Voluntary work boosts productivity, loyalty

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 June, 2008, 12:00am

Staff retention is difficult when the job market is red hot and companies need to look beyond salaries to keep the workforce enthusiastic and loyal. UPS, a leading package delivery company, may have found the answer in a cornerstone of its corporate social responsibility policy.

The company's policy of carrying out year-round voluntary work has increased productivity among employees by fostering management and organisation skills, and by giving staff a sense of place at work and in the community.

'Giving back to the community is one of the core values of UPS,' said David Cheung Yu-hok, human resources manager of UPS Hong Kong. 'This builds teamwork across departments because in the workplace, staff might not find the time to get along. Through these projects, they get a chance to know each other better, and sometimes they even get to meet each other's families.'

The company's voluntary work goes on throughout the year, but its Global Volunteer Week is one of the biggest annual events and takes place in the 200 countries in which the company operates. It has grown steadily from 1,000 volunteers worldwide in 2003 to 23,000 last year.

While events work in synch globally, UPS staff in different countries arrange local projects that address issues relevant to their communities. This year, the company has decided to emphasise the event by making October Global Volunteer Month, staging six to eight events. With 1,290 employees in Hong Kong, UPS has worked with organisations such as the Hong Kong Red Cross, the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children and the Hong Kong Blind Union.

As the official logistics and delivery sponsor of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, it has marked the year with a wide range of community service projects.

In May, the 2008 Mini-Olympics, organised in co-operation with the Hong Kong Red Cross, invited 100 children to Tai Koo Primary School to take part in games supervised by UPS staff. The event helped everyone understand the issues being tackled by the Red Cross. The games simulated demining operations, disaster relief, blood donations and first aid services using props. For UPS employees, this kind of event serves as valuable training that prepares them for challenges in the workplace.

'Having such a corporate culture makes a difference. It builds organisation and time-management skills and teaches staff how to get along with people in the community,' said Mr Cheung. 'UPS service providers need to face the public every day, and this helps them to learn more about the community.'

Staff involvement extends to the decision-making process, which ultimately lies with the company's 10-member Community Involvement Committee. Over the years, it has chosen a range of issues that include care for the elderly, the environment, mental health and breast cancer. Each department is represented by a committee member who, after a period of consultation with team members, decides on a project that could be of significance to the community. After pitching proposals at a monthly meeting, the committee decides on an issue and then approaches a relevant NGO to discuss possible co-operation.

UPS has partnered with many NGOs in the past and enjoys a close relationship with the Red Cross, to which it donated US$1million for Sichuan earthquake relief efforts in China.

This year, the focus is on the environment, and UPS Hong Kong has partnered with the Green Produce Foundation for conservation activities in the New Territories.

Mr Cheung said serving on the committee provided staff with the opportunity to move up at work. 'The Community Involvement Committee can help us to train our future leaders. Last year, I saw three non-management people being promoted to supervisors. All three were active members of the committee.'

Citing ways in which the policy was paying off, Mr Cheung said UPS had a turnover rate of just 8 or 9 per cent, proving that the solidarity created by such projects made staff retention easier.

'I'm proud to be a UPS employee because the company doesn't just focus on making money,' he said. 'Community care is one of the four important ways that we measure our company's success and an employee's involvement.'

There is a corporate social responsibility article for the HR Trends column on the last Saturday of each month

Mutual benefits

UPS has made year round voluntary work an important part of its company policy

Voluntary work projects give employees the chance to get to know each other

Voluntary work projects train staff in organisation and management skills that can improve their performance in the workplace