How a social conscience can help small businesses attract the people they need

By 2020, millennials will comprise more than 50% of the total workforce, according to PwC.

This generation is radically different to any other, with new tastes, preferences, and expectations – and we’re not just talking about selfies.

With millennials shortly to make up the majority of the UK’s workforce, businesses need to understand what motivates and drives this generation when it comes to work and their career. So how can small businesses attract and retain millennials?

Millennials are motivated by making a difference

Born into a digital world and witness to financial corruption and corporate scandal, they are motivated less by financial wealth and more by making a difference in the world.

Millennials understand that they can use their economic power to encourage companies to make a positive contribution to the world around them. In fact, 84% of millennials said that making a difference in the world was more important than professional recognition, according to Bentley University.

Changes in priorities are also affecting recruitment and retention. Seventy-six per cent wouldn’t take a job at a business with a bad reputation for corporate social and environmental responsibility (CSR) even if they were unemployed and 45% of millennials say they would take a pay cut to work for a company with a good reputation, according to a report by Project ROI.

Millennials expect to change jobs more frequently

HR Departments seem to be struggling with this change in priorities, with two-thirds reporting difficulty in finding the right applicants for job openings. Retention is an issue two, with 91% of millennials expecting to change jobs at least once every three years.

While this is an issue for some, it can be a great opportunity for others – especially small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). Good CSR is open to businesses of any size, not just big multinationals, so it presents more of a level playing field than competing on salary.

But they need to act fairly quickly. According to PwC’s annual Global CEO Survey, 64% of companies are already making CSR ‘core’ to their business. That gives them a head-start, even if only 29% are focusing on CSR for recruitment and retention.

Attracting millenials with great CSR

Unlike the workplace of yesteryear, you will struggle to get passionate people who believe in your company simply by bumping up salaries.

Instead, you need to demonstrate that you are committed to making a positive impact in the world and that it’s a core value of your business, not just a tagline.

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.

Why do you feel passionately about what you do? Why do you do it the way you do? Why does that benefit the world?

If you can answer these questions with clarity and conviction, you’ll have an engaged and motivated workforce.

It’s also beneficial to be very vocal about the opportunities you offer employees, the systems and policies you have in place, and the demonstrable impact that your CSR programme has.

For example, including a section on CSR in your recruiter profiles and talking about your CSR work during interviews are two great ways to demonstrate your social conscience to prospective employees.

Retaining top talent with CSR

The cost of recruitment can be incredibly high. Recruitment experts estimate the cost of filling a vacancy at between four and 15 times their annual salary, depending on the position. So, retaining top talent once you’ve got it is essential both to performance and finances.

Engaging employees by offering opportunities to support the causes they feel passionate about brings a new depth of meaning to their work.

When times get tough, employees will be buoyed by the positive impact they are having, and will offer you the benefit of the doubt. Unhappy employees will simply leave, telling everyone they know of their bad experience.

Research supports this idea as well, finding that CSR led to a 25-50% reduction in employee turnover – the same effect as offering staff a £2,800 pay rise every year. For SMEs who are unable to compete on salaries, this is a huge benefit.

Benchmarking CSR

Simply having some sort of CSR, such as annual donations to a charity, isn’t enough to attract top talent and keep employees engaged. You need to demonstrate the positive social impact you are having.

One way of doing this is to benchmark your efforts and impact against other SMEs;

  • How much are you donating?
  • What has that enabled the charity to do?
  • What other ways of getting involved do you offer employees?

Benchmarking not only serves to show the comparative impact you have, it can also expose new ways of supporting a cause.

Offering employees volunteering opportunities or time out to volunteer is an often-overlooked way of contributing to a cause. It is relatively inexpensive and gives employees a hands-on experience, leaving a lasting impression.

A staggering 93% of employees who volunteer through their organisation are happy with their employer. And happy employees are more engaged, more productive, and more loyal.

Benchmarking can be easier said than done. A good CSR tool can prove invaluable, however, helping both to organise CSR opportunities and events, and to constantly benchmark against other businesses of a similar size.

When time and money are tight, good software eliminates the need for a full-time CSR Manager and helps demonstrate your social impact.

Steps to creating your CSR Programme

Simply choosing a charity to support may work from a brand perspective, but it may not be a cause that resonates with your employees. The best way to find out what causes they’re passionate about is to ask them.

An employee survey is the best way to identify causes and opportunities to support them. Some employees may already support causes outside of work hours, providing first-hand insight as to what would make a real impact.

Perhaps the cause needs exposure – in which case your team could use your brand to spread the word. If they need practical support, it may be most cost-effective to complete the work pro bono than to donate money which would then be used to hire an agency.

Once you have identified your cause(s) you’ll need to embed the support you’ll offer into your day-to-day business.

Create time to volunteer or offer practical support, schedule fundraising events into your yearly planner, develop a plan for activities and stick to it. Simply asking employees to contribute, “when they have time” is the fastest way to ensure it lands on the back-burner.

Once you’ve identified and embedded your CSR, you’ll need to track, benchmark, and review your progress. You may discover that passions have changed and new employees want to support other causes.

And, of course, make sure you tell the people you want to attract all about your great CSR work throughout your recruitment procedure – in your job adverts, and  as part of your induction process for new employees.

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Marco Barbosa, a serial entrepreneur who has started three successful businesses and has been named in Forbes 30under30 for Social Entrepreneurship. His latest venture, eSolidar, is a tech platform connecting businesses with charities to enable better CSR and employee engagement.

Last updated: 24th June, 2022

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