Stepping up – how CIPD members are volunteering to tackle the impact of the pandemic

By Jemeela Quraishi, Social Impact and Innovation Lead


Do people professionals have the time or energy to volunteer right now? That was the question the Social Impact team at the CIPD were asking at the start of lockdown. Over the last few months, the people profession has arguably been under more pressure than ever, from getting to grips with the Job Retention Scheme to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff as they move to being completely home based or continue as keyworkers on the frontline. All whilst trying to adapt to this new way of working themselves. Would it even be reasonable to push our members to volunteer right now?

At the CIPD we take an evidence-based and customer-first approach to our work and sussing out feasibility of people professionals volunteering during Covid-19 was no different. Working with Policy and Research colleagues, we started to identify a few key areas where HR volunteer support could make a big difference to address some of the world of work challenges raised due to the pandemic. This helped shape our April 2020 volunteering survey to CIPD members which had both surprising and heartening results!

An overwhelming 75% of respondents[1] said they would like to get involved in volunteering now with a further 23% wanting to volunteer later. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they would be able to spare 1-5 hours per week with a further 27% able to support up to 4 hours per month. Not only that, 44% of respondents were new to volunteering with the CIPD and perhaps had never considered how they might use their HR skills to volunteer. Key areas of interest were providing HR support to a small charity or SME or direct support to people who now found themselves unemployed.

So what next? We took the results and worked with colleagues and partners to identify three core programmes of support:

  1. HR mentoring support for charities

In partnership with the Charities HR Network, in April we launched a programme providing up to 6-weeks HR mentoring support from a CIPD member to charities with limited or no HR capability. Since programme launch, we have matched 40 charities with HR mentors, with 12 having now completed the programme and we’re now also working with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO); NICVO and the Helplines Partnership to help us reach more charities in need of this support.

“Just wanted to drop you a quick line saying how amazing Skadi (HR mentor) is. She has been helping me so much already, everything is spot on what I needed and very practical – surpassing my wildest expectations!” ​ CEO, The Brokerage

  1. Recovery Advice for Business – HR support for SMEs

To help SMEs navigate the many HR challenges raised during the pandemic, we were delighted to support the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and partner with Enterprise Nation[2] on the Recovery Advice for Business scheme, providing SMEs one-hour free HR support from a volunteer CIPD member. Already we’ve had nearly 40 HR advisers sign up to offer support with one providing a dedicated webinar to around 100 SMEs!    

  1. Steps Ahead revamped

The CIPD’s Steps Ahead mentoring programme has been providing support to thousands of jobseekers since its inception in 2012. With the lockdown and the impact on employment due to the pandemic, we knew this support would be needed now more than ever. We also knew that young people’s employment prospects were expected to be one of the most negatively impacted34. With that in mind, all support has been moved online since the start of lockdown and from the Autumn we will be offering two streams of support targeted at unemployed 18-24 year olds:

  • Steps Ahead Express: limited 1-2 hours CV and interview support, where to look for jobs to help a jobseeker re-purpose their skills and experience to be ‘job-ready’ for work
  • Steps Ahead Plus: longer term mentoring support on employability skills enhancing the virtual offer and offering mentoring over a longer time period of up to 22 weeks (5 months)

This along with enhanced training support for our mentors to help them best support mentees especially when not able to have face to face meetings.

The skills and experience of people professionals are already making a huge difference to many of those people and organisations that are struggling as a result of the pandemic and we know we can achieve even more over the coming months. If you are a CIPD member and want to get involved in any of our volunteering opportunities and change people’s lives then get in touch with us at:

[1] Total number of respondents to the survey was 256 CIPD members.


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