4 Ways Employers are Using Corporate Social Responsibility To Recruit Millennials

This holiday season, let's use the good things our companies do to attract the employees we want.
4 Ways Employers are Using Corporate Social Responsibility To Recruit Millennials
Image credit: Shutterstock.com

Employees are some of the most valuable assets a company can have and one of the most telling signs of a company’s health is its employee retention rate. A low turnover ratio is a sign that the company’s cadence is working the way it’s supposed to.

But a high turnover ratio indicates a big culture problem.

Related: Corporate Social Responsibility Can Give Entrepreneurs an Edge

Earlier this year, millennials surpassed Gen-Xers to become the largest generation in the American workforce. By 2020, nearly half of all U.S. workers will be millennials, and HR departments everywhere are taking notice.

With millennials as the leading generational workforce, this highly influential group has more interest in "making a difference" than in making money or finding prestige. Salary and benefits are the standard package used to attract employees. But recently, possibly due to the demographic changes going on, there has been a renewed passion for corporate social responsibility (CSR). And both recruiters and employees are responding.

Business is constantly evolving and I've said this before, but I can’t say it enough: Employers must adapt, change or die.

Companies are now including social responsibility as part of an incentive package likely to resonate with a younger audience. In fact, according to a study by Greenbiz, millennial employees prefer to work for leaders whom they admire and who exemplify good CSR practices.

How can employers capitalize on this trend? Here are four steps for doing so:

1. Update your website

What’s the first thing people do when they’re researching a potential employer? They go to the website. If you don't have a separate tab for CSR or any volunteer work the company has done, add it now. You can upload videos about campaigns you’ve worked on and promote articles, emphasizing any community awards you've won or, simply, your company policies. Anything that will show potential employees you share their values and have a vested interest in the betterment of the community will be useful.

Related: Why Should Your Business Care About Social Responsibility?

In fact, I practice what I preach, as I am a big believer in giving back to the community. Spending my time mostly between South Dakota and New York City, I stay involved with several charities; and some of my employees do, too.

Every year, for instance, I co-host an event in New York City called “Breathless on Broadway” to raise awareness for pulmonary hypertension (PH), a rare, life-threatening lung disease. My company president, meanwhile, is involved in Simon Says Give, for the Sioux Falls, South Dakota chapter. This is a kid-founded and kid-operated non-profit that works to combat hunger in Sioux Falls, my hometown.

So, do what we do: Celebrate, on your website, the good things your company does and let future employees know where you stand; make CSR a best practice.

2. Decide: What’s your purpose?

One of the best things a company can do to recruit and retain employees and increase production is have a clear business purpose. While the exact purpose may vary, depending on the industry and a company’s capabilities, it’s important that everyone know about the mission at hand.

If a company is to change with the times, you as employer need to make an effort to know what drives your employees and keep that business purpose at the center of your organization.  

A perfect example is outdoor clothing giant Patagonia. Its mission statement highlights the company's commitment toward the environment. “Foreign policy, immigration, jobs, health care, campaign finance are all important," the statement says. "But none of it matters on a dead planet.” I would say Patagonia's purpose is pretty clear.

Your own purpose has to be a continuous effort, reflecting a long-term commitment to your CSR. If you’re just putting up a good front, millennials will call you out on it, and you'll run the risk of losing a potential rock star employee.

Related Book: The Business of Good: Social Entrepreneurship and the New Bottom Line by Jason Haber

The worse thing is, you will hten have no one to blame but yourself. Having a consistent and lasting CSR policy improves company culture and boosts employee morale. It will encourage your employees to do better and work harder.

3. Encourage and engage your employees.

Millennials are more likely to stick around if they feel their passions for social good are being fulfilled. In fact, 53 percent of millennials surveyed in the Millennial Impact Report said they had been inspired at some point to work long-term for a company whose mission was to make a difference in the world.

Even more eye-opening was a Bentley University study stating that 84 percent of millennials surveyed said that making a positive difference in the world was more important than professional recognition.

For a generation that has been accused of being self-centered and disengaged, those are pretty significant numbers, not to mention encouraging ones. Maybe this next generation of leaders isn't as self-centered as we’ve been led to believe.

Keeping your employees engaged can create a bridge to keeping your customers engaged, as well. On surveys, 83 percent percent of U.S. consumers have said they wanted more of the products or services they use to contribute to a social cause, and 62 percent of customers worldwide have said they would switch brands if those they were using didn't have a clear social purpose.

Keeping everyone engaged is not only a good business practice, but also good for your bottom line.

Bond CSR with your brand.

If you’re looking to attract socially conscious talent, you have to characterize CSR as part of your overall workplace culture. Why? Because this could be the determining factor whether a prospective employee will choose you or go to a competitor.

Also, candidates who are passionate about CSR during the hiring process will eventually (and hopefully), become your company’s best ambassadors.

A brand ambassador is someone who eats, lives and breathes your brand. He or she is someone customers can identify with; and if your customers are happy with the service your employees are providing, well, that’s good for your cause and your bottom line.

One brand that successfully integrated is brand and their cause, is Ben & Jerry's. The ice cream company has incorporated social justice into its brand, whose principle is, “If you care about something, you have to be willing to risk it all -- your reputation, your values, your business -- for the greater good.”

Clearly, Ben & Jerry's founders aren't shy about supporting causes that can be considered “hot-button” issues. Heck, earlier this year, they even got arrested!

Millennials are an interesting group of people, whom I don’t pretend to fully understand. Yet I can say I have gained insight into how they see the world and how I, as an employer, can capitalize on that drive.

Recently, I interviewed Aria Finger, CEO of DoSomething.org, on my podcast and was a bit surprised to hear how many young people are volunteering and helping create social change through multiple causes and campaigns. In fact, their promise is: any cause, anytime, anywhere.

Related: 4 Steps for Launching Corporate Social Responsibility at Your Business

So, the upshot is, you can teach anyone how to do ar job, but you can’t teach passion. You either have it or you don’t. Companies capitalizing on young, passionate talent are doing it right. You don’t have to be a corporate giant, either -- we all have something we're passionate about. As a founder, you just use it to your advantage.