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CSR and What Employees Want in 2012

June 18, 2012

A recent study by Net Impact, a nonprofit organization that encourages young leaders to use their careers to tackle the world’s toughest problems, revealed that 53% of workers said that "a job where I can make a social or environmental impact" was important to their happiness, and 72% of students about to enter the workforce agreed.

In the study, What Workers Want in 2012, students say that it’s more important than having children, a prestigious career, being wealthy or being a community leader – ranking only below financial security and marriage. Professionals show similar prioritization, with having children rising higher on their list of goals.

Moreover, over half of the student population surveyed (58%) would take a 15% pay cut to "work for an organization whose values are like my own." 45% said they would take a pay cut for a job that makes a social or environmental impact, and 35% would take a pay cut to work for a company committed to CSR. While I’m often skeptical of these kinds of questions (it’s easy for people to say that they would take a pay cut, it’s harder to do so), it does tend to confirm a trend that has been increasingly evident for the past few years.

The study also looked at attributes that both students and professionals care about in their jobs. The top group (those considered most important) are what the report calls "non-negotiables": things like work/life balance, office environment, a positive culture and compensation. The second group includes "differentiators" (e.g., a job that makes the world a better place or a company that shares their values). The third (and least important) group includes company prestige and advancement opportunities.

Women are decidedly more interested in working for a nonprofit organization or small business where men are more interested in working for government or big companies according to this survey. Likewise, women consistently express a stronger desire for jobs with social or environmental impact than men. For example, 60% of employed women say that working for a company that prioritizes social and environmental responsibility is very important to them compared with 38% of employed men.

Generationally, Millennials are the most dissatisfied with their current jobs (24% compared to 14% of Gen Xers and 18% of Boomers), and Millennials are more dissatisfied than others with how their company values their input and seeks their opinion. Gen Xers are more dissatisfied with their company culture, and Boomers are more dissatisfied with the way that their companies prioritize social or environmental responsibility.

This generational information is consistent with a 2012 MTV Scratch Survey that found:

  • 80% of Millennials believe "I’m sure I’ll get to where I want to be in life," but 72% are afraid of "not living up to their potential" and 67% think they "may have to settle for a job that just pays the bills."

But, in the book, The 2020 Workforce, the author Jeanne Meister found that 80% of 13 to 25 year olds wanted to work for a company that cares how it impacts and contributes to society, and more than half said that they would refuse to work for an irresponsible corporation.

Meister suggests in a recent article (June 7, 2012), that this is good news for companies that are already committed to social responsibility, but because so many companies have "jumped on the CSR bandwagon," it can be hard for exemplary companies to differentiate themselves from the pack.

Meister recommends the following three tips for companies:

  • Use CSR to boost employee engagement
  • Leverage CSR as a tool to develop global talent
  • Maximize your investment in CSR by leveraging all forms of social media

Likewise, the Net Impact report recommends:

  • Make CSR the DNA of everyone’s day job
  • Integrate CSR into recruiting efforts
  • Focus on CSR when recruiting women

These tips sound like good advice for companies that are both socially responsible and interested in recruiting more Millennials into their workforce. CSR, it’s what workers want in 2012.

If you have a comment or question, please click here.

P.S. Did you know that 46% of Millennials say that they "would give up all news brands forever to keep access to Wikipedia and Facebook"?


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