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03/08/2022

Volunteering CIOs and IT Professionals

A new study analyzes the challenges and the potentials of volunteering in IT

Alongside CIO Magazine and the market research institute IDC, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management has conducted a joint pro bono study analyzing the volunteering habits and wishes of IT specialists actively working in the DACH region today. Volunteering has been shown to improve one’s well-being and mental health and helps people in their struggle against social isolation and the negative effects it can have on their lives. In a post-pandemic world, combatting such issues has become a significant concern. In Germany alone, some 30 million residents work as volunteers. The results of the study are clear: IT professionals have a desire to dedicate their time to good causes—but they aren’t sure how and lack support from their employers.

The study confirms that businesses offering volunteer opportunities for staff is also beneficial to their own operations: Volunteering and social engagement give employees an added sense of purpose to their work, which, according to surveys completed by job applicants, is a top concern when seeking new employment. By offering such outlets, the company can keep employees happy (which reduces turn-over), find new talent, and improve its image with its customer base. With 89% of the surveyed 393 professionals motivated to volunteer their time to give back to their community, and 45% to learn new skills, there appears to be little room left over for doubt. However, these findings reflect aspirations more than they do possibility, and the study digs deeper to find out why that is the case.

The study, the first of its kind in this field, reveals that the path to volunteering is not one free of obstacles. Those who partook in the study indicated there are three core issues that hinder participation in volunteering initiatives: First, there is simply no time in their day to accommodate such an undertaking. With society having rapidly digitized over the past few years, not least because the working world moved almost entirely online at the turn of the decade, the market is witnessing an unprecedented need for those with proper IT skills. For these specialists, who chiefly prefer volunteering at NGOs (not-governmental organizations), time is not infinite. Second, they are unable to find a program they find suitable. And third, there are often no volunteering initiatives offered through their company.

Together, these realities paint a picture of professionals who are willing to do more and merely lack a proper entry point. In fact, less than 20% of all European employers find that such projects are worthy endeavors. Dr. Peter Kreutter, director of the WHU Foundation, disagrees with their assessment and wishes to push today’s engaged youth in particular to get more involved. He firmly believes their participation would help orient their careers and set them on the path most suitable for their interests. Traditionally, it has been those further on in their careers to partake in volunteering efforts, with younger professionals only an underrepresented faction in this arena. The study concludes that today’s companies and CIOs should invest more thought into developing and fostering a work culture that values and supports volunteering, perhaps even allowing employees to use work time for such efforts. The effects of such a culture are cyclical and self-perpetuating. In other words, if you put good out there, you will get good in return, and that need not end.

Read the full text (in German) in CIO-Magazin.

Original publication: Sunblad, M., Radonicic, D. (2021). Building Market and Employee Experience - The Value of Volunteering - A German Overview, IDC

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