After two decades in financial services, Jayson Bricknell realised he was bored.
It was around seven years ago, when the senior product and services development director at Westpac was taking part in a leadership development program that it dawned on him: he needed more diversity in his life.
And that’s when he started volunteering.
“I had this light bulb moment,” says Bricknell, who joined Westpac in 2011 to head up BT wealth platforms’ product development teams after spending over 15 years at Macquarie Bank working in a similar space.
“I realised that no matter how many successes I had at work, I wasn’t going to get everything I needed to be happy.”
Bricknell’s first volunteering toe-dip came in 2015, when he signed up as a business mentor with the School for Social Entrepreneurs and was matched with mentee Jess Moore, then general manager of Green Connect, a social enterprise that creates employment opportunities for young people and former refugees in the Illawarra region of NSW.
While he achieved his aim of more diversity and the feel good factor of supporting a community organisation doing great things, he had not expected to take away lessons and energy that he could apply back in his day job.
“I'm a lifetime learner,” he tells Westpac Wire ahead of National Volunteer Week, which starts today. “I like learning new things and solving problems. Helping community organisations find solutions is another layer on that.”
Green Connect’s general manager Kylie Flament says it’s Bricknell’s longevity that has been key to his value to the organisation.
“What I’ve learned is that you don’t want volunteers who dip in and dip out. Be on this journey with me and walk beside me,” Flament says.
“What I love about JB is that he is always keen to help, and has really added value to our organisation at key points, but mostly he’s just a great sounding board and he doesn't get in the way. He understands and values the complexity of what we do.”
For Bricknell, he’s now hooked on volunteering.
In addition to continuing to support Green Connect over the past six years, Bricknell has participated in Westpac Foundation’s Board Observership Program three times, secured a paid role on the Board of Hume Community Housing, become the inaugural chair of Westpac’s Pro Bono Employee Action Group and recently completed a virtual Jawun secondment with Indigenous organisation Moorundi.
While that’s clearly a lot, he is by no means alone.
Volunteering Australia estimates around 6 million people volunteer in Australia each year, sharing close to 600 million hours with community organisations in 2019. And among employees in Australian companies, around 15 per cent participated in volunteering in 2018, up from 3.7 per cent in 2006. However, the organisation has calculated that only half of the potential volunteering time of employees in companies with volunteering programs is utilised, given employees in those companies usually have at least one day of volunteer leave each year.
Bricknell says this is also true within Westpac, and puts it down to lack of awareness about options and how to manage the time commitment rather than a lack of interest.
“Westpac’s policies mean there are 300,000 hours of volunteer leave available to employees across the group but only 10 per cent of employees are using that,” he says. “People volunteer in their personal life but don’t make the connection with volunteering in their professional life.”
So, how does he fit it all in?
As a husband and father of two kids, Bricknell says he didn’t want his volunteering to take too much time away from his family or job and says it’s all about “building it in”. A few years ago, he negotiated a compressed working week giving him one day a fortnight to focus on volunteering.
“It goes beyond volunteering and becomes fundamentally about what makes you happy, so you find the time,” says Bricknell, who has also previously gathered together 30 workmates to participate in a Social Innovation Colab for Green Connect over six weeks.
“You do the work in the background because it’s just doing something you like doing.”
“When people volunteer, they are satisfying something in themselves. They come back into the workforce energised. And Westpac benefits from that.”