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Want to Retain Millennial Talent? The Surprising Way This Company Does It is Smart (and Replicable)

It's not just innovative; it's fun.

Phung Huynh Vu Qui/Getty Images
Phung Huynh Vu Qui/Getty Images

Millennials are now the largest group of professionals in the U.S. And according to a recent Gallup poll, 21 percent of them (those born 1980-1996) have changed jobs within the past year–a number three times as high as those outside that demographic.

This kind of job-hopping comes at a high cost: Gallup estimates that Millennial turnover costs the American economy close to $30 billion per year.

Employee turnover isn’t just bad for company culture and institutional memory; it also hurts your company’s bottom line. For example, Maia Josebachvili, VP of of People at Greenhouse, did a case study showing that retaining a sales person for three years instead of two (along with improved management) made a $1.3 million difference in net value to a company.

$1.3 million. Net.

It’s therefore worth putting energy into measures that help with retention, especially of Millennials. One company, Nextiva, stumbled on a creative way of doing just that, and has been expanding their efforts ever since.

It started in October of 2015, which was breast cancer awareness month. When a team member reached out to ask why the company wasn’t doing anything, leadership asked what she suggested; within a day she developed a plan.

She suggested partnering with the Mayo Clinic to support their efforts fundraising for a proton beam, a new cancer-fighting technology. Nextiva not only helped raise money, but changed their social media profile images to include a pink version of XBert (their mascot), with a pink ribbon. Representatives from the Mayo Clinic also came to the office to educate the team about breast cancer.

The dedicated portion of sales raised totaled just over $27,000. Plus, when the company’s CEO, Tomas Gorny, caught wind of the campaign, he had the Gorny Foundation match the donation.

That’s $54,000 raised in just a few days.

From there, the momentum was unstoppable. The company held a food drive in November, a toy drive in December, and then institutionalized the movement. It is now called Nextiva Cares, and it’s a big part of how the company engages and retains its talent.

For most companies, charitable giving is a disconnected experience–a check is cut around the holidays, with employees rarely aware of what the company is even contributing to.

With Nextiva Cares, though, people get their hands dirty. One month it’s a dog rescue center, the next, a homeless shelter. In the first half of 2018 alone, nearly 500 employees participated in Nextiva Cares events. The company has seen their young employee base’s enthusiasm and company spirit skyrocket.

Due to such strong participation, it now requires significant organization and coordination to run the program. But that effort is worth well it, considering that it does three important things at once:

1. It boosts employee engagement

A contagious sense of positivity spreads throughout the office after each volunteer event. Many times, those who volunteered reach out asking when the next event will be, how they can help, and when they’ll get an update from the organization on how things are going.

Giving back increases employee engagement in a natural and uplifting way. And according to the Harvard Business Review, organizations with high levels of engagement report 22 percent higher productivity.

2. It increases employee retention

As stated, the more a company retains talent, the more money it makes. This is part of why 87 percent of HR leaders see improved retention as a critical or high priority for the next five years.

Working for a company that gives back and supports the community creates a greater sense of purpose, which is key to wanting to stick around. According to Gorny, Nextiva’s CEO, “While we don’t track numbers, we believe our philanthropic branch has helped us retain employees who care about making a difference in both their work and their community.”

3. It facilitates team bonding

You don’t need to hire an expensive consultant to take your team to a high ropes course when you have this kind of program. Nextiva Cares gives employees the opportunity to meet colleagues in different departments, and bonding happens naturally over organizing supplies, assembling care packages, or carpooling to the animal shelter.

“While every employee has their own unique experience after each Nextiva Cares’ event, we all seem to share the same happiness high,” says Gorny. “Knowing that the work we are doing is going to a greater cause just feels good.”

That “happiness high” is partly neurological in nature: helping others releases oxytocin, which boosts your mood, helps you feel connected to others, and counteracts cortisol (the stress hormone). Plus, when oxytocin levels are elevated, so are your levels of serotonin and dopamine.

Basically, all this adds up to a win/win/win situation: happier employees, a stronger bottom line for the company, and wins for the local community (the recipient of the giving).

Nextiva is currently developing a Charitable Giving Playbook, to arm other companies (from large corporations to small businesses) with the info and insight needed to enhance or create their own charitable giving programs. It will also outline what a program like this can do for company culture, employee morale and local impact.

But the truth is, you don’t need an official playbook to get started. All you need is the will to spread the love, and the desire to work with your teammates to do so.

“Love is the force that ignites the spirit and binds teams together.” – Phil Jackson

Originally published at www.inc.com

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