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In this deep dive, we cover one of the key components of an employee success program, retention policies. As part of your employee supports program design process, you will want to think about how these policies align with and support the key goals and strategies for your program.

Retention Policies

Retention refers to the supports provided by social enterprises to assist workers in sustaining employment. Although retention can refer to sustaining employment internal to the social enterprise, in this learning guide it will be used to reference sustaining external employment (within a single, or across multiple, employers).

Some of the key factors that will likely influence a social enterprise in setting its retention policy include:

  • Funding availability (real or perceived)
  • Outcomes and accountabilities associated with funding sources
  • Orientation/philosophy of the social enterprise or its nonprofit affiliate
  • Staff capacity

The first policy decision your social enterprise must make is the duration, if any, of support to be provided once a social enterprise worker secures external employment. For social enterprises that provide retention support, it is common to do so for 6 to 12 months following departure from the social enterprise.

If your social enterprise decides to provide retention support for some period of time, the second decision to be made is about the type(s) of support to provide. Below, we consider the options and considerations for seven common types of retention supports.

Employer Assistance

Regular outreach to solicit feedback from and/or provide immediate response to the employer regarding issues emerging in the workplace.

Key considerations:

  • Availability of staff to provide quick turnaround service when called upon
  • Employer feedback complements, and ensures more comprehensive perspective than, employee-only check-ins
  • Incorporating service into pitch, may support job placement efforts
  • Difficult to do if SE was not involved in initial placement

Employee Assistance – Individualized

One-on-one counseling or coaching

Key considerations:

  • Can be completely customized to needs of worker
  • Cost of staffing
  • Question of whether to use same staff who provided employee supports during SE employment
  • Can be done over the phone

Employee Assistance – Group

Group sessions for counseling, peer support, or conveying information.

Key considerations:

  • Group sessions often more convenient and efficient for staff than for workers
    • Varying work schedules and locations may make it difficult to ensure accessibility for all
    • Group sessions last longer than individual ones
  • Peer support can be of great value

Work Supports

Vouchers or other assistance (e.g., bus passes) intended to reduce costs associated with return to work

Key considerations:

  • Recognizes that workers have little upfront savings to devote to costs associated with return to work
  • Regular provision can support goals of sustained contact with employees


Earning supplements or vouchers that reward individuals for sustaining employment

Key considerations:

  • Experimental research indicates great promise of financial incentives in supporting retention
  • Need to develop schedule and process for administration
  • Relatively low overhead or staffing costs

Re-employment assistance

“Graduates” who lose external employment can return to SE for job placement assistance

Key considerations:

  • Research shows this can shorten the duration of unemployment spells
  • Can prevent graduates who face temporary setback from downward spiral


“Graduates” who lose external employment can be temporarily re-hired by the social enterprise.

Key considerations:

  • Policies need to be put in place regarding eligibility, conditions and duration
  • Can prevent graduates who face temporary setback from downward spiral
  • Integrating prior employees into workforce with little notice may create operational challenges
  • Having re-hire policy may promote SE employees’ initial transition to external employment by reducing “fear of failure”