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Goodbye Perks, Hello Purpose: Today’s Socially Minded Employees are the Catalysts Behind These New Workplace Perks

Would you sacrifice a bigger salary for a more fulfilling workplace and a progressive employer who supported your passions? Recent research commissioned by Capstrat found that 72% of millennial workers indicated that they were, in fact, willing to sacrifice a higher salary for a more personally and professionally fulfilling career. Indeed, today’s socially-conscious job seekers and employees have different goals and motivations. Today’s perks aren’t just about having fun (remember the office foosball table craze?), but about having a sense of purpose and making a positive impact on their communities and the world around them. 

Perhaps it’s in response to the current state of socio-political affairs, but today’s workforce – which increasingly includes millennials and the next to come of age, Gen Z — cares about the world around them, beyond just their commute. And progressive employers are taking note: they are actively investing in programs to support their employees’ social passions and to provide ways to connect those passions to the workplace.

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Here are some of the evolving benefits that purpose-driven job seekers can and should ask about in today’s corporate workplace.

  • Amplifying Your Voice to Drive Social Change – The election of 2016 launched a new wave of activism in the United States, with millions of people marching, lobbying Congress, running for office and more. If you’re hoping to join a workplace where your passion for the issues of the day is embraced, know that many employers have heard and seen your passion and are ready to help you embrace it. In some cases, companies are wanting to more actively show support for the issues their employees care about, and are no longer shying away from speaking out on controversial issues. In 2018, for example, Levis took a stand on the issue of gun safety, launching a program that would pay employees for five hours each month to volunteer and lobby for change. More and more, employees are coming to expect that their employer will have their back when they want their voices to be heard. In fact, in a recent survey (2019 Edelman Trust Barometer), 67% of employees said they expect their prospective employers to join them in taking action on societal issues. 
  • Paid Volunteering — Can you imagine leaving work early once a month to go walk dogs at the local shelter… and then getting rewarded for it? Imagine no more. Many companies now integrate paid volunteering into their benefits package. Just as many companies match employee’s financial donations to charities, some companies are beginning to pay employees for a set of hours each month or year to provide hands-on support to organizations they care about most. Volunteering that’s supported by your employer has the added benefit of helping you connect more deeply with co-workers, learn new skills, and become more engaged, inspired and productive at work. As one example of how companies are embracing this new trend, Prudential offers employees an opportunity to use their business expertise through pro-bono programs in the community. Employees who participated were more likely to be promoted and stay with the company. These programs work and employees want them.  In a 2018 Robert Half survey of 1500 workers and 600 HR managers in North America, paid time off for volunteer activities ranked higher on the list of “wants” than employee social events.

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  • A Health and Wellness Package for Our Planet— No longer just massages and acupuncture, many workers want to take action to help ensure that our children, and their children, still have clean air to breathe and oceans to swim in. In the absence of government leadership on environmental and climate concerns, a number of companies are stepping up to the plate in response, with programs that promote behavior that’s good for their people and the planet. Last year PayPal launched a program that used gamification technology to drive friendly competition between its employees to see who could conserve the most natural resources in a three week period. Through games and other fun activities, employees earned points by doing simple, everyday actions to help the environment like biking to work, taking shorter showers and reducing plastic consumption. In just three weeks, the participating employees at PayPal saved 998 pounds of waste, 10.683 gallons of water, 29,503 kWh of energy and 11,244 pounds of carbon. PayPal employees will repeat the program this year and are a model for companies with employees who want to step up to take some action to help the environment. 
  • A Personalized Charitable Giving Plan  — More than ever, employees are demanding a say in their company’s efforts to give back and employers are listening. When it comes to charitable giving, the days of the annual fundraising drive for a pre-selected foundation are giving way to programs that focus on giving employees a chance to support the issues they care about, in real-time, year-round. Many employers have invested in technology that enables you to select from a diverse range of organizations, access matching funds and even launch your own giving campaigns at your workplace. And some are going a step further and providing new hires with funds they can donate right away to their favorite causes. Some even get an annual “allowance” of company matching funds, empowering their people to do even more good in the world. 

We all want to be a part of a team whose culture and values align with our own. As a result, ping-pong tables and other gimmicky perks hold less value when weighing employment options. Giving, volunteering and other types of purpose-driven programs are increasingly being seen as differentiators for companies that want to attract, engage and retain today’s passionate, socially-conscious workers. These are perks that should be top of mind today for job seekers and employers hoping to reel in the best candidates.

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