According to recent research, engagement with volunteering has increased in younger people whilst decreasing in over 55s. This is most likely driven by the need to self-isolate and the more vulnerable needing to shield. Whilst I have experienced a general uplift overall in volunteering and helping in the community, this raised a question about volunteering in the workplace and the mentality required to give to others without reward.
How many employees are volunteering their time whilst working at home and giving more time to their employers than before whilst also having to accept a pay cut in some cases, and possible redundancy during the pandemic? But is this devotion driven through fear or out of a genuine desire to help and protect? Perhaps both; but the crossover between volunteering and the mindset associated with CX got me thinking.
I am fortunate that the CX Community I am involved with, both internationally and locally in the UK, have been working hard to support each other through difficult times. Those in the community have been volunteering to help drive sustainable, resilient, and beneficial outcomes to society through a variety of initiatives.
In this way, not only does volunteering keep people active, it delivers direct benefits to those who need help. In return, it provides an enormous sense of positive wellbeing and having purpose and value. Something that is easily lost whilst enduring various periods of lockdown. There will inevitably be an impact on everyone in some way for a long period of time to come.
According to the research from Legal & General and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, one in five UK adults (19%) has volunteered their time for community activities since the start of the lockdown on 23rd March 2020. The study also found that the people of Britain have been extending a financial helping hand to local businesses, by continuing to pay more than £1bn on services and goods that people knew they would never be able to use during the pandemic. Supporting those such as home cleaners, gardeners, local charities and community groups by continuing subscriptions and fees.
Up to 10 million UK adults have been volunteering in their community during the coronavirus crisis, and most say they will carry on after the lockdown ends. Since the crisis took hold, millions in the UK have been serving as an informal “volunteer army”, whether it is helping with grocery shopping for others, picking up prescriptions, ringing up people living alone, or helping out at a local food bank.
Likewise, this approach to service above self by putting the customer first in decision making, can be a difficult adjustment for organisations seeking to improve their customer experience to adopt. It feels right, yet somehow commercially counter intuitive. This is where organisations struggle to convert talking into ongoing action and genuine cultural change to be customer focused. But the benefits are clear, if not always instantaneous, following the below logic.
Better employee empowerment = Better customer engagement = Better business performance
With each individual contributing, on average, about three hours of their time, the work this volunteer army is doing is estimated to have an equivalent economic value of more than £350m a week.