Millennials and Corporate Social Responsibility

Posted by: Bob Wendover

Corporate social responsibilitySince the Millennial generation began entering the workforce about 10 years ago, there have been any number of articles and blog posts stating that this emerging cohort is more socially aware than any in recent history. Many argue that if employers want to retain these young contributors, they had better respond to the expectations these young people have about corporate social responsibility (CSR).

According to a recently published Cone Millennial Cause Study, 78 percent of Millennials believe that companies have a responsibility for making a difference in the world. Seventy-nine percent want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society, and 64 percent say their company’s social and environmental activities make them feel loyal to that company.

It is understandable that the Millennial generation would hold these beliefs considering the influences with which they have come of age. This cohort, more than any other, has been imbued with images of environmental and human rights abuses since they were tots. The news has been filled with stories of corporate misdeeds and governmental missteps. At the same time, most in this generation have come of age in the relative comfort of an expanding economy, globalization and an explosion of technological conveniences. With this sense of having the privileges of society, it is only natural then that they would embrace the desire to right the world’s wrongs.

So what does this mean for corporate recruiting and retention? Employers need to embrace and communicate their beliefs about corporate social responsibility to this cohort who will be sure to ask about them during interviews and on the job. Companies need to recognize that the best candidates are factoring these efforts into their decisions about which position to accept. All one has to do is Google “corporate social responsibility” to find ample evidence of what firms are doing to contribute to the social good and leverage these efforts as a recruiting tool. These include TOMS shoes, General Mills, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Tyson Foods. Millennials are sure to do this, along with depending on their friends to guide them toward employers with the greatest social consciences.

Is there a measurable way to demonstrate that an active social responsibility campaign influences recruitment and retention efforts of those under 30? Not really. But in this case, perception is reality. Millennial candidates who see evidence of these initiatives in the media and corporate communications will be more likely to choose the firm that encourages civic engagement, given a choice between two offers.

This civic engagement is also something that needs to be factored into employee retention efforts. In a 2011 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT survey, 61 percent of 18- to 26-year-olds participating said they would prefer to work for a company that offers volunteer opportunities. Millennials tend to reward employers who meet their social expectations and depart from those that do not. And with the power of their social networks, these actions can be instantaneously rewarding or punishing to an employer.

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