Everywhere you turn, someone is promising to cure your leadership blues. There are airport books, e-books, apps and tools. There are consultants who will train you, teach you, score you and bore you. There are conferences, workshops, webinars and retreats. A 2014 article in McKinsey Quarterly highlights that companies in the U.S. spend more than $14 billion annually on leadership development. Despite all this activity, according to the 2016 Gallup “State of the American Workplace” report, more than two thirds of employees are disengaged. Like many professionals, you are probably working hard to address this pressing challenge. Employee Volunteerism is a powerful leadership development opportunity that you may not have considered.
An employee volunteering program will not only benefit your employees, your organization and your community, it can provide a great opportunity for leadership development.
Every employee who volunteers brings something different to the table. For some, it may be their first time at bat. Others may have decades of community service under their belt. You can divide your employees into three stages along the journey of volunteerism: tourists, travellers and guides. While your tourists and travellers have the potential to become great leaders, it’s your guides who can really lead the charge and help drive leadership development through volunteerism. By finding, elevating and training your guides to become official volunteer leaders, you can tap into a passion and enthusiasm unrivalled elsewhere in your company.
But, how can you tell the difference between a tourist, traveller and guide?
THE THREE STAGES OF THE VOLUNTEER JOURNEY
STAGE 1: TOURISTS. These folks are not hard to spot. Many of them are volunteering for the first time. They are at the stage of casual curiosity. Representing approximately 70% of your employees, tourists need a great first volunteer experience. You need them to fall in love with volunteering so they come back again. Your travellers and guides can help with this.
STAGE 2: TRAVELLERS. They make up approximately 25% of your volunteers. At this stage of meaningful discovery, travellers are intrinsically motivated to volunteer. They will continue to come back, because they feel a sense of belonging. They will shine and be on their way to becoming future leaders — future guides.
STAGE 3: GUIDES. You can identify these people by their behaviour. They are the organizers and the do-gooders. They show up early, stay late, pick up all the supplies, invite their entire department or function to attend and constantly talk about why volunteering matters. This group of ambassadors usually makes up 5–10% of your employees. Guides are intentionally aligned and intrinsically motivated. They get it! And they want everyone else to get it too.
DEVELOP YOUR GUIDES AS LEADERS
Your program should be built to support your guides. Supported and empowered guides contribute at their highest level and become strong leaders, not only of your program, but of your company. They show others how to access new opportunities and to become leaders themselves. They are confident in their abilities at work, especially as they develop new skills and connect with the purpose and impact of their community work.
With the right kind of training, volunteerism can be more than the simple provision of a service. Volunteerism can transform our values and how we perceive ourselves in new and challenging contexts; it can also expand how we perceive and empathize with others — some of the most fundamental qualities of an excellent leader.