Globalization, climate change, skills shortage and an ageing population are some of the major structural challenges that Europe has been facing in the recent times. In addition the sharp increase of unemployment has set a difficult outlook for the upcoming years. This will have detrimental effects for business.
In this context through the flagship ‘an Agenda for new skills and jobs’ the European Employment Strategy seeks to create more and better jobs throughout the EU.
Business in the community has demonstrated that employee volunteering is a valuable tool to deliver employability skills to communities and vulnerable groups because it helps to :
- Promote integrated labor markets and high levels of social inclusion
- Increase investment in skills development and employability
- Contribute to the improvement in public health and innovation
- Address social problems internationally
Working with 21 partners of their CSR360 Global Partner Network the awards aimed to recognize company’s employee volunteering programmes that improved the employability skills of people facing barriers to work.
The European Employee Volunteering Awards us supported by a consortium of expert partner such as UPJ, SMART Kolektiv, Centrum Wolontariatu and Foretica, as well as CSR Europe, Corporate Citizenship, The East England Development Agency and a group of international practitioners from KPMG and Freshfields.
The awards scheme was kindly co-funded by the European Commission and soinsired by Alliance Boots, Tata Consultancy Services and Hewlett Packard who provided the resources for the European Employee Volunteering Awards to progress and succeed.
The key objectives were to:
- Celebrate the European Year of Volunteering along with companies and partner organisations
- Increase the number of businesses throughout Europe running employee engagement programmes targeted at enhancing employability and inclusion
- Demonstrate the tangible and positive effect of employee volunteering in increasing the employability of excluded groups
- Sensitise public authorities on local, regional and national level on how they can be facilitators towards a “Culture of Corporate Volunteering”
- Provide businesses with useful tools and support on how to continuously improve the performance and impact of their volunteering programmes, and how to measure their impact
- Time frame. A minimum of 4 months is needed to prepare for the launch of the awards programme, to engage sponsorship and to prepare companies to enter.
- Funding. Partners need support, in the form of a tool kit and webinar trainings, to successfully engage corporate sponsorship for their localized costs.
- Communication. Communicating regularly with all project partners and checking that the intended message was understood correctly was a definite key to the success of the project. With regards to the communications/media campaign, continuous reminders were necessary to ensure a responsive audience (i.e. ensuring applications, press coverage, etc) and keep the project visible to the public
- Flexibility. Key to success was to understand the economic and social context of the countries and partners participating, since flexibility and adaptability in approaching the subject matter due to country differences was required in order to reflect Europe’s diverse corporate volunteering landscape and understanding of ‘employability skills’ in an appropriate way
- Value. The Awards scheme has proven to be a valuable tool to encourage change by creating a healthy competitive environment between the participants, raising the bar of the set standard through capacity building of participants and assessors and offering a best practice blueprint through the developed guidance and application material
- Understanding. Promises made to the coordinating partners of timelines and workload has to be flexible, due to the high interest level of companies to these awards. As this scheme was a pilot. It was a challenge to accurately contemplate the amount of work that would come in a very short time frame. This could be frustrating for partners and the BITC Central Team when attempting to create work plans and manage team capacity.
After the EEVA celebration an evaluation was made and all the conclusions (Apart for the ones included above) were included in the EEVA report.
- 22 European countries running the Awards nationally and building a stronger network of organizations and companies working together on corporate volunteering and the wider CSR agenda
- Over 250 entries from companies and public authorities, with a result of 60 national winners
- A collaborative action involving European institutions, organizations and companies, in addition to an expert international judging panel
- One overall European winner per category: Large Company, Small Company, Most Innovative, Newcomer and Public Authority
- A final report to present case studies of winning programs focused on employee volunteering and employability skills
- Long-term-beneficiaries from 22 countries overcoming barriers to work
- Wide dissemination and experience exchange of different European employee volunteering programs
- A contribution to better measurement systems for employee volunteering and community engagement programs