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Leadership A paid volunteer day may be the perfect training device for the Gen Z and millennial generations

Trainer, Sequel CQ Consulting

In the new world of work, companies need to adopt forward-thinking strategies to engage and retain talented employees lured by the appeal of a freelance career.

For this reason, it’s time to rethink paid volunteer days and instead consider a paid creativity day as the perfect training device for millennial and Gen Z leaders.

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Yes, studies show that volunteerism increases employee engagement and perceptions of a positive workplace culture. But what’s lacking is the measurable impact and connection that a paid day of volunteerism can have on job performance, workplace engagement and culture and, finally, employee loyalty.

Renaming volunteer days gives young professionals the freedom and flexibility to demonstrate personal interests, while developing skills necessary for their career progression.

Here are a few reasons why companies should adopt this for their current and incoming young leaders.

A day of creativity would facilitate the development of individual confidence and creativity, by fostering a culture in which personal interests and passions could be pursued freely.

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Organizational innovation and employee loyalty

Forty-three per cent of millennial employees plan to leave their jobs within two years, according to Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey. That number is even higher at 61 per cent for Gen Z young professionals. Contributing to this is the perception of a misalignment of priorities between millennials and Gen Zers and their employers. If a company is significantly less focused on the creation and delivery of innovative products and services than on financial performance and profits, the loyalty levels of employees will decrease.

Passion and confidence

Uncertain how their roles will be impacted by digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, young professionals are looking to their employers to lead in education training to increase their learning skills and confidence for the future of work. The benefits of workplace automation in efficiency and analysis creates the opportunity for organizations to provide platforms for human-centred creativity to be recognized and celebrated.

A day of creativity would facilitate the development of individual confidence and creativity, by fostering a culture in which personal interests and passions could be pursued freely. Doing this allows employees to practice outside-the-box thinking by learning to explore new experiences and gain insights critical to the personal development of competencies for leadership.

Influence and communication

Studies show that volunteerism increases employee engagement and perceptions of a positive workplace culture.

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On a micro-level, the ability to lead and impact positive social change may seem small and insignificant. However, when employees are empowered and supported to do so by their organizations, the impact of their contribution can lead to new organizational initiatives of championing social causes, community partnerships and can attract new customers.

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From one creative idea presented by an employee, Nextiva, an Arizona-based telephone services company, launched Nextiva Cares. Leading initiatives for fundraising, food and toy drives for breast cancer awareness, homeless shelters and dog rescues; the Nextiva leadership team championed their employee’s idea from conception to action.

Today, Nextiva Cares is a key program fostering employee engagement, retention and team relationships.

Diversity and inclusion

Employee loyalty and retention is strongly correlated to the diverse representation of an organization’s senior leadership team. Millennials and Gen Zers are looking for a visible reflection of the society in which they live. Extending beyond gender and age, ethnicity and culture, educational background differences also ranks as a priority, according to Deloitte’s recent millennial survey. In addition, the inclusion and respect of different ideas and ways of thinking is noted as equally important.

The competencies for creativity and leadership are intertwined and will become more so as businesses and employees look to create innovative people centered experiences for their products and services.

By offering a platform, where creativity can be an action of play and exploration led by individual employees, the confidence and skill proficiency for leadership behaviors will increase.

Companies can have fun and latitude in structuring these days. Tying the days to challenges, or purpose and values unique to an organization will provide all employees the opportunity and the autonomy of personal soft skill development of problem-solving, critical thinking and decision-making.

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The freedom to choose to explore the day alone or with a team should be permitted, empowering both introvert and extrovert personalities and thinkers to leverage and deepen their personal creativity efficacy.

Organizational creativity is then strengthened, leading to valued innovation, when employees are shown the practice of inclusion of ideas and interests is celebrated as part of the workplace culture.

Modernizing paid days of volunteerism brings consciousness to the world of work we live in now and days to come. The cost of turnover is high. When top talent is engaged and are treated as stakeholders in an organization’s success, then motivation, productivity and loyalty will follow.

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