Why volunteer?

December 10, 2014

Guest blog post, with thanks to one of our fantastic UBS volunteers:

On Friday I took part in Group Technology UK’s biggest annual volunteering event; ‘The Shoreditch Games’.This years was an exceptional example, with around 65 Group Tech employees turning out to support the day and glorious late summer weather (saving the apocalyptic downpour as the event ended).Having launched this annual event within Group Technology and as sponsor, maintained its momentum over the past three years, I continue to be convinced that Shoreditch, like so much of our other volunteering activities, benefits not just the community, but also our employees, and ultimately our business. Here’s why…

1) It teaches important skills. An event like Shoreditch provides an excellent platform to learn and demonstrate skill such as project management, vendor management, internal communication, networking, stakeholder management and delivery capabilities in a none technology environment. These skills are increasingly important within our Senior Management echelon and this event -and others of a similar nature- provide a low risk, low cost method of inculcating the disciplines with our future leaders.

2) It strengthens the team. ”Ultimately the evolution of how self-organizing teams evolve into high-performance teams depends on mutual respect and trust of the members of the team”.Getting things done in our complex, ever changing environment takes effort and a strong team ethic, but that very same ever-changing environment means that teams are often transient and short term. An event like Shoreditch provides a place for teams to build stronger bonds through shared experience. This works equally well for small groups and for the wider technology community (See 9 below). No icebreaking exercises are required when you’re in a hall of 300 7 to 8 year old children, and the challenges you face are so vastly different from our day to day tasks that you see bonds form quickly between team members which would have taken months to develop inside the office.

3) It leaves participants with a positive view of the firm. It would be cynical in the extreme to suggest that you can buy peoples loyalty simply by doing good deeds, but studies suggest that employees who participate in a company’s volunteer program are more than twice as likely to rate their work culture as “very positive,” as compared to those who don’t volunteer.

4) It gives participants a sense of accomplishment. Unlike much of what we do here, a typical volunteering activity has concrete, short-term, easily identifiable objectives and deliverables. Their completion is tangible and unarguable. Such concrete accomplishments are widely recognized as being an effective way of increasing people’s productivity and happiness and what’s more, this sense of accomplishment is taken back into the office and has a positive effect here as well. http://blog.ted.com/2013/04/10/what-motivates-us-at-work-7-fascinating-studies-that-give-insights/

5) It builds staff engagment. In a recent study Deloitte found that over 50% of Millennial employees that volunteer are very loyal toward their company, proud to work there, satisfied with their employer, and likely to recommend their company to a friend. http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_US/us/About/Community-Involvement/f0d3264f0b0fb110VgnVCM100000ba42f00aRCRD.htm

6) It meets our expectations of what a ‘good’ firm should be doing. Increasingly, today’s employees are entering the workforce with an expectation that volunteering will be a part of their professional careers. http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/managing-tomorrows-people/future-of-work/pdf/mtp-millennials-at-work.pdf discovered that 88% of Millennials gravitated toward companies with pronounced Corporate Social Responsibility programs, and 86% would consider leaving if their employer’s CSR no longer met their expectations.

7) It reinforces our brand in the community. At the close of Friday’s event, 300 8 year olds were chanting ‘UBS,UBS..’ as if we were a premier league football team. Now it may be that only a few of these children become UHNW clients, but the link between Corporate Social Responsbility and brand percpetion is well established. And a strong brand is a valuable brand.

8) It dispells myths about the type of people that work in this environment. Although it will be a while before the 7 and 8 year olds at the Shoreditch games come to worry about their careers, similar events with older children often reveal the disturbing fact that they would never consider working ‘in the city’ an option for them because we’re all arrogant, middle class, anglo saxon men’. While we certainly have our more than our fare share, we all know this is not the case. Helping to dispell this myth significantly enhances our ability to attract a diverse (and therefore strong) workforce.

9) Its a great way to establish a business network: Well networked people ‘bridge the organizational silos that plague all organizations, and make their firms more collaborative and effective’. Shared experiences are a powerful tool for establishing the trust and common reference points that characterize a good network. ‘Remember the time we were at the Shoreditch Games and that squirrel invaded the cricket pitch?’ . http://hbr.org/web/slideshows/six-rules-for-networking-at-work/1-slide

10) It’s fun, dammit. I enjoy my job. I really do. But it’s work right? Events like Shoreditch, with the unpredictability, excitement and laughter that only working with 7 and 8 year olds can bring, helps to reignite that spark in my day job by reminding me why I do what I do, and by the stark contrast that such events often highlight. That, ultimately, is my biggest reason for why Community Affairs involvement is good for business: You always, always have a good time and it never fails to remind you that work doesn’t have to be a continual and endless march to the grave, but can, and should be fun as much as possible.

Chris Farrell, UBS

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