HR Excellence Awards 2023 Singapore
Q&A: Sue Toomey and Catherine Dannaoui from HandsOn Hong Kong

Q&A: Sue Toomey and Catherine Dannaoui from HandsOn Hong Kong


Volunteering has been shown to significantly benefit employees’ self-esteem and confidence. Research has shown that 83% of respondents who volunteered reported a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing as a result of serving. Employee volunteering can also increase productivity and foster a greater sense of belonging to a company.

Human Resources spoke to Sue Toomey, executive director and Catherine Dannaoui, associate director at HandsOn Hong Kong to examine the best volunteering practices.

Tips on applying global best volunteering practices locally Toomey: There are three tips:

  1. Lead from the top: Ensure senior management are visibly and vocally supportive of volunteer efforts and are participating in programmes themselves. Employees often emulate the behaviour of their managers.
  2. Grassroots empowerment: Give employees the opportunity to have a voice and a say in the types of service programmes the company takes up. Also, ensure a variety of programmes so employees can find an activity that meets their interests and skills.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate: With employees receiving such a deluge of information on a daily basis, it’s easy to miss a notice about a volunteer activity. The companies that we’ve seen have the greatest success put mini-campaigns around volunteer programmes and create a buzz in advance.

What is effective workplace volunteering? Dannaoui: Effective workplace volunteering can take a variety of formats. What we focus on are the needs of the community in alignment with the company’s community engagement objectives. In designing a programme, whether it’s one-day or year-round, we look to understand employees’ interests and motivations around serving and consider the elements unique to each company such as the skills they can bring.

Let me give you a great example of our programme that harnessed the skills and passions of the company and its volunteers while providing a rich and meaningful experience for the beneficiaries.

We partnered with Telstra to stage a company-wide Tech Fun Day which provided an immersive sensory learning experience based around technology for 182 students with intellectual disabilities and involving almost all Hong Kong staff.

This programme allowed Telstra volunteers to play an active role in introducing students to the wonders of STEM and technology in a safe environment. Games and activities for students included virtual reality, 3D drawings and basic coding supported by expert facilitators.

Q What is the role of senior HR practitioners in facilitating volunteering? Dannaoui: Time has been the biggest barrier to the prevalence of volunteering. Senior HR practitioners can play a key role in making volunteering possible for their teams by ensuring their company carves out time for employees to volunteer during working hours.

Staging volunteer programmes within the work day, which allows staff to serve together is a wonderful way to spend meaningful time together as a team removed from usual work commitments. Incentivising employee volunteering can be another method. This includes giving staff time off for volunteering or matching the time the employees give with charitable donations.

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