If you ever find yourself seeking hope for the future let me encourage you to find a way to spend some time with young professionals in Southwest Florida.
I realize that the term young professional or YP for short is a catch phrase for a very diverse group made up of individuals who manifest what it means to be a next generation professional in our region. But the energy and hopefulness they possess as a collective is contagious and when I have the opportunity to spend time with them I walk away inspired and motivated.
I am honored whenever a YP group invites me to spend time with them at one of their events, but also somewhat terrified. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was the YP at my workplaces and now I am a baby boomer who if not careful could block the new ideas and insights that the younger leaders are bringing to the table. I always check myself to make sure that I don’t fall into imparting outdated wisdom mode and rather spend most of my time in listening mode, because I have a great deal to learn from this generation.
I consider the Southwest Florida Community Foundation fortunate to employ a diverse team of change agents ranging in age from seventy somethings to twenty somethings. Our YPs hold positions of leadership and are shaping our mission of regional change for the common good each and every day.
I am so proud to work alongside them and value their contributions to the team and the community, so it is no surprise that one of the questions I am asked the most is how I am going to retain them. It goes something like this, “Wow they are really great, how much longer will you be able to keep them?”
This is not a question unique to me, but one that I hear over and over again in our region.
It begins with how businesses in Southwest Florida can retain the best and brightest YPs and then keep them engaged enough to hang on to them. Recruiting and retaining workforce is one of the greatest economic development drivers of our time.
Some of you might be wondering why a leader of a charitable community foundation is thinking and talking about this topic. Particularly in a column dedicated to community causes.
But after decades of discussing how charities should be run more like businesses the tide is shifting and business is starting to wrestle with the idea of how to more fully incorporate social benefits into their business. The YPs are driving this discussion and we all need to listen.
Of course businesses of all sizes have long seen charitable endeavors an important part of building community. I don’t think you will find more generous businesses anywhere than Southwest Florida.
During our community’s annual United Way campaign, wine fests and throughout our busy charitable social season businesses step up to sponsor galas, golf tournaments and a wide variety of events to support a range of causes and organizations. This is important support.
Simultaneously, the YPs we are working so hard to recruit and retain are telling us they want more. Research shows that this generation wants to see a more direct connection to social benefit and purpose in their workplace.
They enjoy volunteering and giving back, they value and want to be involved in the charitable support their companies provide but they have greater desire to see purpose woven into their day to day work.
My boomer generation will tell you all day long that we have purpose in our workplace, but for us research indicates this is more related to the bottom line results of earnings and revenue. We see purpose as what we do to promote the company that then allows us to be charitable.
So just imagine a boomer interviewing a YP in that all critical recruitment period. When the YP asks about purpose in the company, we say it is a cornerstone of our work- but we are not speaking the same language. Once hired the YP starts looking for the social benefits within the work that we haven’t clearly defined and retention becomes a challenge. They leave looking for more.
If you would like to dive into some data on how this breaks down in today’s workplace, PwC recently conducted a study, “Putting Purpose to Work: A study of purpose in the workplace” www.floridacommunity.com/putting-purpose-to-work.
The research points to the idea that “Purpose is not an initiative; it is a way of business. It must be core to the decisions, conversations, and behaviors across all levels to be authentic and deliver the wealth of advantages it promises. Now, more than ever, companies must cultivate the power of purpose if they are to succeed in a world where the opportunities—and responsibilities —of business have never been greater.”
If you are a Southwest Florida business concerned with the recruiting and retention of employees, I encourage you to reach out to our team at the Foundation. We are working on initiatives and designing solutions for many of the drivers that are important to our future workforce. We are talking with and listening to YPs and would be happy to work with you and your teams on these ideas. Just reach out to me at [email protected].
About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the it has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.