If you want to attract and retain the best candidates, you better be prepared to offer them a new benefit: Employee Volunteering.
Whitney Dailey, the director of marketing at Cone Communications knows all about what it takes to attract and keep talented employees, especially when it comes to the largest section of the workforce, the Millennial generation. When they don’t get what they are looking for, Dailey says, they have no qualms about moving on to greener or more socially responsible pastures. “We are in a different world now,” Dailey says, “and employees don’t have that innate loyalty to their employers that you might have seen 30 years ago.”
Cone’s 2016 Employee Engagement Study is highly revealing, and it proves why so many firms today are struggling with finding and retaining the talent they so desperately need to succeed. It is all about the changing face of what current employees want from their employers.
Keeping Employees Engaged
In the job-seeking world, basic benefits still apply. Your staff will still want a living wage and adequate health benefits, but they may be willing to compromise on these areas if other needs are met, such as feeling valued and respected at work and being offered the opportunity to make a positive contribution to social issues. Millennial employees tend to rank tangible compensation, such as salary, behind what they see as more fulfilling ones, and knowing the company they work for gives them the opportunity to make a positive difference in the world.
Interestingly enough, while modern employees say that work-life balance is important, Dailey reveals that in our mobile-connected world, employees don’t mind blending work and personal time. The idea of answering email from home or brainstorming in the late hours of the night isn’t a deal-breaker, as long as employees have those other needs met.
Corporate Responsibility Means Something New
Call it the era of corporate responsibility. The companies who survive this talent shift, Dailey says, are the “organizations innovating a more purpose-driven business model” that focuses on their employee’s needs to leave a positive mark on the world.
It isn’t just a matter of taking up a collection during the holidays or giving your staff a day off to volunteer on their own, your staff wants you to bring the volunteer opportunities to them. “It is a high motivation with them.” Dailey says. “We found that 70 percent would be more loyal to a company that provides employees with an opportunity to make an impact on social and environmental issues, and that spikes up to 83 percent when you talk about Millennials,” Dailey says. “They actually find their job more fulfilling when they are able to make a positive impact. More and more, they are expecting companies to provide this opportunity.”
The Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults is a study that focuses specifically on Millennials what it is they want, at home, at work, and education. It finds that their ideal job is one that is centered on personal fulfillment, which takes precedent over higher pay.
Social Application is an Human Resources Game Changer
Studies are all well and good, but does the data they collect really stand up in the real world? It certainly does, if you ask Marcia Jacquette, president of Mariposa Teams, a team and executive coaching firm with core experience in the coaching of individuals in job transition. She says that the emerging workforce of Millennials is a categorical HR game changer.
“There is definitely consideration and emphasis on doing things that they love,” she says. “A large part of that is corporate social responsibility. It is emerging as one of the most important parts of attracting and keeping Millennials.”
“They don’t have the loyalty ties that some of the previous generations had, so I think it is more likely that if they are not getting what they want, they will just drift over to another employer,” she says. “If you are seeing Millennials come on board and then leave, you want to look at putting [a volunteer program] together, and see if it helps them engage.”
The Cost of Apathy
Why should company leaders care about this shift in employee recruitment and retention? It will cost the average department $15,000 to $20,000 to replace a single employee, according to Cone Communications research. This number may be even higher for specialized skill sets, so commonly required in today’s marketplace. Dailey reveals that 40 percent of your Millennial employees are probably looking for other jobs right now.
“I have a friend who works for a company, and every year, during the first week of December, they pack gifts for families who are less fortunate. It is a wonderful experience for them. They get to meet people from all across the company they don’t know. They are doing something they feel really good about. It is a very positive thing to do.”
To keep up with this demand for employee volunteerism, “most of the companies will pick a charity or a program that they want to be associated with,” Jacquette says. She emphasizes the importance of the volunteer program being one that is company sponsored. “If you, as a company, want to use this as a tool for attracting and keeping your employees engaged, then you have to step up and show that you are as committed as they are.”
From my perspective as a job coach, volunteering and getting involved is extremely valuable and is one of the most underrated and underutilized things out there,” Jacquette says. “For a company — what they want to do, is they want to find ways to give their employees a way to get involved, but also to build relationships. It helps with team building.” She says corporate sponsored volunteering offers this two-fold benefit for employees and corporations.
“I think if you find something that resonates with you as a company, then you can reach out to the director on the other end and talk about the possibilities — what ways can you get involved — what things do they need? I always recommend, if you are going to start a program like that, find an employee or two who are really passionate about doing it, and let them lead that charge.”
How a Nonprofit Organization Responds:
“Businesses want to do more than simply write a check; they want to bring more value to their employees and culture,” says Dick Sanford, the founder and CEO of the nonprofit, Operation Warm. Sanford says through conversations with corporate leaders, he learned that there was a critical need for a nonprofit partnership that provided not just a way to show corporate responsibility, but also offer a real hands-on volunteer opportunity for employees. He responded by forming the Operation Warm Employee Volunteer program, to give companies the opportunity to deliver brand new winter coats to children in need in their communities.
Mary Ann Romans is the Digital Engagement Coordinator for Operation Warm. If you like this article, please hit the green “Recommend” button below, so others will have a greater chance of stumbling across this essay as well.