the problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.
Employees from Accenture, Capgemini, Deloitte, EY Canada, IBM, Microsoft, PwC Canada, and SAP pooled their resources and devoted thousands of combined hours toward helping ordinary Canadians stay safe and manage the emotional burden of isolation. They also looked into how to create temporary sources of work and income for those put out of work by the pandemic.
As the We vs. Virus hackathon and similar projects demonstrate, there’s a significant overlap between what makes a good voluntary initiative and what makes for a successful business endeavor. As such, you might want to consider applying some of the same tools and techniques your company benefits from in its everyday operation to the organization of any voluntary scheme you get involved with.
From process workflow software like this alternative to process street to data tools and online scheduling software that you use to streamline tasks and organize employees, it’s a good idea to stick to digital products and services your staff are familiar with when initiating virtual volunteering projects.
Virtual Volunteering and Education
Many opportunities for virtual volunteering revolve around online tutoring or mentorship. This is a simple way to turn the knowledge of your staff toward a good cause and can utilize similar video conferencing tools to the ones your company uses to facilitate online meetings.
These schemes can be as universal as youth reading initiatives run by school systems and educational charities or focussed on teaching more specialist skills and knowledge. If no schemes exist that match the unique talents of your employees, consider setting one up in-house or partnering with a relevant charitable organization to initiate a mentoring or tutoring program.
Embracing volunteering opportunities that center on education is a great way to inspire the next generation of professionals in your industry and can even act as a form of soft recruitment. Long before the normalization of virtual events and digital classrooms, corporate sponsorship of scholarships, education platforms, and schemes to promote educational excellence were effective ways for a company to promote innovation and invest in its future workforce.
After all, even the best employee management software and a stellar hiring team or recruitment agency are dependent on a labor pool that has the strengths and skills your business requires.
Why Human Resources Departments Love Virtual Volunteering
If you want to increase efficiency of HR team work at your company, focusing on company culture as the backbone of employee satisfaction is key. HR managers know that a sense of social and ethical responsibility is as important as bonus schemes, employee perks, and teambuilding drives when it comes to retaining staff, minimizing resentment, and maximizing a healthy work environment.
As well as helping to grow the skillset of your future workforce, virtual volunteering can be an important factor in the happiness of your current employees. Research undertaken by Oxford University's Saïd Business School has shown that happy workers are as much as 13 percent more productive. That’s an increase that rivals the results of many more expensive and time-consuming HR initiatives.
Compared to in-person voluntary work, virtual volunteering tends to be more flexible. Volunteers don’t have to commit to large blocks of time or make travel arrangements that might be awkward or difficult, putting many off.
Not only do virtual solutions increase the reach of your voluntary schemes, extending their potential to affect change over otherwise insurmountable distances, but they make it easier for your staff to get involved and will appeal to a contingent of employees who might not be interested in other means of volunteering.
By allowing them to contribute toward a good cause that they care about, a virtual volunteering program can help your staff feel better about themselves and your company. While such programs should not replace other productivity-boosting methods that HR teams have at their disposal, they can certainly complement them.
Virtual Volunteering After Re-Opening
While the world is still reeling from the effects of the biggest pandemic in a century, many economies have cautiously begun to re-open. It’s a cliché to say the world will never be the same again, but it’s true - the gradual return to pre-COVID norms reveals important lessons learned over the last year and some changes that will remain in place.
For many industries, remote working is here to stay, at least partially. A number of corporations are looking for ways to make the best aspects of new, more distributed employment models (such as operating on a hybrid team structure) work for their culture in the long term. In the non-profit space, too, organizations that rely on volunteers are keen to retain the new opportunities for volunteering that have proven popular during the last year.
As we enter the new reality in which online and offline modalities of social interaction are increasingly mixed, businesses’ approaches to their charitable and non-commercial activities will have to adapt accordingly.
The Best of Both Worlds
New ways of volunteering should by no means be seen as a replacement for more traditional ones. If you already have a successful employee program that incorporates voluntary work, that’s something to be proud of and should be retained.
A combination of virtual and real-world volunteering will no doubt have an important part to play in our future corporate culture and practices, and in the long run, contribute to scaling a company. Consider how the two can complement each other and how you might broaden the appeal of your company’s voluntary schemes by expanding into the virtual sphere.
Whether you decide to start your own charitable initiative in the virtual realm or get involved with a pre-existing scheme that uses digital technologies to facilitate virtual volunteering, the internet offers plenty of opportunities to enrich your company culture through non-profit and benevolent activities.
About the author:
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform and UCaaS provider that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn.