AN EXCERPT FROM THE ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN THE LEADERSHIP MAGAZINE
CORPORATE SOCIAL INVESTMENT AND EMPLOYEE VOLUNTEER PROGRAMMES HAVE SYNERGY WITH EAP
CSI has come a long way in South Africa. No longer is CSI spend seen just as a charitable donation to enhance corporate image, or as a tax write-off, but rather as contributing to the real needs of the communities in which a Corporate operates. Executive management is getting the message that in addition to being good for the communities it serves, that CSI can be good for business as well. The potential benefits not only include an enhanced corporate image as a good ‘corporate citizen’, but also improved employee morale, along with bringing equilibrium to South Africa’s social and economic environment.
CSI needs as much attention as any other strategic initiative in order to be a real contributor to company growth. If CSI is not regarded as a strategic business activity, companies will continue to fall into the trap of using CSI as an extension of their marketing or public relations activity.
Mostly importantly, CSI strategic should benefit from active executive and board level participation.
Establishing any CSI effort should have a logical fit within the organisation. It is important that efforts should engage the company and all its resources, including its employees, to support CSI initiatives that are driven by the corporate mission as well as being regularly measured and evaluated.
There is great value to be had in involving employees in an organisation’s CSI activities, and as such it is beneficial to develop and implement a strategic employee participation programme. Today’s employees, especially Millennials, want to know and experience the purpose of the brands they work for – and research indicates that there is real value in providing staff with the means to be involved in things that happen beyond their desk and department.
“The EAPA-SA Board has embraced its CSI initiatives by adopting projects that enhance its identity while contributing to the South African social environment”, says Pravesh Bhoodram, EAPA-SA Board Member: Chapter Membership and Development. “It has evolved into a strategic imperative and is much more than an extension of our marketing plans. The EAPA-SA brand has extended beyond our Brooklyn offices adding value to the South African social climate. Employee Assistance by its very nature contributes to the social wellbeing of employees and any involvement in CSI projects is a natural extension of this. Coordinated activities over the years have witnessed the initial attempts of distributing leather folders and bags to deserving schools in the late 1990’s to the adoption of an orphanage in KwaZulu-Natal a few years ago.”
Employee volunteer programmes in South Africa
While research reveals that involving workers in employee volunteering programmes (EVPs) has several direct human resource benefits. These include increased employee productivity, retention and morale, EVPs have not yet been leveraged on any great scale in South Africa. There is much work to be done in our country if the latent developmental potential of employee involvement is to be unlocked. For example, in spite of the guidance provided by King III and associated integrated sustainability reporting standards, many corporate social investment managers, usually also responsible for the promotion and management of employee involvement, are unable to access the requisite levels of authority and business intelligence. Employees can be given the opportunity to play a meaningful and integral role in the delivery of a company’s CSI strategy with the more strategic approach of identifying the non-financial needs of a CSI beneficiary organisation and addressing these gaps through a regular, well-coordinated staff volunteer programme. (Source: https://mg.co.za/?article/2012-05-03-employees-key-to-csi-strategy )
Employee volunteer programmes should align with business strategy
The best companies are linking the volunteer work of their employees to overarching developmental goals. Company leaders are visible participants in these efforts, which then characterise and inspire company culture. Some companies now include social responsibility involvement as one of the items measured in annual performance reviews. Too many corporations still regard volunteering as simply a convenient vehicle for team building and staff recreation, rather than planning sustainable programmes that align with business strategy.
“EAP is synonymous with volunteering”, Bhoodram declares. “There isn’t an EAP who is not a volunteer or who has not volunteered as part of an organised programme. The challenge that managers are facing is creating a volunteer culture amongst millennials that they will love. The millennial generation are enigmas, a mysterious generation of workers, who have massive potential but are often left unguided. They seek leadership that is more personal and deliberate and not sweeping visionary statements in the hope that everyone will follow. Theirs is a generation that has watched us failing to keep our people happy and our planet alive.”
He continues by saying, “How then can we encourage our millennials to volunteer? Just as baby boomers used golfing events for networking, millennials will take to social networks for volunteering. Social networks are the place where they learn, network and build influence. They are driven more by purpose than success and by making volunteering more purposeful – by connecting, by story-telling and narratives, by focussing on value rather than bottom line, we may be able to influence them. Volunteering ticks all the boxes. Is this a new way to volunteer? Only time will tell.”
Here are 4 benefits of EAP practitioners implementing an employee volunteer programme:
1. Volunteering has an impact on physical, mental and emotional health
In a 2013 study conducted by UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute1 results revealed that volunteering impacted how the respondents viewed their overall health and mood. Of the respondents who had volunteered in the last twelve months:
- 94% said volunteering improves their overall mood,
- 96% said volunteering enriches their life with a sense of purpose
- 78% said volunteering helps lower their stress levels
- 76% said volunteering makes them feel healthier
2. Staff volunteering has a positive impact on organisational health
Employers see the direct benefits of physically and mentally healthier employees. The value of better health and reduced stress documented in this study are clear. Healthier employees drive lower health care costs and higher productivity. Employees who experience lower levels of stress are more present and engaged, which further reduces health care costs and elevates on-the-job performance
3. Volunteering develops work skills that benefit the employer
Volunteering provides an opportunity for employees to learn and develop skills that make them more proficient and effective in the workplace. By undertaking activities outside of their usual work responsibilities, employees have the chance to contribute to work and causes that they might feel passionate about, or learn something entirely new which can help enrich their own perspectives. By supporting these activities, organisations encourage growth and support for employees. Almost half of current volunteers say that volunteering has helped them with their career through developing time management skills and in forging stronger relationships with colleagues.
4. Volunteering supports organisations in being an employer of choice
Being an employer of choice typically translates into the company’s ability to attract and retain high calibre staff. There are ways to approach being an employer of choice, including offering work life balance, positive working conditions and work place flexibility. Studies have shown that a robust corporate social responsibility framework can also help a company become more attractive to potential future employees who are looking for workplaces with socially responsible practices, community mindedness and sound ethics.2
Employee Assistance Programmes have evolved a great deal since their inception as treatment-based services focusing on problem employees, especially those suffering from alcohol and drug dependence. Employee Assistance Programs are unique insofar as they benefit both the employee and the employer via reduced health costs as well as increased safety, performance and productivity. EAP is also well placed to build relationships within different teams as well as across teams, and tend to have a more holistic, ecological approach than their predecessors, recognising the broad range of emotional, physical, familial, and organisational issues that impact an employee’s performance.
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Contributor: Dr. Pravesh Bhoodram
EAPA-SA Board Member: Chapter Development and Membership
Dr Pravesh Bhoodram is a pioneer in the EAP field in the Public Service in South Africa having assisted 23 National Departments in implementing an EAP.
He has served as an EAPA SA Board member since 1998 in various capacities: president, conference convener, finance chairperson and strategic planner. He became the first South African to receive a Special Recognition Award from EAPA International (Vancouver 2001) for his contribution to the profession in South Africa. As the President of EAPA SA serving two terms (2002 – 2005), Dr Bhoodram received a second International Award for contributing to the wellness field in South Africa by leading the most progressive Chapter among 23 countries. He has served on the International Worklife Committee and was appointed on EAPA International Global task team in 2004.
He is presently serving his second term as a Community Representative on the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa where he has chaired the professional Board for Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, Unani Tibb and Acupuncture. He is responsible for Strategic Planning for Council and chairs the Finance Committee. Dr Bhoodram is a Board member of the Leisure and Recreation Association of South Africa and will assist in organizing the 2016 World Leisure and Recreation Conference in South Africa. As the Director of Sport and Recreation of the Department of Correctional Services, he has led the DCS team in International competitions returning with 216 medals(86 Gold) from the World Police and Fire Games in Vancouver in 2009
Hobby or recreational activities
Dr Bhoodram is an avid artist having painted in oils, water colours, and acrylics. He is presently using mandala art as therapy, conducts art therapy workshops and spends some of his time doing angel readings.