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Opinion: Now, here’s a tool for the triple bottom line

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In my Aug. 2 column, I shared how my daughter’s job search criteria were different than mine as a baby boomer. Now, consider some of the research that shows my daughter’s focus is not an anomaly.

Instead, she and her generation are part of a movement – which the rest of us should study and prepare for as the competition for talent becomes even more fierce the next 20 years or longer.

First, some context.

According to the Pew Research Center, millions of baby boomers are retiring from the workforce each year. In the past couple decades, we are averaging around 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day. Some retire at age 65; others do not. But the pandemic seems to have accelerated retirements.

Simultaneously, millennials have become the largest component of today’s workforce, and their numbers will continue to increase.

I would argue that employers have a tool we may not be using as much as we should. The organizations that get this right will have a significant competitive advantage.

What if there were a relatively low-cost tool you could use that would …

• Boost your organization’s brand and reputation in our community?
• Help you attract new talent?
• Help you retain existing talent?
• Turn existing employees into your best talent recruiters?
• Create a more engaging and healthier workplace culture?
• Provide your employees with new skills?
• Increase your employees’ loyalty, productivity, pride and health?

Would you consider it?

When workforce supply exceeded the market demand for jobs, employers had the upper hand in the talent attraction and retention equation. But now, demand exceeds supply. Employees have a much stronger hand to play.

Of course, a job must provide a livable wage and competitive benefits – minimum requirements in a seller’s market. But dinosaurs like me may need to step back and rethink a few things. Wages and benefits may no longer be the differentiators they’ve been in competing for talent. Think more broadly.

A wealth of studies show community engagement, aka corporate citizenship, can produce all the above-listed outcomes. Here is a small sample of the research that supports just the employee retention and attraction claims. First, let’s talk about retaining the talent you’ve got.

Studies indicate replacing an employee costs 50%-100% of their annual salary. Thus, even a relatively moderate reduction in employee turnover can produce a significant savings.

According to a PwC study, employees who are most committed to their organizations are 87% less likely to quit.

But how do employees become committed? How do we create a more engaging and healthy organizational culture that boosts loyalty?

According to a 2019 study by Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship, “95% find a positive correlation between employee volunteering and higher employee engagement scores.” So, it seems employees who are more engaged in their community are more engaged in their work.

Various studies over the years, including by the UCLA Anderson School of Management, indicate that strong community engagement increases employee commitment, affinity, productivity and admiration for their employer. A Harvard Business Review study indicated 86% of millennials and 85% of boomers believe it is important that their work involve “giving back.” And aren’t these committed, engaged employees who you want recruiting your next employee?

It appears that corporate citizenship boosts an employer’s ability to retain their existing talent.

But what about attracting new talent to your organization? Can corporate citizenship help there, too?

The Boston College study indicated “more than 80% of company respondents report that community involvement contributes to improving [the organization’s] ability to both recruit employees and reduce turnover.”

According to a couple of research studies, “community responsibility” is a proxy for strong, well-managed businesses with bright futures. When people/customers see an organization engaging with their community to help solve social problems, it boosts the organization’s reputation in their minds. This can only help when trying to recruit talent.

According to a Forbes report, 80% of millennials want to work for a company that cares how it impacts and contributes to society. Over half would refuse to work for an irresponsible corporation.

Corporate citizenship is good for the bottom line. It’s also good for employees, good for the organization’s public reputation and brand, and good for the community. This is a version of the triple bottom line.

Some organizations already get this; others are yet to jump into the pool of community engagement. In my next column, I will relay why some organizations set corporate citizenship as a priority and the benefits it yields.

Greg Burris is president and CEO of United Way of the Ozarks and previously served as Springfield city manager. He can be reached at


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