Alison Taylor: Everybody benefits from time out

The Royal Highland Education Trust organises Food and Farming Days across the country. Picture: Gordon Jack/Scotimage.com
The Royal Highland Education Trust organises Food and Farming Days across the country. Picture: Gordon Jack/Scotimage.com
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THERE are many ways to improve, develop and motivate a company’s most prized asset, its staff, writes Alison Taylor

Most would agree the value of an organisation should be measured in terms of its people, as well as its bottom line. The strength of communication, workplace skills and motivation within an organisation can propel it to success in financial terms. Without these strengths an organisation can become lacklustre, disjointed, slow and unable to handle change in today’s fast moving economy.

The question is this – what can a company do to develop these lauded characteristics of its workforce? Teambuilding exercises are an obvious choice, as is on going training and development. However, these activities cost time and money and, for smaller companies at least, are not always readily accessible.

A Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) partnership with a not-for-profit can help improve, develop and motivate a company’s most prized asset, its staff, as well as boosting the company’s outward image, providing a commercial advantage over competitors.

There may be a collective groan when the phrase CSR is mentioned. Its reduction to a dreaded acronym coupled with years of being overused and underrated has resulted in it being drained of all energy and emotion.

In its most basic form, CSR is a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders. Sounds very logical and, in this new era of the ethically minded consumer, one that all businesses should pay heed to.

The Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET), the Royal Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland’s (RHASS) education charity, provides companies and staff with a perfect opportunity to give back, highlight and develop each person’s different set of skills and really make CSR something that is considered an essential and popular element of any businesses strategy.

The educational charity runs Food & Farming Days up and down the country. Costs are covered by RHET and RHASS along with vital support from the Scottish Government, which funds the transporting of the children, teachers and volunteers to the events. Without this vital financial support and the volunteers and the farmers and 
landowners who host the days, these educational activities would not be ­possible.

The Food & Farming days are an excellent opportunity for companies to put their CSR aspirations into practice. Instead of a morning commute to the office, staff can volunteer to steward a group of children around a farm or estate along with their work colleagues. They would spend the morning outside; help children learn where their food comes from and how to make the right choices for a healthy diet – as well as having some fun themselves by engaging in fun activities, such as learning how to milk a fibreglass cow.

For an employee, as well as developing their own skills and knowledge and giving them at the chance to interact with peers in a new environment, it also provides the opportunity for a shared staff social and learning experience, regardless of seniority.

For an employer, this team building experience motivates staff and makes them feel valued, one of the most important factors in holding on to staff and keeping the dreaded staff turnover figures low.

The experience might also offer the opportunity to identify suitable candidates for potential promotion – by 
seeing how staff handle themselves in an unfamiliar situation – watching which ones adapt well to the change, learn quickly and make others 
feel at their ease. CSR shouldn’t be an onerous or task or be carried out with reluctance. It should be welcomed, encouraged and, most importantly, seen as an invaluable asset to an ­organisation.

There are a variety of organisations here in Scotland, such as RHET, that are ready and willing to give workforces an opportunity to learn, grow and develop. In return, these organisations can assist with marketing, provide business mentoring or even design websites or help to answer their phones. The possibilities are endless.

• Alison Taylor, fundraising & partnerships manager, Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland

• www.rhass.org.uk

• If your organisation would like to get involved with RHET, contact RHASS fundraising & partnerships manger, Alison Taylor on 0131 335 6200 | alisont@rhass.org.uk