I was at an event last week at which the CIPD launched a piece of research called: Volunteering to learn : Employee development through community action
This piece of work is itself part of Learning to Work – a programme led by the CIPD to promote the role of employers in reducing youth unemployment. In my experience – the gap between school and work is a big one, and I think the role the CIPD is playing here is one of the most exciting and important things I’ve seen and experienced from the institute. I encourage you to take a look and if you’re not already supporting this good work – try to find a way to do so, please.
Back to the event. We heard from a number of people in business who are supporting this work and research through skills based volunteering programmes. I found a lot of what we heard was very heavy with data. Talk of the impact on, and measurement of, among other things:
- Engagement scores
- Desire to remain at the company
- Social and environmental awareness
And then we heard from Simon Collins. Simon works for Caterpillar and he too was there to share his experience. Simon spoke about the importance of skills based volunteering from several perspectives:
Firstly Simon was open about how it fits with his own career choice in talent development. He spoke briefly about his own experience as an unemployed post grad, ‘a scary time’, and he talked about how, as a parent, he observes a lack of career guidance and advice in the world of education. He reflected on how the value of any advice given is often linked to the enthusiasm of the adviser.
Simon spoke to us about the vulnerability that often comes with being out of work, the vital rebuilding of confidence that skills based volunteering can have, and a lovely observation that this kind of volunteering is about helping people see they have something to offer. Simon sketched out a quick tale of someone he spent time with who felt that because he had no ‘work experience’, he therefore had no CV as such. In conversation it transpired that the person had a lead role in a project at University to develop, launch and sell a product. The project had exceeded its targets and Simon rightly suggested that this project was a great example of real work, and something relevant and useful to build on. Simon told his story in a much more compelling way than I am currently relaying it to you – and nevertheless the effect of his story has stayed with me. There were figures quoted by people for many of those data points I referred to earlier, and I can’t recall a single one.
In conversation with someone afterwards I was suggesting that we should hear more stories – fewer numbers. I was reminded by the person I was speaking with that the numbers help some people to make the case for volunteering and social responsibility in general. Ideally – I see these kind of activities sitting in the ‘right things for the right reason’ box, and yet I appreciate that businesses have to understand and allocate resources to meet needs.
So why am I writing this blog today? Two main reasons. First and foremost because I want to do my bit to highlight the excellent work the CIPD are leading on here. And second – to serve as a reminder that data needs stories. I’m 86.7% more convinced of that now than I was when I started writing this.