Want To Engage Millennials? Try Corporate Social Responsibility
Millennials are becoming even more engaged in philanthropic causes in 2017 than they were in late 2016, according to Phase 1 of the Millennial Impact Report. At the same time, employers continue to search for ways to engage millennials to successfully attract, hire and retain them. As millennials become an increasingly large percentage of the workforce, companies may take the opportunity to support their local community. Colleagues working together to accomplish a shared goal can have a positive effect on company culture. Embracing corporate social responsibility can benefit the bottom line as well. In a recent Cone Communications survey, 87% of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, and millennials are more likely than other generations to research the issues a company supports and the extent to which the company contributes.
Leading by example
What does corporate social responsibility look like? There is a wide range of options. Some opportunities involve multiple companies devoted to community service. One such event is organized by nonprofit Technology Underwriting Greater Good (TUGG), which was founded by 3 venture capitalists from Accomplice and General Catalyst. “Our Annual Tech Gives Back day of service is the largest day of service in the tech industry globally,” said Elizabeth Dobrska, Executive Director of TUGG. “This is our 7th year, and we will have 1500 volunteers and 90+ companies at 50+ volunteer sites.” Participating companies include Wayfair and WeWork.
The opportunities are as diverse as the employees who volunteer for them. “We accumulated 1,570 volunteer hours on company time in 2016,” said Amy Hattan, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability at engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti. “One group used their time to volunteer at GrowNYC’s Teaching Garden, an urban farm featuring vegetable beds made from recycled plastic lumber, a small-scale farm, fruit trees, a high-tunnel greenhouse and rainwater harvesting systems.”
While some companies have formal programs, others let employees follow their individual passion for volunteering. “Our leadership team doesn’t dictate where people volunteer because we want our team members – those who live and work in the communities we serve – to decide where their time will have an impact,” said Chris Martin, President and CEO, Provident Bank. “Whether that’s picking up a hammer and helping Habitat for Humanity or spending the day throwing strikes during the Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowling Tournament, we encourage all team members to take time to give back. That is why we give every employee 2 paid days per year to volunteer.”
Corporate social responsibility may even dovetail with the company’s main business. “United By Blue, a sustainable outdoor apparel company with a strong focus on waterway conservation, allows its employees to take time off to volunteer at our company-hosted cleanups,” said United By Blue PR Associate Ethan Peck. “These take part on/near bodies of water (rivers, lakes, ponds, oceans, etc.) and are part of our mission to remove a pound of trash for every product sold - something we've stringently followed. We've picked up over a million pounds of trash thus far!”
Some companies approach projects with a longer time frame. “There is a nice trend in Fortune 500 companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Cigna that offer global pro bono advisor or volunteer programs to their employees," said Paula Caligiuri, PhD, D'Amore-McKim School of Business Distinguished Professor at Northeastern University. “In these programs, employees are on loan, whether for a few weeks or several months, to volunteer their professional skills in in developing countries. Companies can achieve their CSR goals while dramatically increasing employee engagement through volunteerism.”
Marissa Peretz is Founder of Silicon Beach Talent, a boutique recruiting and consulting firm in Los Angeles. SBT recruits designers, engineers, and leadership for emerging tech companies.