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Marco Barbosa

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Will talent be attracted and retained by a social conscience?


HR departments are facing a dilemma. While the pressure is on to attract and retain top talent, business leaders are unwilling or unable to offer top wages.

Companies are increasingly finding it difficult to recruit for job openings. And retainment is also getting harder.

Whether this is due to an influx of insecure jobs since the 2007-2008 financial crash, or whether millennials are embracing the gig economy, is a moot point. The result is the same: millennials expect to change jobs often, creating a retainment issue for employers.

When you consider that by 2020 millennials are expected to make up over half of the total workforce, the issue of attracting and retaining top talent becomes a ticking time bomb.

Lack of social conscience is putting off millennials

But perhaps it’s not the lack of money that is putting off millennials. Perhaps it’s a reaction against the perceived lack of social conscience by businesses.

Financial corruption, marketing scandals and environmental disasters seem to have become commonplace in the past 10 years or so – the majority of a millennial’s adult life. They’re looking for something new, something good, to be a part of.

You don’t get passionate people by throwing money at them, you get them by being vocal about your brand values and how you make a real impact.

The stats speak for themselves: 76% of US millenials wouldn’t take a job with a company that had a bad reputation even if they were unemployed, while 45% say they would take a pay cut to work for a company that makes a positive social or environmental impact, according to a Project ROI report.

Attracting talent with employer branding

It seems that some business leaders are waking up to the idea that corporate social and environmental responsibility (CSR) can benefit the bottom line as well as keep the company compliant.

But while PwC’s annual Global CEO survey results showed 64% of companies are making CSR ‘core’ to their business, only 29% are focusing on CSR as a way to attract and retain the best talent. In our mind this is a huge missed opportunity!

As Simon Sinek points out: It’s the ‘why’ that inspires and motivates. Why do you do what you do? Why do you do it that way? Why is that making the world a better place?

It’s not just a job – it’s a way to make the world a better place.

If businesses can engage in impactful CSR and use that reputation in their employer branding, they will be able to attract top talent without needing to increase wages.

You don’t get passionate people by throwing money at them, you get them by being vocal about your brand values and how you make a real impact.

Make sure to include information about your CSR on things like employer profiles on recruitment sites as well as in applicant interviews.

Retaining talent with CSR

Attracting talent is only one half of the battle – if you can’t keep them you’ll waste more money than you save.

According to the CIPD, the average cost of filling a vacancy is between £4,000-10,000, while recruitment expert Bradford Smart puts the figure anywhere from four times the annual salary for supervisors all the way up to 15 times the annual salary for vice presidents and executives.

But CSR can help here too. Discovering the causes your employees feel passionately about and then enabling them to support that cause helps engage employees in a meaningful way.

It’s not just a job – it’s a way to make the world a better place. If millennials are willing to take a pay cut to work for a company with good CSR, they’re less likely to leave for a higher paying opportunity.

In fact, Project ROI found that CSR reduced employee turnover by 25-50% – the same effect as a £2,800 pay rise per year. So, CSR helps attract top talent for more modest wages and helps retain them without the need for regular pay rises.

Developing your approach to CSR

Now that we understand how to apply social conscience/CSR to recruitment and retainment of employees, the next question is: How do we go about it?

You could simply pick a charity that matches your brand and make an annual donation, but that’s unlikely to engage your employees. It’s a much better idea to conduct a survey of your employees to find out what causes they’re already involved in or feel passionately about.

It may be that you support all of them in some way or you may choose to focus on a single cause that engages the majority of employees.

It’s also a good idea to think about the ways in which you can support causes. Will it be donations on behalf of the business? Will you take part in fundraising events? Have you considered offering employees volunteering opportunities, including time off to volunteer?

Volunteering is often overlooked, yet it can be one of the most effective ways to engage employees. A whopping 93% of employees who volunteer with their company are happy with their employer! Happy employees are 31% more productive and are responsible for a 37% uplift in sales. So, the cost-benefit is huge.

Next steps

Here are some useful actions to help you get started on your journey to CSR:

  • Conduct an employee survey to find out what causes your workforce is passionate about

  • Investigate how those causes are best supported – with money, resources or volunteering time

  • Build fundraising events, donations and/or volunteering into the usual run of business – making someone responsible for your CSR

  • Track and benchmark your CSR against other businesses of a similar size

  • Report on your impact to staff and customers

  • Add your impact to recruiter profiles and build this into employer brand

  • Ensure you explain your approach to CSR, and the opportunities available, to potential candidates at interview

  • Continually review the causes you support and the activities you offer to maintain employee engagement

One Response

  1. If being socially
    If being socially conscientious is important to your company, then it is worth it to try and attract like-minded talent. This goes for every type of value and goal, though. I love your follow up list, and I would just add to gauge employee NPS, like Geckoboard does here to ensure you’re hiring correctly:

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