A new way to integrate purpose into your culture to attract and retain talent

Here’s a data point that anyone involved in hiring, engaging, and retaining talent needs to know:

A majority of people would be willing to take a paycut if it meant they could do more purposeful work.
(Source: Harvard Business School)

“Purpose,” then, is clearly not just a nice-to-have, something that gives us a warm feeling or satisfies our inner moral compass; instead, it’s a business requirement, and it’s a key to winning the race for talent. That means that everyone in your organization involved in attracting and keeping great people now has a stake in how your employees experience purpose as part of their work.

From one-offs to an ongoing experience of purpose

To meet the appetite for purpose evident in today’s workforce, employers need to transition from offering one-off experiences or moments of purpose, to cultivating an ongoing experience of purpose interwoven with employees’ experience of going to, and being at, work.

While many employees experience some degree of purpose when they understand the connection between their work and your company’s success, in 2022, this is often not enough to satisfy people’s hunger for purpose. Neither is a once-a-year employee event like a park cleanup, or even a program allowing employees to take time off to pursue volunteer work on their own. While these approaches can certainly be meaningful for all involved, they aren’t connected deeply enough to the daily experience of work for those who are literally willing to reduce their income in the pursuit of purpose.

At Working for Women, the organization that I founded, we help our member companies meet the demand for purpose by partnering with them to set up ongoing, “skill-based volunteering” programs that pair their staff with priority projects from our vetted nonprofit partners. Employees get to use their superpowers — the things they’re really good at, that make them great at their jobs — not only in service of your company, but also in service of a nonprofit dedicated to making the world, or at least your community, a better place.

Why employees love skill-based volunteering

While “skill-based volunteering” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, it’s a powerful model that helps companies meet the appetite of a workforce hungry for purpose. Here’s what employees at ZS, one of Working for Women’s member companies, have to say about the experience:

“Being able to support a nonprofit out of our own company is not only convenient, but fulfilling. Being able to extend resources to an organization that set out to alleviate… disparities and being able to be a part of that to some extent is invaluable. Our project team is literally twice the size of the client’s entire staff! All of that brain power has been able to jumpstart [the nonprofit’s] communication strategy and set up their core team for success.”

“It has been a wonderful opportunity to apply my skill sets and expertise in a completely different environment and client context! It was also a unique opportunity to gain new leadership and client management skills outside of a traditional project environment.”

“I got to collaborate with really smart and talented [coworkers] whom I typically wouldn’t have been able to work with…each brought their unique experiences, expertise, and ideas, and I got to grow as a consultant in a different way.”

As you may have noticed, in today’s world, people don’t exactly work at one company forever; they move around. Ongoing, skills-based volunteering can make working for your company more compelling to job seekers, and also strengthen your employer brand. In addition to satisfying their desire for purpose, the skill-based volunteer experiences that we design offer employees opportunities to deploy their professional talent and skills, to learn and grow, and to connect with more of their colleagues, all of which may in fact make them stick around longer.

As the testimonials highlight, a significant benefit of an ongoing skill-based volunteering program is the community it creates among your employees, whether they are volunteering in person or remotely. After two years of social distancing, our needs for connection and belonging are stronger than ever. Not to mention, our country is experiencing a mental health crisis, and giving back is a proven antidote to anxiety and depression. These psychological benefits only strengthen the level of purpose that participants in our skills-based volunteering model experience.

Instead of a single day of service, or even periodic time off to volunteer, skill-based volunteering provides an experience of deeper connection, one that’s tied more closely to an employee’s sense of identity and their relationship to the experience of going to work.

If you’re curious about bringing a skill-based volunteering program to your company, let’s talk.

To learn more about the benefits of business volunteer programs, read this HBR article Reimagine Your Corporate Volunteering

Beth Bengtson

Founder & CEO, Working for Women




Building a community of purpose-driven businesses to help more women enter and stay in the workforce.

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Working for Women

Building a community of purpose-driven businesses to help more women enter and stay in the workforce.