Can a social conscience attract and retain top talent?

Millennials are motivated by a number of things, but are mostly inspired to work long-term for a company whose mission it is to change the world. eSolidar's Marco Barbosa believes social conscience can attract and retain top talent. Here's why.

By 2020, Millennials will comprise more than half the total workforce – and according to a study by Bentley University, 84 per cent of them want to make a positive difference in the world.

This is supported by The Millennial Impact Report, which found that more than half of millennials have been inspired to work long-term for a company whose mission it is to change the world.

This means that companies which demonstrate long-term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitment, by putting in place good processes and platforms for managing CSR, will outperform others in terms of talent acquisition and retention, productivity, and sales.

According to a Project ROI Report, 76 per cent of Americans wouldn’t take a job with a company that had a bad reputation even if they were unemployed. 45 per cent of millennials said they would take a pay cut to work for a company that makes a positive social or environmental impact.

To attract the best, you need to be vocal about the work you do, the opportunities you offer employees, and the systems and policies you have in place that demonstrate your commitment to CSR. Include a section in recruiter profiles and make sure you talk about your CSR work during interviews.

The same report also found that CSR reduced employee turnover by 25 per cent to 50 per cent – the same effect as a $3,700 pay rise per year. This saves recruitment costs of 90 per cent to 200 per cent of an employee’s annual salary. So, CSR not only helps attract top talent, it helps retain it too.

As Simon Sinek has pointed out, people are more motivated by why companies and people do what they do than what or how they do it. This is useful from a branding perspective, but it transfers into the daily running of your business, too.

Despite fears that CSR takes time away from the actual work of a company, CSR programmes have been shown to improve productivity by around 13 per cent, according to Project ROI.

The challenge for employers is finding a way of effectively managing CSR. Dedicating too much time and attention to CSR can be a distraction and wipe out all the productivity gains, too little time and CSR slips from the agenda. Some larger companies are recruiting CSR Directors to manage their environmental impact, charitable giving, and employee volunteer programmes. Yet, for smaller companies, this isn’t necessary or feasible.

Appointing someone within the business to be the key point person for your CSR programmes can provide a much-needed focus and keeps things moving. Enabling CSR with technology is usually the best and easiest way to engage all employees with minimal manual management. Employees are then given the choice of whether to get involved or not, volunteering and fundraising for causes they feel passionately about, as and when they can.

Customers are also inspired by CSR. In the US, 83 per cent of consumers say they want more products and services they use to contribute to a social cause, with 62 per cent saying they’d switch brands if it didn’t have a clear social purpose.

As such, companies with a good reputation for CSR see sales revenue increase by up to 20 per cent, according to the Project ROI Report, with every $1 in philanthropic contributions generating $6 of revenue (within limits).

Of course, sales won’t increase if customers don’t know the work you are doing, so you need to shout about it – and tracking the impact you make. For example, a technology platform should be able to keep a running total of money donated, hours spent volunteering, paper and ink saved, etc. These facts help to benchmark your business against others and demonstrate your commitment to CSR.

Ultimately, the most effective CSR programmes are those that fit in with your brand ethos and employees’ passions. Find yours and commit to it wholeheartedly – employees, customers, and the world will thank you.

Marco Barbosa is a serial entrepreneur who has started three successful businesses and has been named in Forbes 30 under 30 for social entrepreneurship. His latest venture, eSolidar, is a tech platform connecting businesses with charities to enable better CSR and employee engagement. 

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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