Why you should encourage ‘skills-based volunteerism’

by Lauren Acurantes08 Dec 2016
According to Peter Yang, founder and executive director at Empact, ‘skills-based volunteerism’ is gaining popularity around the world for its practicality and for the added benefit of its use as a tool for skills development.

Recently, Empact ran a programme called ‘Done in a Day’ for the President’s Challenge Volunteer Drive and two companies, PwC Singapore and Frost & Sullivan, participated in the challenge.

Here they share their learnings from the experience.

Direct impact on society
Consultants rarely get a chance to directly see the impact their work has on society but with skills-based volunteer programmes, results are tangible.

“As consultants, we would usually help a private entity or a client and they go and have an impact on society,” said Abhineet Kaul, director, consulting, Public Sector & Government Practice at Frost & Sullivan.

“This was one where we as consultants could use our knowledge and experience to directly impact the society.”

He also said that it helped boost his team’s morale and knowledge to be able to see directly the kind of impact the work they do can have on society.

The fact that they were tasked to help the Muhammadiyah Welfare Home to create a revenue plan to sell bicycles also posed a challenge for their team, he said.

While Frost & Sullivan normally deals with huge infrastructure levels when talking about business models, Kaul said this was challenging because “in your daily life, you don’t consider that you need a business model to sell bicycles.”

“It was something that was quite unique from our perspective,” he said, adding that his team of volunteers rose to the challenge so well that he ended up having to manage their enthusiasm as well by reminding them that their clients had to take precedence.

He said that the value in skills-based volunteer projects also lay in the fact that companies can choose when they want to do it without disrupting regular office work. 

“It’s not something where you have to spend a whole week on … we could do this over the weekend. We could do this a lot without getting a lot of internal issues like taking consultants away from their work,” he said.

The benefits of employee-driven initiatives
For PwC Singapore, since the launch of their Skills Based Volunteering programme 2015, they’ve been actively involved in strengthening capabilities within the non-profit sector.”

“Some of the past SBV include Strategic Planning and Human Capital Seminars for Charities targeted at the management level of the organisation,” said Deborah Ong, corporate responsibility leader at PwC Singapore.

“We also conducted customised training in the areas of Basic Accounting, Budgeting and Internal Controls training for the staff of the charity organisations to equip them with the knowledge and understanding of the requirements stipulated by their finance department.”

But even before they conduct their programmes, PwC ensures that their employees are equipped with the relevant skills through an internal training session, she added.

“PwC provides employees with the necessary support and training in planning and executing CR programmes,” she said.

“Our CR strategy is aligned to the needs of the community and environment while taking employees' interests into account.”

HR’s role in all of this, she said, is to drive the strategy and build the culture of giving back to make it part of the company’s DNA while putting emphasis on the employee’s engagement, involvement, and development.

“An employees’ involvement in CR activities is part of their development plan, recognised by HR,” she said.

“Ultimately, HR leverages on the capacity of our people to contribute to the community at large, building a better tomorrow for the society.”

Related stories:

Why altruism should be used as a recruitment tool

How to be a ‘Company of Good’ 

How to create a signature CSR programme


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