by Josh Jacobson, CEO, Next Stage

“Employee engagement” is a big deal for businesses of all shapes and sizes. But what does employee engagement strategy even mean and how is social good playing a role?

As outlined in our recently-published Social Good Report: Profit & Purpose, one of the bigger challenges in Charlotte right now is talent recruitment and talent retention. Businesses in this region are growing and new companies coming to town are all looking for top-quality talent to serve as the engines of their enterprise.

In the years leading up to the pandemic, the challenge of sourcing (and keeping!) one’s talent was a not-so-quiet crisis for many companies that either struggled to source qualified candidates or experienced a churn as their people moved on to greener pastures.

The tight labor market we were experiencing in 2019 was actually the inspiration for Next Stage to (finally) jump in to its work on Profit & Purpose and the upcoming public launch of its Social Impact for Business service line. We believe that there is an underutilized, under-leveraged component of local business models that could play a huge role in creating the sort of workplace culture that attracts the best talent (both locally and from across the country) – and perhaps most importantly – helps companies keep the people they spend money and time training.

Any guesses? If you know us at all, then you know our answer – partnership with nonprofit organizations.

But not just nonprofits. We believe in Charlotte workplaces adopting a “community mentality,” where what is happening outside the walls of the company is brought inside your offices to activate an intentional culture during the 8am-5pm hours. At the same time, we think employees desire to live your company’s values out in community, and managers need to find ways to embrace this opportunity beyond the same old day-of-service volunteer projects.

Here’s the catch – everyone is making this up as they go.

A look across the Charlotte landscape turned up a myriad of ways companies were trying to do this in the years leading up to March 2020. We saw unlimited paid time off, kegerators installed in break rooms, office redesigns to enhance collaboration, and even an underground bowling alley (shout out to Red Ventures with what sound like the most employee engagement-focused campus in the Charlotte metro).

If these sound like strategies to engage Millennial and Gen-Z employees, you’d be exactly right. But as we found in our own survey of more than 350 next generation employees, these generations want more than ‘gee whiz’ features where they work – they want to live their values. The top three factors we found influencing satisfaction with one’s current workplace were work-life balance, a positive workplace culture and strong values that show up in how the company conducts business.

Here’s another catch – companies aren’t particularly good at building authentic expressions of community inside and outside their walls. It often rings hollow.

You know who is? You guessed it – nonprofit organizations.

The time has come for companies to stop seeing nonprofits as “charities with their hands out” and instead embrace them as vendors of employee engagement that they are uniquely capable of fulfilling. This is no longer the secondary benefit for a company of their acts of philanthropy – it is the raison d’etre.

This is altogether more important as we return from a pandemic period that saw the fight for racial and social justice become a daily reminder of societal challenges. Companies must now contend with how to adopt policies and statements, strategies and tactics, all while navigating new business challenges.

It’s a lot. We have incredible empathy for Charlotte business leaders.

Next Stage knows you have questions and we’re here to help. Through our Social Impact for Business service line, we are working with companies to design compelling social good strategies that lead to impact in employee recruitment, retention and satisfaction. Got a specific challenge you’re wrestling with? Or a compelling workplace asset you want more people to know about? “Yes, we have a nonprofit for that.”

Reach out to us to learn more: