Many IT professionals want to volunteer – but are not supported by their employers. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by CIO, IDC and WHU among IT specialists in Germany. […]
It is known from happiness research and psychology that volunteering increases subjective well-being. Making a contribution to society strengthens meaningfulness and self-confidence. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown this once again. Volunteering helps to overcome social isolation, which leads to severe mental and physical impairments for many people. It promotes the trust of individuals in society, increases the sense of community and is therefore also of fundamental importance for the preservation of prosperity and democracy.
These findings are confirmed by the current results of a pro bono study conducted by CIO, IDC and WHU among 393 IT professionals in the DACH region. For example, 89 percent of the IT professionals surveyed stated that they work on a voluntary basis for reasons of individual meaning. In 2nd place is the acquisition or expansion of knowledge and skills.
An equally overwhelming majority – namely 86 percent – of the respondents would like to be actively supported by their employer in carrying out voluntary activities. After work, the IT specialists lack time and the right offer. Many are under constant project pressure and find it difficult to reconcile professional and private life. Therefore, they would appreciate being able to volunteer as part of their work.
Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. Not even 20 percent of European employers consider corporate volunteering initiatives to be important for enabling positive employee experiences. “Among the surprising results of the study is the realization that there is a significant delta between the need of IT experts for voluntary social commitment and the framework conditions that employers create for it,” emphasizes Stefan Huegel, Chief Operating Officer of the study partner IDG (which also includes www.cio.de heard). “This result weighs heavily, especially in the light of the digital transformation, and must be a wake-up call for CIOs and their companies.“
For example, the rapid digitization in business and society has led to a dramatic shortage of IT specialists and competition for the best talents. The IT skills gap is now so significant that digital transformation projects are delayed by an average of 8.1 months.
The vast majority of IT professionals are committed to charitable initiatives for the sake of the foundation of meaning (c) IDC/IDG/WHU
At the same time, surveys among applicants have shown that the meaningfulness of the work is one of the most important criteria when deciding on a job. “Voluntary social commitment can be an important tool for attracting talent and retaining and satisfying employees,” explains Marta Muñoz Méndez-Villamil, Technology for Sustainability and Social Impact Practice Lead, Europe, at IDC. “In addition, employee volunteer programs make a contribution to the sustainable management of a company and thus have a positive effect on its overall image.” IDC also regards environmental and social responsibility as a key instrument for gaining customer trust in the future.
CIOs and their companies are therefore well advised to put the topic of corporate volunteering at the top of the agenda. They should set up volunteering programs and give employees the opportunity to participate in them within their working hours. As a basis for the commitment, both own volunteer projects can be developed and existing non-profit initiatives can be used: for example, sports clubs, social or cultural projects, rescue organizations or environmental protection associations.
Lack of time and lack of suitable offers discourage most study participants from volunteering (c) IDC/IDG/WHU
In order to maximize the effectiveness of volunteer assignments, each company must create individual formats that fit its mission and take into account the preferences of employees. In some cases, the study identified significant differences of interest between the IT professionals. While 63 percent of men regularly volunteer, only 28 percent of women do so. 36 Percent of the respondents prefer sports activities, followed by education and social activities. Companies must take this diversity of interests into account when selecting volunteer projects if they want to achieve broad acceptance and involvement of all employees.
As the study also revealed, IT professionals prefer to engage in private organizations that pursue non-profit purposes. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are at the top of the voluntary ranking with almost 50 percent, followed by public, school and church initiatives. This result should also call the public and private organizations on the plan. They must increasingly seek cooperation with companies in order to support them in setting up employee volunteer programs.
Municipalities and regional institutions could take on the task of collecting information about existing volunteering opportunities and making it available in online platforms and online portals. This provides companies with transparency and facilitates the selection process. Because these innovative tools are ideally suited to document the growing diversity and breadth of existing volunteer programs.
There is no doubt that the willingness to volunteer is constantly increasing. More and more people are joining together in public and private organizations to work for the common good. According to the German Foundation for Commitment and Volunteering (DSEE), around 30 million citizens in Germany are currently volunteering – and the trend is rising.
An overwhelming majority of IT specialists are in favor of corporate volunteering (c) IDC/IDG/WHU
However, the variety of new platforms and facilities presents many traditional non-profit organizations with major challenges. They must take advantage of the opportunities offered by digitization in order to be able to survive in the growing competition. Because they need the new digital technologies to make their work more effective and efficient. This ranges from public relations and marketing to administrative tasks, global networking and interaction with helpers and beneficiaries. This is where the support of volunteer IT professionals is needed. With their professional know-how, they are ideally suited to advise and accompany traditional organizations in the digital transformation.
It can also be beneficial if IT specialists are involved in initiatives and projects that promote the digital literacy of citizens. Because there is also a great need for action in this area: 22 percent of people in Germany have little or no digital skills, in the EU it is even 28 percent. The voluntary use of IT specialists can help to make it easier for citizens to get started with new technologies. This is the only way to prevent these people from losing touch with society – whether in their private life or at work.
The joint survey of CIO, IDC and WHU among IT experts in Germany on the importance of corporate volunteering is the first of its kind – and makes clear the clear wishes and needs of this professional group. Companies should take this as an opportunity to build a culture that systematically promotes and supports volunteering.
This allows you to score points in the War for Talents, strengthen the loyalty of your employees and at the same time benefit from the soft skills that the volunteers acquire during their charitable assignments. In addition, corporate volunteering is an important element in the development of social and ecological corporate management, which will increasingly determine the success with customers and business partners.
In this sense, the study institutions – CIO, IDC and WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management – appeal to the CIOs and their companies to act quickly and initiate suitable volunteering programs. Especially the IT junior staff can benefit from this, as Peter Kreutter, Director of WHU, emphasizes: “Many CIOs and IT professionals are active on a voluntary basis. Often, however, the entry into volunteering is rather accidental and only in later phases of professional life. The aim of our initiative is to inspire young people for appropriate activities, to help them find their personal field of engagement and to gain exciting early leadership experiences.“
*Sibylle Hofmeyer is a freelance journalist in Heidelberg.