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“It is not only what they do but also what they see and hear”.

Hosted by the ANZ Technology Team, the Centre for Sustainable and Responsible Organisations (CSaRO) at Deakin University held a very successful Corporate Community Volunteering and Employee Engagement Conference on the 24 November, 2016. The event attracted well-over 50 participants from a diverse range of industries including representatives from the corporate and not-for-profit sectors such as Australia Post, SEEK, ANZ, Tennis Australia, Oaktree, St Mary’s House of Welcome, VicDeaf, SecondBite and many more. Members from organisations that support corporate volunteering were also present, such as The Funding Network, GoodCompany, Event Workforce Group and Social Venture Partners.

Attendees were welcomed by Professor Alex Newman, Associate Dean (International) Deakin University and Co-Director of Centre for Sustainable and Responsible Organisations, who acknowledged and highlighted the importance of the event and Deakin’s focus on responsible business practices.

Dr Heather Round, one of the event organisers, shared similar sentiments earlier in an interview with Pro Bono Australia that the Deakin Business School is focused on “how we contribute to the communities we serve… from the perspective of, not only our research, but what else can we do in terms of starting conversations which could lead to positive outcomes.”

In the conference, keynote speaker, David A. Jones, PhD., Professor and SEMBA Co-Director Grossman School of Business at University of Vermont, delivered a very engaging presentation. He highlighted that Corporate Volunteering Programs help employees to better manage their work-life balance, increase their job satisfaction and organisational pride and develop skills. A business case can be made for investing resources in building a corporate volunteering program because job seekers are attracted by companies who are successfully running these programs - employees are more productive and engaged, and reputations of brands are increased.

Following the keynote address a panel discussion was held. Merle Singer from Curve of the World moderated the discussion between Roz Wollmering (Member & Corporate Relations Manager, Volunteer Victoria),  Tom Campey (Engagement Manager with CSIRO Futures), Vanessa Veldman (Corporate Engagement Coordinator at Save the Children Australia), Liz Malady (General Manager - People & Culture at CPA Australia) and Ilona Charles (Aconex, Chief People Officer).

The audience engaged in the debate and shared great insights into their own experiences. One particular audience member summed up much of the value to be gained by employees getting involved in volunteering stating “it is not only what they do but also what they see and hear” which has an impact on these employees.

The event ended on a high note with Professor Alex Newman summarising the contributions from all participants throughout the morning. The success of the session may be measured in the way in which it brought together representatives from the not-for-profit space, community organisations, volunteering bodies and for profit organisations in order to initiate discussions, brainstorm ways of approaching the challenges and to learn from best practice in this area.

The level of engagement, energy and passion in the room were testament to how import an area this is for those who are reliant on volunteers, serious about attracting and retaining the best talent and interested in social practices.