To attract millennials, companies must give back

 

Salesforce staff taking part in the company’s “Canal Clean  Up” event at Binn’s Bridge, Dublin. Photograph: Colm Mahady/Fennells

Salesforce staff taking part in the company’s “Canal Clean Up” event at Binn’s Bridge, Dublin. Photograph: Colm Mahady/Fennells

 

When it comes to their careers, most millennials (roughly those born between 1980 and 2000) are not driven by money. They are natural job hoppers and they “hop” more for learning and personal development opportunities than they do for higher salaries.

Income is typically not even in the top five reasons why millennials change jobs.

“They need to be convinced why and how an organisation will help them learn, grow and develop, and further their careers,” say the authors of What Millennials Want from a New Job, Brandon Rigoni and Amy Adkins of Gallup.

 The authors also point out that millennials comprise the fastest-growing consumer group and are willing to pay more for ethical products, are more prepared to share than buy and will take a pay cut to work for companies they believe demonstrate responsibility and strong social values.

 One of the ways to millennials’ hearts is through good corporate social engagement. But it must be relevant and real rather than lip service. Companies have to put their money where their mouth is. If they don’t, millennials will see through the flam and move on.

What has changed in the world of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is how the process is structured. In the past, it was mainly about giving money. Now it’s a combination of money and people’s time. Employees want to get stuck in and to make a tangible difference. 

Volunteers

In 2016, volunteers from aviation capital company SMBC helped build a children’s hostel in Malawi. This year the company is funding the construction of a feeding station there. The volunteers go to Malawi for five working days, two of which are taken as annual leave, with the company footing the bill for the other three.

Closer to home, more than 50 SMBC employees have been involved with lunchtime literacy and numeracy initiatives with the Irish-based education and social change organisation, Suas.

“SMBC’s contribution has made a very real difference,” says Suas interim chief executive Joanne Malone. “For example, an intensive eight-week input from a group of literacy mentors can help kick-start a child’s learning and improve their reading age by six months. The mentors also act as role models for the children who get to see a world (their ‘graduation’ event was held in SMBC’s offices) which is very different to what they are used to.”  

Multinational CRM software solutions company Salesforce has had social engagement as one of its core values since its formation 17 years ago. “We have a 1-1-1 model of integrated philanthropy based around technology, people and resources,” explains Mark Stanley, vice-president for web marketing and marketing operations EMEA.

 “We offer donated and discounted technologies to higher education and not for profits, we promote a culture of helping people give back and we provide grants. Last year, employees in Ireland (it has more than 1,000 staff here) donated more than 25,000 hours in volunteer time. 

“Each employee gets seven paid days a year to volunteer with a cause they feel passionate about. I personally have been involved with a children’s literacy programme where we also provided funding to build a library and a wonderful multisensory room that is of huge benefit to children with special needs.

Helping others

“Apart from helping others, the volunteering is very good for employee morale,” Stanley adds. “It helps build teams and lets people interact in a different type of environment. Most of our staff members get involved and we also ask potential employees if they are willing to do so, as we want people who are a good cultural fit for our organisation.”

 In an effort to get other companies actively involved in social projects, Salesforce has launched the Pledge 1% initiative to encourage all entrepreneurs to commit to integrating philanthropy into their businesses from an early stage. Since its foundation, Salesforce has given more than $160 million in grants, two million hours in community service and provided product donations to over 31,000 higher education and non-profit organisations.

 The Irish operation of Big Four accountancy practice Deloitte has been involved in CSR programmes for more than 15 years.

Deloitte has about 2,300 people employed in Ireland and among other things it provides two volunteering days per year per employee matched to the same in personal leave. It also backs a two-week volunteering programme in Uganda by supporting half the time off.

Supported to volunteer

By far its biggest event is its Impact Day which takes place each September. “All staff are encouraged and supported to volunteer on that day and to provide their time, labour and expertise to our chosen projects,” says corporate responsibility manager, Claire Bergin.

“Impact is a fundamental part of Deloitte’s CR Strategy and one of the most popular days of the year for our people to get involved. Over 700 people took part in 2016.”

The skills contributed varied from helping with business strategy and marketing to decorating and gardening.

CSR used to be seen as something for big organisations with big budgets. Now companies of all sizes are beginning to recognise that, even in small doses, it’s good for their bottom line as well as for those being helped. It holds sway when it comes to recruiting millennials in particular, it promotes employee buy-in and it creates employee engagement.

Does that really matter? Yes. Companies with engaged workforces have higher turnovers, higher profits and lower staff attrition rates.

Previously published in The Irish Times.

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