Sinéad Smith is Corporate Responsibility Manager with A&L Goodbody. She talks to us about their employee volunteering programme, their partnership with Suas and why she thinks it's so important.
Can you tell us a little bit about A&L Goodbody’s partnership with Suas?
In April 2012, ALG partnered with Suas, an educational charity focused on raising literacy skills for 8-14 year olds in disadvantaged communities in Ireland, to roll out a pilot literacy project with St Vincent's Girls National School, Dublin 1. 11 ALG employees were recruited and trained to use a scientifically proven literacy support intervention called AcceleRead/AcceleWrite which uses text-to-speech software and a set of phonic based structured sentences. Our employees mentored 11 pupils for 20 minutes on a one-to-one basis. This mentoring took place on the school premises, 4 mornings per week for 5 weeks, with every session monitored by a representative from Suas.
In 2013, arising from the success of the pilot, A&L Goodbody and Suas formed a 3 year partnership in an effort to improve the declining levels of literacy for young people in the local community through the delivery of literacy support programmes. In 2016, A&L Goodbody renewed another there year partnership with Suas.
To date, over 160 A&L Goodbody employees have volunteered for the Suas Literacy Programme.
Why did A&L Goodbody decide to develop an employee volunteering programme?
Volunteering is an integral element to A&L Goodbody's Community programme called 'Step Up'. Everything we do as part of Step Up is underpinned and measured by an overarching theme; collaborating with partner organisations to create opportunities for people most in need in our communities. To achieve this we are focusing on the following areas; Education, Employment and pro bono.
'Step Up', gives everyone at A&L Goodbody (A&LG) an opportunity to make a difference in the local community we work in. To achieve this, we created a number of community programmes, in key focus areas, where volunteering is core to the success and implementation of these programmes.
What made you select Suas as your chosen partner?
The initiatives A&L Goodbody (ALG) supports as part of our community programme called Step Up are focused on making a difference in the community that we work in. It is important for us to support a social issue that is relevant in our local community but also to use our employees' skills to the benefit of our local community.
With research showing that children in disadvantaged areas are more likely to leave school with impaired literacy skills, A&LG decided that supporting literacy would be the flagship initiative as part of the Step Up programme. As we are not experts in the area of literacy, we needed to partner with an organisation that was and Suas was the community partner we chose to partner with.
What impact does volunteering have on your employees?
We believe that through our community partnerships, our people's skills are used over and beyond their day job, giving them the opportunity to see first-hand the difference their contributions can make in their local community. Our support of the research project with Law Centre Northern Ireland allows our people to also develop their skills in areas of law that the firm does not practice in. It also gives them the opportunity to take part in an area of law that they are passionate about whilst also working in a corporate legal firm.
Feedback from our employees is very positive. Through our employee engagement survey, our employees talk about how proud they are to volunteer in the community and to transfer their skills to support organisations and their beneficiaries. Our people involved in our volunteering initiatives benefit also by developing their skills and applying them to address new challenges.
What impact does volunteering have on the company as a whole?
The primary aim of volunteering for 'Step Up' is for A&LG to support those most in need in our communities primarily through Education, Employment and our pro bono programme. With a workforce of over 700 people, we have significant opportunities to make available our support and resources to directly help and support people in our local community. Attracting and retaining our employees is very important to A&L Goodbody as we firmly believe it is our people who make us stand out from our competitors. One way of achieving this is through using the knowledge and skills of our people to impact positively on the communities they live in.
Do you see the employee volunteering programme as an important part of A&L Goodbody’s work?
Volunteering is an integral element to every A&L Goodbody Community programme. Through this programme, we ask all our employees to participate in 15 hours volunteering every year be that through volunteering for a community activity or for a piece of pro bono work. To achieve this, we needed to provide the firm with a suite of varied opportunities. This helps involve all levels of our people in our 'Step Up' Community Programme, from the Managing Partner to trainee solicitors and business support employees.
This blog is part of our National Volunteering Week 2016 blog series. Get involved on social media using #NVW2016.