The value of ‘skills-based volunteerism’

by Lauren Acurantes23 Nov 2016
Recent studies and surveys have shown that most employees are now looking for a ‘sense of purpose’ when choosing companies to work for and how it drives productivity when they’re both on the same page.

One way companies can help employees achieve that sense of purpose is through a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program but more than just doing a run-of-the-mill program, one Singapore-based social enterprise is touting the advantages of a ‘skills-based volunteerism’ program.

“Compared to the traditional form of volunteering where people just spend time [with beneficiaries], skills-based volunteering also uses the individual’s skill sets to help a charity fulfil a specific task,” said Peter Yang, founder and executive director at Empact.

“Generally companies look at time or money, but more companies are now looking at the value they can create in the community.” 

“It could be what they are good at, the skills that they have, or for some, they could come with what assets or tools that they have like technology or their products.”

Some companies even incorporate skills-based volunteering as a talent development program, he added.

When companies identify high-performing employees for leadership positions, they would traditionally make them go through a programme but Yang said most HR professionals say classroom settings can only achieve a certain level.

“They now look for hands-on projects that their employee could work on while developing their skill sets,” he said.

At Empact, he said, they look for volunteer projects that matches certain employee competencies that HR would like them to develop while “blending the volunteer opportunity as a way to allow employees to see the purpose of their day-to-day work”.

At the recently concluded President’s Challenge Volunteer Drive, for example, Empact sponsored the ‘Done in a Day’ programme where eight companies logged in 184 hours of pro bono work.

During that time, tech company Cognizant was partnered with the Kidney Dialysis Foundation where they helped improve the foundation’s IT access for its clients; PR firm Allison+Partners worked with Trybe, a youth development charity, on their media relations toolkit; and food and beverage company ABR Holdings advised South Central Community Family Service Centre about proper food hygiene and handling.

“Skills-based volunteering is self-fulfilling and meaningful to the volunteers as they are personally involved in sharing their expertise with the beneficiaries,” said Andrew Khoo, COO of ABR Holdings. 

“It will also tend to have a lasting positive impact on the recipients who can apply the newly acquired knowledge to their daily work.”

Related stories:

250% tax deduction for CSR-focused firms 

Government introduces new plan to foster CSR

Why pro bono work can lead to real HR rewards

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