Darren Muir is a Director at Pegasus Group and leads the planning team in their Liverpool office. Darren is the current Chair of the Planning Aid England North West Task Group and a member of the RTPI Regional Activities Committee. He also sits on the RTPI Volunteer Advisory Board.
Volunteering your skills and expertise is a great way to build your network, gain experience in new areas, and boost your profile. Not to mention the fact it looks great on your CV. However, from an employer’s perspective, there are also many fantastic reasons to encourage employees to volunteer their time.
Ultimately, supporting employees who want to volunteer can not only drive successful innovation, but also positively impact on a company’s bottom line. There are multiple ways it can do this.
1. Staff retention
Allowing staff to volunteer on company time can boost morale, increase productivity, and improve loyalty. Retaining existing employees not only helps to ensure consistency in the quality of work but it also reduces costs for recruitment and training. Many of us have probably worked somewhere that required you to use annual leave for volunteer work during company time, which can affect morale, leading to lower staff retention.
2. Expand skills
Encouraging volunteering amongst employees allows them to expand their skills and expertise. The employer will almost certainly benefit from this. For example, as town planners we critically assess and apply policy, legislation, and guidance on a daily basis. We often have to present this assessment in the form of a presentation to clients, planning committee, or as expert witness during hearings and inquiries. Public speaking doesn’t come naturally to most of us, but volunteering can help build confidence in this area.
3. New opportunities
Volunteering can create both direct and indirect opportunities for new business. Not only does voluntary work allow you to meet prospective clients that might engage you professionally on future projects, but it also allows you to build a network of potential clients, co-consultants, and others within the planning and development industry – all of whom may need your skills and expertise in the future.
Regarding my own experience, alongside my roles with the RTPI and Planning Aid England, I also hold a voluntary position as Planning and Transport Director at the Baltic Triangle Area CIC in Liverpool, and regularly volunteer with the Urban Land Institute’s Urban Plan initiative. These roles not only bring personal benefits and enjoyment, but they benefit my employer by raising my profile and generating new opportunities for professional engagement. The social value benefits of volunteering are also becoming increasingly recognised in bids and tenders throughout the industry.
As a company, Pegasus Group’s Liverpool office has benefited from team members volunteering off their own initiative, but also by engaging with and sponsoring PLACED Academy and the Liverpool Architecture Festival.
Employers should hopefully already have a policy for volunteering – specifically one that encourages it and allows for voluntary work during company time. It’s also important that company policies are shared and understood. It’s no use having a policy saying employees can use X number of days per year for voluntary work if they don’t know about it!
Employers should be pro-active in encouraging their team members to volunteer. There are many ways to get involved as a member of the RTPI. Any employer looking to promote volunteer opportunities within their teams can contact the RTPI directly, or start by checking out the following links: