A win-win for wellbeing​

2 May 2024
Two people sitting on sofa and laughing

What can you do in a day? 

Pilotlight is a leading provider of experiential learning that amplifies the impact that business, charities and individuals can bring to make a better world.  

For nearly three decades we have enabled thousands of professionals from some of the world's most inspiring businesses to support UK based charities to become more effective, resilient and sustainable. Our programmes see teams of business leaders and future leaders tackling real-life challenges faced by charities and in the process, pushes participants from business out of their comfort-zone, unlocking their potential and inspiring them to do things differently.   

For many years, we specialised in developing senior leaders from business to transition into Non-Executive Director/Trustee level roles by working with a charity CEO and its board on long-term strategic and organisational change.  

Seeing the success of this programme Learning & Development leaders from business were keen to distil the essence of the senior leader programme into something shorter and more inclusive, with one business in particular asking if a programme could be delivered in just one day. 

After a period of testing and development, Pilotlight Impact Day was born. Rather than focus on open questions of strategy, funding and governance for charities, the time was structured into small teams focusing on precise challenges, carefully prepared in advance, that were critical to the life of the charity.    

What is Pilotlight Impact Day?

Pilotlight Impact Day offers a team building experience like no other with large groups of employees coming together to collaborate with colleagues across corporate grades. On the day, representatives from the charities table their challenge and participants are split into groups to start tackling the issue, whilst being expertly guided by a team of experienced facilitators.   

It has similarities with ‘hack days’ or ‘hackathons’, but also with some important differences. Hack days were originally developed for rapid and open ideas generation combined with practical software coding. In a charity setting, the practical implementation was missing. Generating ideas can be fun but it doesn’t mean that ideas are taken up. From the early events, a ‘gold standard’ Pilotlight methodology has evolved, helping to ensure that the input of skilled volunteers is embedded and co-owned by the charity with the capacity and support to take forward what emerges.  

Pilotlight Impact Day therefore provides a way for employees to give back and develop themselves as well as for charities to explore innovative ideas they may not have considered before. Perhaps most impressively, employees often report a deeper sense of purpose and wellbeing, despite the programme taking place in just one day. 

Pilotlight Impact Day in action

This was true for a recent Pilotlight Impact Day with colleagues from the professional service network, Deloitte, in February 2024.  Hosted by Deloitte’s LGBTQ+ network, Proud, the programme formed part of the firm’s societal impact initiative 5 Million Futures. This particular edition of the programme coincided with LGBT+ History Month and focused on making a tangible difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ communities.  

40 skilled volunteers from Deloitte worked alongside three charities and community interest companies: The Love Tank, Just Like Us, and Living Free UK. Amid the creative problem-solving, participants found themselves caught up deeply by the mission and impact of the charities.  

As Natalie Chigariro, a member of Deloitte's Proud Network commented:

I felt really inspired and moved by the work done by the charities.

Warren Bayliss, Associate Director at Risk and Advisory, offered a poignant perspective, drawing from his personal experiences of isolation and lack of support as a young person: 

It's been very refreshing to see that there are charities now providing fantastic support not only to young people who have been harassed and bullied, but also to refugees, asylum seekers, and others in need of support for various reasons. 

When I was asked why I had volunteered for the programme, it reminded me of when I was growing up, and feeling very isolated at school. There was no social network, no support; you had to get by day after day with no one to provide support for mental health and other issues. I also remember when I started work, it was the same thing — no one talked about these issues, there was no help or support; you had to get by and manage the best you could. Very occasionally, you might hear about someone in the same situation as you, but reaching out was challenging, risky, and difficult. 

That's why I decided to come today, to give my support to people who are making their way in the world right now and need some help. The three charities that were here today are doing important work. It's great that we support that, and it's great that my employer supports it, because it makes me feel proud to work for an organisation that enables these really important activities.

Triple dividend

Since the launch of Pilotlight Impact Day, over 1,000 professionals from global businesses such as Deloitte, Morgan Stanley and KPMG. The outcomes are tracked; for the business, charity and employees. 

The learning outcomes that volunteers report are good for their productivity and their professional development. These include outstanding improvements around what are often dubbed the ‘power skills’ of interpersonal interaction, from teamwork and problem solving through to collaboration and empathy. There are also benefits in terms of personal development. Through the Pilotlight Impact Day, 80% of participants felt that their personal wellbeing had increased. Why? Because they were taking part in something that imparted so much value for a worthy cause. 22% of participants said their stress levels had reduced, simply as a result of taking part in the day. 

Pilotlight’s Chair of Trustees, Sally Bailey is formerly CEO of the retailer White Stuff. Someone who would be classified as disabled, she describes this as the magical impact of pro bono action. Her words of inspiration are that “whenever I am feeling helpless, I help someone else.” 

Pilotlight Impact Day is now a growing part of Pilotlight’s work with its Partner Businesses, providing a step into the power of skilled volunteering for staff of all levels. Volunteers also gain a better perspective and understanding of the charity sector, which Pilotlight has seen increases involvement with charities, with some participants developing their skills to become trustees. Pro bono action can become a habit for a lifetime.  

As one participant in Pilotlight’s programmes says:

this has probably been the most enriching experience of my career so far.

Lionel Choo, a Manager in Travel, Hospitality, and Leisure Advisory at Deloitte shared his reflections on the supportive and collaborative atmosphere of the Pilotlight Impact Day: 

Coming into the day you may have some anxiety about whether you will have valuable things to contribute, but at the end of the journey you feel quite different. Everybody was so nice and gentle, supportive of each other and the process. Everyone aligned with the same end goals.

So, what can you do in a day?

The answer is that you can do something extraordinary. You can make a difference to your world and in turn make a difference for yourself and for your colleagues. It is a win-win for well-being. 

Did you know that workplace volunteering could unlock billions in the UK economy? Learn more about the benefits of pro bono volunteering to business.

If Pilotlight can help you increase your employee wellbeing, get in touch

Written by
Profile picture for user Tom Leavesley-Matthews
Tom Leavesley-Matthews
Head of Partnerships - Pilotlight

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