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3/4 of Millennials Would Take a Pay Cut to Work for a Socially Responsible Company

Image credit: Cone Communications

Three-quarters (76 percent) of Millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices, according to the 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study. The study reveals that meaningful engagement around CSR is a business – and bottom line – imperative, impacting a company’s ability to appeal to, retain and inspire Millennial talent (that’s a business case if we ever heard one).

More than any other generation, Millennials see a company’s commitment to responsible business practices as a key factor in their employment decisions:

  • 75 percent say they would take a pay cut to work for a responsible company (vs. 55 percent U.S. average)
  • 83 percent would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues (vs. 70 percent U.S. average)
  • 88 percent say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues (vs. 74 percent U.S. average)
  • 76 percent consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work (vs. 58 percent U.S. average)
  • 64 percent won’t take a job from a company that doesn’t have strong CSR practices (vs. 51 percent U.S. average)

“Millennials will soon make up 50 percent of the workforce and companies will have to radically evolve their value proposition to attract and retain this socially conscious group,” says Alison DaSilva, EVP of CSR Research & Insights at Cone. “Integrating a deeper sense of purpose and responsibility into the work experience will have a clear bottom line return for companies.”

Millennials seek involvement in corporate social responsibility

Not only do Millennials want to hear what their employers are doing to be more responsible, they want to be co-creators and facilitators of CSR solutions. This group is the most likely among American generations to want to be directly involved in a company’s CSR efforts:

  • 88 percent think it is important their employer shares goals, progress and achievements related to CSR efforts (vs. 75 percent U.S. average)
  • 89 percent want to be active participants in helping their company improve its responsible business practices by providing feedback, ideas and potential solutions (vs. 78 percent U.S. average)
  • 89 percent expect employers to provide hands-on activities around environmental responsibilities in the workplace (vs. 77 percent U.S. average)

“For Millennials, it’s not enough to simply work for a company that’s doing good,” says Lisa Manley, EVP of CSR Strategy at Cone. “This generation wants to get their hands dirty – providing ideas, suggesting improvements and participating in efforts on the ground. Companies that give Millennials opportunities to get involved will be rewarded with a more engaged and invested workforce.”

Millennials look to companies to help make an impact inside and outside the office

This always-on generation feels their work and personal lives are increasingly blended (81 percent), so it’s no surprise they want companies to provide opportunities to make a difference beyond the “9 to 5” work schedule. Millennials are significantly more likely than their older cohorts to view employers as conduits to making an impact both inside and outside the company walls:  

  • 83 percent want their company to provide support and resources for them to make positive social and environmental changes at home (vs. 70 percent U.S. average)
  •  84 percent want their company to help them identify ways to get more involved in their communities (vs. 65 percent U.S. average)
  • 83 percent wish their employer would provide volunteer opportunities they could do with friends or family (vs. 66 percent U.S. average)

“Millennials see where they work as an extension of who they are and what they stand for,” Manley says. “For this generation, it’s important to work for an organization that gives them the opportunities to make a difference in all aspects of their lives, whether that’s in the office or out in their communities.”

Millennials seek diverse volunteerism opportunities

Just as Millennials see their jobs as an extension of their personal brands, they expect the volunteerism opportunities provided to them to be just as diverse as they are. Although Millennials still see traditional opportunities such as company-wide days of service and corporate-led activities as important, they are more likely to prioritize a range of options that allow them to multi-task during the day, put in sweat-equity after hours or take a sabbatical to fully focus on service. Millennials seek volunteerism activities including:  

  • Corporate-led activities (83 percent vs. 67 percent U.S. average)
  • Company-wide days of service (81 percent vs. 67 percent U.S. average)
  • Paid service leave (79 percent vs. 61 percent U.S. average)
  • Micro-volunteerism (76 percent vs. 63 percent U.S. average)
  • Service trips (75 percent vs. 54 percent U.S. average)
  • After-hours service opportunities (73 percent vs. 58 percent U.S. average)

And Millennials are not naïve in thinking employee engagement opportunities should only be about supporting personal passion points. This generation is nearly twice as likely as their Generation X peers to believe companies should provide opportunities focused on the social and environmental issues most important to the business (40 percent Millennial average vs. 21 percent Generation X average).

Meaningful personal benefits drive millennial engagement

When it comes to what inspires Millennials to get involved in CSR activities, Millennials value professional growth and financial gain slightly more than perks or personal recognition. Although making a meaningful difference trumps other motivations (94 percent), Millennials are more likely than the average American to be motivated by self-serving reasons:

  • Professional growth (93 percent vs. 87 percent U.S. average)
  • Financial (e.g., bonuses or gifts cards) (91 percent vs. 85 percent U.S. average)
  • Meaningful personal experiences (e.g., exploring new places, meeting new people) (90 percent vs. 76 percent U.S. average)
  • Personal recognition (87 percent vs. 79 percent U.S. average)
  • Perks (e.g., better parking spaces, “casual Fridays”) (86 percent vs. 74 percent U.S. average)

Reaching Millennials where they are

Millennials seek information about CSR efforts in different ways. Although the average American employee views a company email as the most effective way to be reached with engagement communications, Millennials prefer to learn about opportunities from a senior leader or supervisor (47 percent vs. 38 percent U.S. average), followed by collateral at events or around the office (35 percent vs. 31 percent U.S. average).

Millennials are also most likely to use social media to not only learn about efforts (79 percent vs. 55 percent U.S. average) but also as a way to share the impact they’re making at work with their broader social networks:

  • 76 percent want to share their own photos, videos or experiences on their personal social channels (vs. 52 percent U.S. average)
  • 75 percent would use designated company hashtags to share their own photos, videos or experiences (vs. 48 percent U.S. average)

Not surprisingly, Millennials are more likely to use a number of different social media platforms to share their employee engagement activities. Although Facebook remains the top channel (74 percent vs. 57 percent U.S. average), Millennials are nearly twice as likely to see Instagram (45 percent vs. 23 percent U.S average), Twitter (34 percent vs. 20 percent U.S. average) and YouTube (34 percent vs. 19 percent U.S. average) as effective channels.

“Millennials view social media as a place to curate and share content that reflects their values – and this generation is enthusiastic about showing how their work is making an impact in the world,” DaSilva says. “Companies that arm employees with the tools to make social media sharing as turn-key as possible will create authentic ambassadors for their CSR efforts and build the brand from the inside out.”


Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]


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