1. What is a Volunteer Policy?
This policy is plainly named for the population it was intended to address: Volunteers – or employees that request an assignment or transfer for personal or professional reasons.
Common drivers for personal requests include a desire to: follow a spouse who’s been asked to move abroad, live in or return to a country of citizenship, care for family members, or pursue education goals. Volunteers can also be employees that spot an opportunity abroad which aligns with their career aspirations.
2. How does a Volunteer Policy help your business?
A Volunteer policy enables mobility. A mobile workforce is an asset for global organizations: employees with broad international experiences bring diverse perspectives and solutions to the table.
Employers benefit from the growth that occurs when employees are exposed to new environments and customs; improved problem-solving, flexibility, and resiliency are all valuable skills attained through international experience. Also, accommodating an employee request (e.g. a temporary move to care for a parent abroad) engenders goodwill and improves employee engagement with the organization.
Keeping good employees is more cost effective than recruiting and training new ones.
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3. How is a Volunteer Policy structured?
Volunteer policies are structured to facilitate mobility in a cost-effective and compliant way. They provide a lower level of relocation and/or ongoing support than what we see in policies for business-driven moves.
The justification for this differentiation is twofold – in many cases, the employee requesting the move has familiarity with or resources in the destination that make living there a feasible option. This eases the volunteer’s relocation and settling in, and often means only compliance-related elements (such as immigration and tax filing support) are required to facilitate the move.
Secondly, since the move is primarily an accommodation of an employee request, a lean package aligns well to the value proposition of the move which, on balance, favors the employee.
4. What are some benefits and challenges associated with a Volunteer Policy?
One benefit of offering such a policy is that you position your company to leverage a mobile workforce – you have the tools to move people that want to move and open the door for the long-term benefits of a global workforce. Secondly, you are protecting the organization by ensuring moves are done compliantly.
Our clients are telling us that employee-requested moves are on the rise and developing a policy is a next step for meeting that demand.
From my experience working with companies that build Volunteer Policies, the main challenge seems to be developing eligibility criteria that prevents misuse of the policy. The cost of a Volunteer assignment, when compared with other business-driven assignment types, can be enticing.
We’ve seen cases where managers “suggest” employees apply for open roles abroad so they can be classified as Volunteers. Having dynamic qualifying criteria and a sensible approval structure can combat this challenge. To a lesser extent we also have seen companies struggle with structuring compensation and relocation benefits for this population.
Pay orientation impacts future potential mobility – it could be easier or harder to move the employee somewhere else in the future. And, since volunteer policies are generally designed to support the employee only, a situation where the request involves relocating family often leads to a discussion about whether support should vary by family size.
It’s easier to navigate these conversations if the intent, eligibility, and desired outcomes of the policy are clearly defined.
5. How do you decide whether a Volunteer Policy makes sense for your organization?
I think you have to first determine if there is a need and the means to make this a reality. From Mobility’s perspective, it makes sense to engage business and HR leadership with a few scoping questions:
- Do we have (or want to promote) a culture of Mobility?
- Is there demand for this provision?
- Do we anticipate a benefit for the organization?
If the answer to those questions is yes, then I think it’s worth digging a little deeper to see what is possible. Look at your organizational structure and footprint to determine whether you can cost-effectively support Volunteers with respect to tax and payroll capabilities.
With support from leadership and a handle on your resources, you would be well positioned to develop a successful Volunteer program.
6. How can you find more information about Volunteer Policies?
Contact me! I’m always interested in speaking with companies that are building Volunteer policies; I like to discuss how organizations translate their context into an approach that makes sense for them in this growing area of Mobility. So yes, please reach out to ask questions or to share your perspective because I would love to hear it!
If you'd like to read more about how we can help with policy building and other advisory services to support your Mobility program, the button below will lead you where you need to go: