Expanding The Palette of Development Opportunities: Volunteerism

Most readers will be aware of at least some of the research that powerfully indicates the value that volunteerism can create across several dimensions of an organization.  These include:  the growth and development of individuals and teams, the retention of valuable contributors, and the promotion of positive organizational branding.  Yet the ranks of businesses actively encouraging their people to volunteer their time – for development or other reasons – has actually shrunk.  Why?

Many of the businesses I work with are small, start-up organizations (ten to two hundred employees).  They have not yet grown to the size where internal development/stretch opportunities are more easily created.  The plate of each leader is often overflowing with mission critical work.  There simply is no time for development beyond that which happens through the intense “controlled madness” of most start-up businesses.  For precisely this reason, it can be very powerful for the executive to insist that a key contributor carve out enough time to focus upon an area of individual development that is critical to the person and the business.  It should go without saying – (sigh) – but often doesn’t, that the executive/leader must ensure the key contributor has the support he/she needs to truly carve out the time necessary for such development.

Often, the development opportunity – and more certainly, opportunities to practice newly developed skills, will be found through volunteerism.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, such opportunities abound.  There are worthy and impactful non-profit organizations screaming for skilled leadership.  As well, joining such organizations simply as an actively contributing volunteer may present overzealous/too intense leaders with the opportunity to develop a more inclusive, listening, nurturing approach to getting things done.  Volunteerism presents a wealth of development and developed skill reinforcement opportunities.  Yet only a small portion of the development plans I’ve seen through my career as a practitioner and a consultant have taken advantage of this fantastically rich field of opportunities.

** This article by Deloitte ** discusses the value to a business of encouraging key members of an organization to volunteer their time to help others.  It is a worthwhile read – with pointers to other publications that may be of further interest.

Of course, EndevHR would be most pleased to discuss the generation of impactful development opportunities for your key participants.  Simply call or contact us through the links on this page.


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