Creating a robust corporate social responsibility program is no longer a nice-to-have option. No matter what industry you’re in, a prescribed approach to CSR is going to help attract talent, retain employees, and assist in defining your organization. It has officially entered into the realm of “Best Practice” for any company operating in the western world.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a remarkable change in how the employment market operates. One of the most significant shifts is the importance that potential employees place on seeking a company aligned with their core values.

It used to be that your job provided your financial well-being, while it fell to outside service clubs like the Lions, the Rotary, or the Optimist to fulfill a sense a social responsibility and local camaraderie.

While these outside associations are still meaningful and relevant, the next generation of workers no longer draw as distinct a line between the various facets of their lives. If their careers are not focused directly on helping others, they want to be reassured that their companies are connected and giving back to their communities in a significant way. It’s not enough to write a cheque and walk away. Employees today expect a well thought out set of values to inform their company’s philanthropy.

The key findings of the 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study demonstrate just how important a robust CSR program has become:

  • 64% of employees feel their work, and personal lives are becoming increasingly blended
  • 93% want to work for a company that cares about them as an individual
  • 51% won’t work for a company that doesn’t have strong social and environmental commitments
  • 74% say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact at work

Furthermore, this way of thinking is trending upwards. Within the next decade, we won’t be surprised if the 51% who “will not work for a company that doesn’t have strong social and environmental commitments,” becomes 80% or even higher.

The Case for Attracting Millennials

So much attention has been directed towards how Millenials are changing the job market, and not all of it flattering. Nevertheless, the truth is that the generation of people now starting to dominate the workforce not only come with a good mix of skills, curiosity, and a desire for innovation but also a powerful inclination to be part of making the world a better place through their profession.

Regardless of how you feel about millennials, they currently make up about 50% of the working population, a number that by 2025 will rise to around 75%. If your company is planning to hire in the future, you’re going to want to understand Millenials and how to engage them. An employer that can connect their CSR program to the daily lives of their staff is going to find they have unlocked an extremely valuable and loyal employee.

Consider that the 2016 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study found that:

  • 76% of Millennials consider a company’s CSR commitments when deciding where to work
  • 64% will not take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong CSR practices.

It’s important to emphasize that when Millenials are investigating a company for their CSR practices, they are looking to see that the commitment is authentic. With this demographic, a CSR program that rings hollow will actually turn away potential candidates and may encourage your current staff to start looking elsewhere.

The Generational Divide

The shifting culture surrounding corporate social responsibility, most often attributed to Millenials, is also proving to be almost as important to Generation X. Of course, this is the group more likely to be hired into senior management, and could very reasonably make up a good number of your current C-Suite executives. While they are not always as overt about their commitment to corporate social responsibility as their Millennial counterparts, they are often perfectly positioned to take up the challenge of creating a suitable program for the company.

Looking at comparative data from the previously mentioned study, it reinforces what we already knew about Millenials, but also underscores the high percentage of Generation X who are motivated by a company’s commitment to corporate ethics.

Job-seekers who consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work:

79% Millennial

68% Gen X

Employees who believe it is essential for their employer to share goals, progress and achievements related to the company’s social or environmental commitments:

89% Millennial

83% Gen X

Employees who would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues:

83% Millennial

79% Gen X

Employees that wish their employer would provide volunteer opportunities they could do with friends or family:

85% Mature Millennial

75% Young Gen X

One of the big takeaways for any company looking to attract or retain talent is that you can reasonably assume that most of your staff is watching to see just how committed the organization is to its expressed purpose. Cutting back on these programs or dropping your philanthropic commitments could save you some money now, but it’s most likely to work against you in the long run.

The Link Between Corporate Social Responsibility & Recruiting Talent

Staff and Team Development

An oft-neglected component of developing a robust CSR agenda is that it can function as a professional development tool for staff. A 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey found that employee volunteering can play a meaningful role in building essential leadership skills. For HR professionals developing high-impact training and advancement programs with limited resources, CSR programs that involve skills-based volunteering can serve as an effective means of staff development and management training that can be used to retain personnel and even attract candidates.

Being  Committed to Purpose Can Also be Profitable

The benefits of developing a corporate social responsibility program go well beyond the company’s ability to attract and retain talent. If done with thought, it can have a direct impact on the bottom line and help draw customers away from a competitor who hasn’t given any thought to their social purpose. The 2018 Cone/Porter Novelli Purpose Study found that 66% of respondents would switch from a product they usually buy to a new product from a “Purpose-driven” company.

In 2015, a global study by Nielsen, found that 56% of those asked, were influenced by a company being “known” for its commitment to social values. While, 66% were willing to pay more for sustainable brands, and specifically 73% of Millennials who are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Is it any wonder that these are precisely the companies they want to work for when looking for employment.

Where To Begin?

The short answer is to start with the staff you have. If you’re looking to launch a corporate social responsibility program, or even enhance an existing one, it’s vital to include as many of your current team members as possible in the process. By getting a large number of participants, you can ensure that the organization as a whole will accept the program.

A critical element to keep in mind is that your CSR program needs to be authentic. If your efforts come across to your team as window dressing, you can bet candidates looking to build their career with a purpose-driven organization will be able to see through the facade.

In the Ottawa area, a great local partner is the Ottawa Community Foundation. Community Foundations exist in many cities across the country with the expressed purpose of highlighting the needs of their local neighbourhoods and assisting individuals and companies in establishing charitable Funds that can give back to the place they call home. It can be a great alternative to creating a private foundation and a resource for philanthropic direction, research, and employee engagement.

As a recruiter with deep roots in the Ottawa area, we work with job seekers all the time who are looking for a company that challenges them professionally and reflects their values personally. We are also an employer with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility, and we would be happy to show you exactly how we’ve turned our company into a purpose-driven organization.

Joey Kewin

Author Joey Kewin

Joey Kewin is a Senior Account Executive in LRO Staffing's technology division. Joining LRO Staffing in 2014, Joey prides himself in applying his experience in sales, marketing and customer service to provide an excellent client and candidate experience.

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