The Home Secretary, Michael Howard MP, launched a £350,000 grant scheme on March 1, as part of the You Can Make a Difference volunteering initiative first flagged by the Prime Minister last November. Public, private and voluntary organisations working in partnership are being invited to apply for funding for projects which will encourage more volunteering. The deadline is by July 15 and around 20 projects will receive funding of up to £20,000. Present at the launch were Nick Temple, Chief Executive of IBM, in his capacity as chairman of Action: Employees in the Community, Lady Scott of Volunteer Centre UK and Martyn Lewis, the broadcaster.
The Home Secretary also announced the launch of a Make a Difference Team, to be made up of representatives from the three sectors including business. Charged with the drawing up of a UK volunteering strategy within six months, it will identify new opportunities and look at ways of overcoming present barriers to volunteering. The third strand of the initiative is an action plan to encourage government departments promote volunteering through their own policies and programmes. Contact Make a Difference on 071 273 2727
Challenge 94, the nationwide event to encourage employee volunteering, made its first public appearance at Charityfair 94, held at the Business Design Centre from March 9-11. Modelled on an Allied Dunbar initiative, Challenge was piloted two years ago, when 8,000 employees participated in 500 projects. Its sponsors include IBM, American Express, Ford, Allied Dunbar and WH Smith and NatWest. A quality manager from Royal Mail, Sharon Kupusarevic, has been seconded to co-ordinate the initiative.
Run by the Volunteer Centre UK, Challenge 94 will take place between September 9-25. It aims to encourage 1,000 British companies and 25,000 employees to get involved in 1,500 projects. Charities and community groups will issue challenges which will then be passed on to employees whose companies have registered via a network of twelve regional groups. The main aim of the project, is to foster long-term partnerships between companies and the community. Contact Sharon Kupusarevic, Challenge 94, on 0442 873311
NEGATIVE WORK ATTITUDES
The British have the most negative attitudes in Europe towards work, according a comprehensive survey published in February by International Survey Research. Employee Satisfaction: Tracking European Trends asked employees in eight European countries from over 500 businesses to rate their job satisfaction in 17 categories. British employees have the least favourable attitudes in ten of these, with an average mark of 54%.
In absolute terms, over 50% of British employees surveyed believe themselves to be poorly managed and communicated to, with few career development opportunities. Compared to their counterparts in other countries, they feel that they are badly organised, badly trained, produce low quality work, have less job security and low levels of company identification. However, they do think that the ethical standards of their organisations are relatively high.
Contact ISR International Research Ltd on 071 287 8109
LIB DEMS CALL FOR EMPLOYEE INVOLVEMENT
Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, called for employees to be given more say in the running of companies. Speaking at the Employee Involvement and Global Competitiveness conference on March 16, he urged British companies to learn from Japan’s example of creating work partnerships to improve employee motivation. Contact Involvement and Participation Association on 071 354 8040
CHAMBERS CRITICISE EU
The introduction of European legislation employee consultation is an “unwarranted interference” in the management of a company, according to the British Chambers of Commerce. A draft Council Directive, currently under discussion, would require Community-scale companies to establish mechanisms for transnational information and consultation. Most UK companies would be exempt, because of the Social Chapter ‘opt-out’, but those operating in the rest of Europe and having over 1,000 employees of which at least 100 are in two or more countries would be included. The BCC warned on March 7 that such legislation would serve only to inhibit the competitiveness of European business. Contact Richard Brown, BCC, on 071 222 1555
If “tomorrow’s company” is about valuing all stakeholders, then staff are crucial. That was always part of the business case for employee community involvement. So the reappearance of Challenge after a two year gap is most welcome. It is all the more urgent, given the latest findings about employee attitudes reported above. Of course there are limits – getting a works team together to repaint the community hall one Saturday afternoon is not going to solve Britain’s industrial relations problems at a stroke – but community involvement has a part to play.
Welcome too is the government’s Make a Difference initiative. Not much money is on offer, but if it can be used to build the volunteering infrastructure, so more people know about the possibilities of volunteering including through the workplace, then it will indeed make a difference.
On the wider question of employee involvement in their own companies’ activities, companies must decide. As with the environment, a voluntary approach is only viable so long as companies actually do it. Otherwise it will be imposed, with all the inflexibility that brings. In trying to avoid compulsion, companies must not lose sight of the fact that involving employees internally and externally is a go
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 15 – April, 1994