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Navigating the Great Resignation

By Common Impact | August 19, 2021

Leveraging Skills-Based Volunteer Programs to Boost Employee Engagement and Retention in a Time of Rapid Turnover

In what’s being dubbed “The Great Resignation,” around 4 million people quit their jobs in June alone according to a recent U.S. Labor Department Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS). On top of that, a 2021 survey by the Achievers Workforce Institute found that 52 percent of employed workers plan to actively job hunt this year, a remarkable 43 percent increase over 2019 when just 35 percent intended to look for a new job.

Why exactly are employees picking up and leaving? In the same Achievers Workforce Institute survey, 22 percent of respondents pointed to lack of career growth as a hindrance to their engagement at work and an additional 20 percent listed feeling underappreciated. Another factor is that given record job vacancies and turnover rates, employees now hold more power than they have in decades – certainly much more compared to the volatile first year of the pandemic. They are capitalizing on this moment by leaving roles where they are unmotivated or underutilized in pursuit of more fulfilling opportunities or employers that better align with their values.

Investing in Your Most Powerful Asset: Your People

Companies of all sizes across industries and regions are rushing to identify employee engagement tactics that will stem the tide of the Great Resignation. After all, an engaged workforce is a more-likely-to-stay workforce. But employee engagement in 2021 requires more than the free food and ping pong table in the break room of yesteryear. And with return to office dates being pushed back and virtual happy hours long overdone, leaders need new ways to energize their teams.

One approach savvy companies are taking to create stronger bonds is implementing skills-based volunteering programs, which give employees the opportunity to apply their unique expertise to support urgent social causes and solve nonprofit capacity challenges. These hands-on programs make employees feel more connected to their roles, their teams, and their companies. This increased engagement in turn increases productivity and business outcomes: companies with high employee engagement are 22 percent more profitable according to employee communications and advocacy platform Smarp.

Fostering Employee Engagement through Skills-Based Volunteering

What makes skills-based volunteering so effective in energizing employees? Talent development, team building, and purpose are baked in.

Talent Development

96 percent of Common Impact skills-based volunteers consider their experience a valuable professional development opportunity. These programs give employees the chance to stretch their capabilities by applying their expertise in new contexts, learning from peers, and gaining exposure to new tools, strategies, and ways of thinking. Employers may choose to build programs with specific technical and interpersonal skill development goals in mind, either for their teams’ current needs or to prepare employees for future positions.

Offering skills-based volunteer programs demonstrates to employees that their company is committed to their professional growth. Feeling invested in boosts their engagement and productivity, which in turn leads to stronger retention rates and mitigates the disruptions and high costs of turnover. In fact, a Benevity Engagement Study found that turnover dropped by 57 percent in employee groups most deeply connected to their companies’ volunteering efforts. While all skills-based volunteering models incorporate a degree of talent development, long-term team consulting programs – where multiple weeks or months of hands-on learning are integrated into an employee’s regular work stream – provide the most significant gains.

Skills-based volunteering can also open up pathways for employees to explore expanded or alternative roles within their current company instead of leaving to pursue a change. The “learning by doing” and skill sharing components coupled with exposure to different colleagues and nonprofit professionals can motivate employees to take on ownership of new tasks, pursue management tracks, or move into a different department, all within their current company.

Team Building

Skills-based volunteering provides a setting for established teams or curated groups of employees from different departments to collaborate and learn from one another as they tackle a social sector challenge. A recent AIG day of service aimed to promote internal collaboration and address feelings of isolation due to long-term remote work by engaging nearly 40 volunteers in a high-impact virtual event benefiting five nonprofits. 92 percent of the AIG skills-based volunteers met new colleagues through the event and 84 percent said they believe these connections will help them solve a future business issue.

Purpose at Work

93 percent of employees believe companies should lead with purpose and 73 percent expect to make a social impact through their jobs, according to a report from the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals (ACCP). Skills-based volunteering allows professionals to integrate their values into their regular work, especially when they are given a voice in which causes and organizations their company supports. The positive community impact is reflected back onto the employer in meaningful ways that ultimately contribute to the bottom line. For instance, 91 percent of skills-based volunteers reported that their experiences with Common Impact make them feel more inclined to recommend their company as a great place to work, which can aid in recruiting top talent.

Stronger Teams, Resilient Companies

The Great Resignation is already testing employers across industries and sectors. Whether your company is feeling the turnover pressure or not, skills-based volunteering can be an important piece in your strategy for creating a culture where employees feel connected, challenged, and valued.