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Thursday, October 30, 2014

A business-nonprofit partnership remedy for high turnover

Today's post was shared by Steven Greenhouse and comes from

ASPEN, Colo.

One of the challenges that advocates are discussing here at an anti-poverty conference in Aspen — yes, I realize the irony — is getting buy-in from the private sector. How do you convince companies that social spending and government “handouts” are good for the bottom line?

Randy Osmun has a pitch: reduced employee turnover.

Osmun is the executive director of The Source, an innovative nonprofit in Grand Rapids, Mich. Companies pay The Source to bring caseworkers — some partly funded by the state — on site. Caseworkers connect employees with whatever social services or philanthropic support they need, which means anything from donated baby goods to food stamps to an affordable loan so they don’t patronize a payday lender. The goal is to stabilize workers’ home lives and thereby create more reliable employees.

“This is different than charity,” he says. “I can say to an employer, ‘Look, Joe is a great guy, he’s been through a lot, and you should really give him a break.’ But that’s just not how employers think. They don’t want your problems in their facility. What they want is resilient, dedicated, hard-working employees who come to them without problems.”

The program began in 2003, when local chief executives started talking about why their turnover rates were so high, especially among low-wage, entry-level workers. Realizing that poverty produces complications and...

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