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Can a clear ESG strategy help charities retain staff?

The ‘Great Resignation’ has impacted staff retention across all sectors and this is currently being exacerbated by the cost of living crisis, and staff shortages resulting in increased salaries.

The charity sector is also struggling as historically salaries are lower than those attainable in the private sector. Offsetting this are the opportunities arising from employers’ and employees’ increasing focus on ESG.

What is ESG and how can it help retain staff?
ESG reflects the environmental, social and governance impact of any organisation and is becoming more of a factor when people are considering where to work.

Employees are increasingly looking to work for an organisation that is compatible with their values. In order to benefit from this, the organisation’s values and initiatives need to be genuine and authentic. Various surveys have indicated that purpose-driven organisations are much more likely to retain staff than their competitors.

As organisations, charities are in a great position with regard to this as their whole purpose will generally be linked to some element of social or environmental impact and it will be clear to potential employees what the purpose and values of the organisation are.

The importance of communicating purpose and values

Focus on the charity’s objectives can begin at the recruitment stage by including the purpose and values of the organisation as part of the job advert. On induction, the employee role can be explained particularly in terms of how they are contributing to the work being done and the impact being achieved by the charity. Going forward, this could also be discussed as part of any appraisal process.

Communicating success and involving staff in appreciation of the impact of the work being done will strengthen the satisfaction of staff in what they are a part of.

Lots of the points made in terms of attracting and retaining staff also apply to volunteers in ensuring that they are aware that their role is appreciated and how it fits with the overall impact of the charity.

Matching the private sector

In ensuring that charities are making the most of their advantages in terms of purpose, it is also important that they match private sector employers in other areas.

Whilst they may not be able to compete in terms of salary levels, there are other areas that can be considered.

Outlining clear progression paths

Clear staff progression paths are important to employees to keep them motivated and invested in a future with an organisation. It is difficult sometimes with charities as there may not be a clear structure or defined responsibilities.

Very often, everyone will get on with whatever needs doing which can make it difficult to define progression.

On the other side of this is the fact that the various elements involved with operating a charity give rise to opportunities to try new things, from marketing to bid writing, event planning to database management.

Flexible working is now the norm and will be an expectation of employees going forward. You should also consider how employee well-being is addressed and promoted within the organisation.

All employers are operating in a challenging environment at the moment. It is important that charities play to their strengths to engage with the employees that want to work with them to achieve the purpose and provide an impact that the whole team can be proud of.