This piece originally appeared on Quartz.
Employee turnover is bad for team morale and expensive for businesses, with the cost of losing an employee ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to two times the employee’s annual salary. Rapid job-hopping is most prevalent with millennials, though the pace has picked up with Generation Xers and Boomers as well, particularly in the Silicon Valley, where new research shows the average tenure for employees at ten major technology companies is just one to two years.
The good news is that there’s an easy way to hold onto people: get them involved in social causes.
I’ve seen first-hand the intense hunger among millennials for contributing to the social good in classes I teach on social entrepreneurship at Stanford University. But beyond my personal experiences, the largest annual survey of millennials about their engagement in social causes, The Millennial Impact Report, provides powerful evidence. In a recent survey, 55% of respondents said that a company’s support for social causes was an important factor in accepting a job offer. The appeal comes not only from the desire to contribute to causes, but from the sense that a company that’s involved in doing social good is likely to be a better place to work. As one respondent explained, “If a company cares that much about outside causes, then I know they are invested in treating me right as an employee.”
One innovative study showed powerful positive results specifically on retention as well. Analyzing the retention of employees at a major global consulting firm who volunteered for a social impact consulting assignment, which involved a temporary reduction in salary that could be as much as 50%, the researchers found that the participants were a third less likely to leave the firm. The conclusion was that the chance to apply their talents to a social good project increased loyalty to the firm, which many of the participates explicitly expressed, such as one who told the researchers “I feel very loyal toward [the firm] for providing me this opportunity.” More evidence comes from a Deloitte survey that found that “millennials who frequently participate in workplace volunteer activities are more likely to be proud, loyal and satisfied” and that they are also twice as likely to be very satisfied with the progression of their career.
But not all social volunteering opportunities are equally rewarding. There are several ways to optimize corporate social responsibility programs.
So much of the attention to how distinctive the millennials are as employees has focused on difficulties in managing them and how fleet-footed they are. Their strong desire to contribute to the social good should be seen as a golden opportunity not only to cater to their interests and build their job satisfaction but also to genuinely further a company’s strategic mission.