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RESEARCH BRIEF: Skills based volunteer projects increase employee retention


Takeaway: Employee participation in a skills based volunteer project is positively associated with employee retention rates in the firm. In a study of one professional services firm over six years, researchers found that the company benefited from a 36 percent reduction in attrition rates among employees who participated in a project compared to their non-participating peers.

Suggested Audience: CSR professionals to build buy-in and demonstrate business value of SBV programs, HR managers – inform their talent retention strategy

A recent study analyzed a company’s skills based volunteering project to determine if employees who participate in a social benefit project stay with the firm longer than their non-participating counterparts. Researcher studied 9,821 employees from a consulting firm between 2007 and 2013.They studied two matched samples, one of which was comprised of employees who opted into a social benefit project, using their skills for an explicit social purpose.

Key findings:

  • Employees who participated in a social impact project left at lower rate than their non-participant peers, resulting in a 36 percent reduction in attrition.
  • The positive effect does not diminish over time. Researchers compared the rates of attrition both during the 12 months following the project as well as the subsequent years in the sample, and found that there is no expiration date on the retention benefit.
  • The retention effect is stronger for shorter rather than longer projects (6 weeks vs. 6 months) and for projects based in developed rather than emerging markets.

Citizenship managers can use this information to build a business case for a skills-based volunteer program, or motivate managers across the firm to encourage the participation of their teams and employees they wish to retain. Human resources professionals may be valuable partners in building a skills-based program that utilizes business core competencies and helps them achieve greater retention rates, a common HR metric. Finally, there are potential implications for innovative business models that integrate social impact into traditional offerings and enable more employees to participate in such programs.

If citing please refer to original article “Corporate Social Initiatives and Employee Retention.” Christiane Bode, Jasjit Singh, Michelle Rogan. Organization Science Vol. 26, No. 6, November-December 2015, pp. 1702-1720.

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