The Importance of Purpose: Value and Volunteerism in the Modern Workplace, Part 2
This is part two of a two-part series; you can read part one here.
Has the Volunteer World Truly Caught Up to the New Reality?
It's not always a foregone conclusion that those who wish to give their time and energy to a cause can find an opportunity to do so. We've recently offered our time to the academic world as “volunteers” to share our corporate experiences with college students, but haven't been able to “sell” the concept with any consistent results. We believe that most colleges are lacking in the ability to prepare students for the true challenges of the business world, and those who have spent the last 20 years or 30 years successfully managing the shifting sands of the work world offer perspective and experience.
Colleges can teach the theory of practice, but not the practices themselves. Institutions of higher education can talk about trends and analytics, but do a less successful job of providing real world understanding and the management of real world dilemmas. College counselors help students pick the right school that matches the educational needs and competitive set where a student can thrive. Colleges need to do a better job of doing this at another level; however, it's the workplace that can become the real learning laboratory by inter-generational mixing and cross-pollinating ideas and experiences.
Imagine volunteers focused less on some organizational task and more on providing real-time training and understanding. This group can help close these types of experience (vs. hard skills) gaps, but are struggling to find environments that allow for this to occur naturally as well as planned. Why not use the workplace as a more multifaceted teaching and learning environment? Why not allow this new dimension into the workplace and provide individuals the opportunity for a more advanced level of on-the-job training tied to building a better and more retentive culture? Another of our associates recently pitched career counseling to a fairly well-known academic institution and received the same response detailed above. If learning institutions cannot see the value and make the leap, why not make the work environment that place instead? Someone will figure this out, and it will probably be a frustrated boomer trying to move to their next “chapter.”
Back to Purpose
There are several points to take away from this piece on the topic of PURPOSE:
- Millennials and baby boomers are much more alike in their desire to work with others and to give back as a means of self- fulfillment.
- There's a proliferation of volunteering efforts both in the personal and professional spaces of our lives, and while these are growing organically and for all the reasons discussed above, there's a better way to use these hours of unpaid time and untapped experience.
- In some cases, the desire to offer services for “free” seems to come with a stigma and hasn't been met with much enthusiasm, at best, or any planning, at worst.
Perhaps this is due to an absence of vision or lack of a sense of need … or opportunity. We hope this corrects over time; however, it will not correct itself without some thought and guidance. Or, if it does by some mysterious means correct itself, precious time will be wasted due to lack of planning and focus.
As human beings, we're increasingly searching for purpose, which enhances the desire to seek volunteering or other contributing opportunities. The two largest generations, boomers and millennials, will continue to find ways to help others, to give back, and to contribute to a greater social consciousness. The human spirit will likely continue to feed the desire to “volunteer” and to give back, as well as to provide not so much for material gain as for emotional growth at any age. Imagine, however, creating a workplace culture where you can offer both. Think about a culture where neither age nor stage of life is a deterrent, but acts as an aligning force and factor. It will take planning and time and people realizing what's possible, yet isn’t that what makes some organizations and leaders stand out over others? Isn’t that what we seek but don't always find? If that's the case, why not do so now?