Jaguar Land Rover is one of the most established and famous names in the UK's manufacturing and engineering industry.
Now owned by giant Indian company Tata, it employs 31,000 people in the West Midlands and Merseyside and has had a community relations department in place for 15 years.
It was formed due to demand from employees to undertake volunteering projects. With no formal procedure in place for vetting the applications the business established the community relations department which took on the role and has expanded it ever since.
Speaking at Health at Work 2015, then-Jaguar Land Rover head of community relations Les Ratcliffe explained why it was so important to formalise the policy and tie it to business needs.
"If you don't choose a business case for your community strategy you're on a bit of a sticky wicket," he said.
"We have five pillars in our community relations programme - but the key aspect is education. For us education was a no-brainer. We want more young people to consider engineering, manufacturing, automotive industries - and if not us then our suppliers in a fast growing sector.
"We need to talk to schools and teachers in a specific way to cover that and volunteering feeds all through that."
In the last two years 11,000 employees have taken part in a wide variety of volunteering projects and the success of the programme has been in showing how spreads across the organisation, not just in a silo or in one particular department.
The policy gives every employee the ability to request up to 16 hours of paid work time on approved volunteering projects each year.
The projects are quite wide and varied but certain areas are blocked off which would bias JLR to a specific organisation.
Activities are focused on regeneration, the environment, education support for young people and charity work.
And projects must be based within a 30 mile catchment area, although some of the centrally co-ordinated schemes do stretch further afield. The only problem appears to be meeting the demand from those workers on the production line.
"Traditionally lots more salaried staff participate rather than hourly paid production line employees simply because we can't get them off the production line, and those are challegnes we have to address," continued Ratcliffe.
"We look for opportunities for our hourly paid workers when there is down time or when there is a production change - so it's a way of doing volunteering in a different way."
Investing in education
Education projects involving science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are the key focus of the department.
These include education business partnership centres, external design challenges for schools and work experience, all of which lead in to people joining apprenticeships and as graduates.
A real concern throughout the engineering industry is the lack of interest from women and Jaguar Land Rover is using the community strategy to help address that.
"We have a shortage of females coming in to engineering generally in the UK and so we put programmes on specifically to target girls in this case to consider their career choices while they are at school," said Ratcliffe.
"Last year we had 200 participating in that and for us we're very key to focus on female employees to consider volunteering to support this programme. It is targeted volunteering and if they don't want to do it they don't have to, but it's something that's put to them and they see that as something quite fitting to talk about."
The benefits to the company seem pretty comprehensive as well with a sizeable list of reasons and achievements.
The policy has served to strengthen its reputation as a responsible company, which can prove supportive when business practices, such as a significant growth phase, affect the community.
With projects being limited to the 30 mile radius, it gives local employees the chance to support the communities they live and work in.
It also increases employee engagement and morale and provides a good opportunity for off-site team building when new members join or before taking on a business critical project.
And volunteering can help employees gain valuable skills where managers can push employees to learn and use new skills in a less intensive environment.
All this proves popular with line managers who Ratcliffe says have never complained about losing time or poor quality work as a result of staff volunteering.
However, the most important reason for Jaguar Land Rover appears to be securing its (and the engineering industry's) future workforce which seems to be somewhat neglected by current education curriculums.
"The education engagement helps us address the STEM skill shortage. For us we've got to inspire young people to aspire in school but also be inspired by our industry. Volunteering gives us a great opportunity to get enthusiastic employees out in to the community to support our education programme," Ratcliffe concluded.
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