Significant research shows organizations that adopt an impact focus can be more appealing to potential hires. This is especially true among millennials, where more than 50 percent say a company’s involvement in various causes influences whether or not they accept a job.
In Detroit, we’re leveraging cross-collaboration between nonprofits, corporations and cultural institutions to attract leaders from Detroit and across the country to live, work, play and do meaningful work for one year in the city and surrounding region through our fellowship program, Challenge Detroit. Not only is this approach satiating people’s desire to give back, it’s also helping companies attract top talent and combating brain drain.
While ultimately our goal is talent retention city-wide, there are some key takeaways companies can learn from our experience:
Build the “Giveback” Component into Your Offer
The population of Detroit has fallen exponentially, from more than 1.8 million at its peak in 1950 to under 700,000 in 2013, and this mass exodus has led to challenges for our city’s companies in attracting talent. By creating an opportunity for people to work at a leading company four days a week and spend the fifth day of week lending their intellectual capacity to area nonprofits, we have attracted more than 2,000 applicants to our program and as a byproduct, our employer partners. Our applicants are graduating from the top colleges in the country and many have postgraduate degrees. They are coming from as far as California and New York to make an impact in Detroit.
What this should tell top companies: couple your job offer with opportunities for individuals to give back, whether it’s through a formal program or encouraged days off for volunteering. Offering them outlets to pursue personal passions while on the job makes the role at your company significantly more appealing to potential hires.
Encourage Social and Cultural Engagement
Connection to community is one of the strongest retention drivers both for a city, as we have experienced in Detroit, and for a company. City arts and cultural institutions often develop partnerships that allow individuals to purchase one pass for universal access. Many cities also have intramural sports leagues and organizations dedicated to creating social and cultural opportunities for employees after work, like one we work with called Detroit Passport to the Arts.
Offering these opportunities to employees as part of their benefits package encourages community engagement and fosters connections that will help them feel rooted to both your city and as a byproduct, your company. Whether they are newly transplanted or have lived there forever, these types of programs also offer people a unique vantage point of the city, and help engender social relationships between colleagues that can lead to increased happiness on the job.
Communicate Your Company’s Commitment to Community
If your employees want to give back, naturally they want to be part of a company that adopts an impactful mindset. Your commitment to community is as important as their desire to create positive change. Choose a community impact project or a charity of choice and make your philanthropic goals known to your employees. Provide easy ways for them to engage, whether this is through in-kind donations or company-wide volunteer days. Even better, develop a pro-bono program that aligns with your organization’s goals and objectives and also provides your employees the opportunity to put their time and talents to good use.
When our program launched in 2012, we hoped through their year in Detroit, we could show our Fellows that Detroit was a place where people can successfully give and a place they can successfully live. Following their year with Challenge Detroit, 90 percent of our participants have stayed in city, many with the companies they worked for during their time with our program. Demand for opportunities to give back and engage in the community in meaningful ways will only continue to grow among the job seekers of tomorrow. Is your company ready to make an impact?
Deirdre Greene Groves is the executive director of Challenge Detroit, a leadership and professional development program inviting tomorrow’s leaders to live, work, play, give and lead in and around the greater Detroit area for one year.