"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others"

How Employee Volunteerism is Good for Business

How Employee Volunteerism is Good for Business

Posted by martin.parnell | Employee Engagement Volunteerism

One of benefits of belonging to the Human Resources Institute of Alberta is the opportunity to attend their “Networking at Noon” sessions. These are sponsored by The Cooperators Group and focus on education, training and information. A recent session was on “Employee Engagement through Volunteerism”, a topic close to my heart.

There were many times during my 5 year, “Quests for Kids” initiative when I felt like giving up. Whether it was a leg injury when running the 250 marathons in one year, hyperthermia while summiting Kilimanjaro or mental fatigue in battling the coastal path in England, one thing kept me going, my commitment to raise funds for Right To Play and give thousands of children the gift of hope.

It’s been recognised that the act of helping others is very powerful. In a corporate environment this manifests itself in a number of areas including reputation and credibility, recruitment and staff retention, staff morale and work performance, training / development and local and international connections. An interesting fact from the UK is that 70% of the FTSE 100 companies already have a volunteering program but only 20% of medium sized businesses offer volunteering to their employees.

A report issued by Realized Worth stated that, “for companies where employees were more engaged than not, their profitability jumped by 16%, general productivity was 18% higher than other companies, customer loyalty was 12%, and quality increased by 60%”. The report also noted that “this is even more amazing when contrasted with the estimated $350 billion disengaged employees cost their employers every year just in the United States alone”.

During the session, Mavin Pawlivsky, Business Development Manager with The Cooperators explained the workings of their program. Each employee has two paid volunteer days per year and these can be used on a number of community initiatives. Groups helped include Canadian Blood Services, Meals on Wheels, Children’s Wish Foundation, ALS and Muscular Dystrophy. Marvin also talked about house builds in the Philippines, the international project employees undertook in 2015.

After the meeting I talked with Kate Barclay, Director, Human Resources for The Bodtker Group of Companies. Bodtker provides a comprehensive range of industrial containers and consumer packaging and they have 500 employees Canada wide. Kate explained that her company offers one day volunteerism a year to their employees but she was interested in the international volunteering aspect. I let her know that the Rotary Club of Cochrane are looking at participating in a house build project in El Salvador through Shelter Canada.

Volunteerism offers so many benefits for the employer and employee. Is 2016 the year your business lets it’s employees make a difference in the world?

Read More

"Every child has the right to play and every child has the right to play in a playground."

Martin Parnell
Playgrounds: Good for the Heart and Soul

Playgrounds: Good for the Heart and Soul

Posted by martin.parnell | Play

On December 31st the Martin Parnell 6th Annual Run / Walk will take place at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre in Cochrane. This year, the event is a fundraiser to raise $10,000 for a playground for the Lindsay Kimmett Kindergarten in the village of Mto wa Mbu in Tanzania. In Cochrane we have 29 playground but for the Kindergarten kids the closest one is 130 kms away.

The fact that these children have never played in a playground got me thinking about where did this concept of having a safe space for play developed.

The idea of the playground as a method for imbuing children with a sense of fair play and good manners originated in Germany where playgrounds were erected in connection to schools, although the first purpose built public-access playground was opened in a park in Manchester, England in 1859. Over time, organized playing areas have been adopted by other countries of the world and have become commonplace.

The first playground in the USA was built in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 1887 and in 1906 the Playground Association of America was founded. In 1907 recognizing the need for playgrounds, former President Theodore Roosevelt stated:

City streets are unsatisfactory playgrounds for children because of the danger, because most good games are against the law, because they are too hot in summer, and because in crowded sections of the city they are apt to be schools of crime. Neither do small back yards nor ornamental grass plots meet the needs of any but the very small children. Older children who would play vigorous games must have places especially set aside for them; and, since play is a fundamental need, playgrounds should be provided for every child as much as schools. This means that they must be distributed over the cities in such a way as to be within walking distance of every boy and girl, as most children cannot afford to pay carfare.

It’s interesting to note that Roosevelt recognised that “play is a fundamental need” and today we realise that this is true not only for children but also adults. Benefits to adults include:

Relieve stress. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Improve brain function. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.

Stimulate the mind and boost creativity. Young children often learn best when they are playing—and that principle applies to adults, as well. You’ll learn a new task better when it’s fun and you’re in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and problem solve.

Improve relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.

Keep you feeling young and energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you feel your best.

So wherever you are on December 31st why not end the year with a “Play Day”. 

Read More