Millennials Want Engagement in Employers’ CSR Programs: Here’s How to Get It

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Young workers are demanding more from their employers’ corporate social responsibility programs. Here’s how to keep them happy.

By Susan Cooney (Founder & CEO, Givelocity)

Millennials will comprise almost half the workforce by 2020, according to a study from the University of North Carolina. This generation of workers has grown up with the Internet and social networking, and they want more than just a paycheck from their employers. They want a sense of purpose.

Although the term “corporate social responsibility” isn’t a new one, Millennials are helping bring it to the boardroom table in companies around the world. A whopping 90%of recent graduates say they seek employers whose social responsibility priorities reflect their own, according to recent research from Price Waterhouse Coopers.

It’s clear that it’s time for a sea change in the way corporate social responsibility (CSR) is structured. This generation of workers, with a world of information at their fingertips and an affinity for sharing online, don’t want to accept a lack of involvement and transparency in the decision-making process of where their time and dollars are donated. Human resources professionals making decisions behind closed office doors on what organization will receive volunteer hours or donation money or which charitable initiatives employees will have the option to participate in just no longer cuts it.

So how do employers increase engagement in their CSR programs?

Build a Community

The key to engaging workers in CSR is emphasizing the community aspect of the process. Employees want to feel like they’re working together for the greater good and that they have a voice in the process. This is a chance to develop cross-departmental relationships that take the corporate hierarchy out of the picture and focus on simply doing more. They bond over a shared interest in helping their passion causes, strengthening coworker relationships and improving team morale.

Introduce Technology

We’re talking about a generation of workers who grew up with smartphones, the Internet and social networking all at their fingertips. Not only should a CSR program be social, it also needs to be technologically interesting to drive engagement. Create online groups or forums where interested employees can plan efforts and discuss ideas. We’ve noticed at Givelocity, a donation-based crowdfunding portal for shared giving, that members want to be able to easily share their activities on Facebook and Twitter, and find information on charities in one central and browse-able location. This is the most Internet-savvy generation yet, so CSR programs should reflect that.

Buy In on the Company Side Too

Employers should lead by example; if the CEO is engaged in the CSR program, her employees will be more likely to engage as well. To create a culture of engagement in social responsibility, make it part of the workday – give each employee one volunteer day per quarter or match charitable donations.

I’m talking to a number of companies, ranging in size, that are interested in setting up giving circles that allow employees to decide together where their combined dollars are donated, increasing employee engagement in their benefit programs. For example, one company offers its employees $200 per month as a perk to be used for gym memberships, wellness programs or morning coffee. Any funds not used by month-end goes into an employee charitable pool. Employees then vote monthly on Givelocity to decide which charity or charities receive the funds – it’s an interactive and transparent way to engage employees.

As the old guard comes closer to retirement and the new one steps in, it’s going to be important for the bottom line to meet these new employees on their terms. In addition to increasing general morale, engaging employees is also good for business, according to a recent study by Dale Carnegie Training, which said companies with engaged employees outperform their less engaged counterparts by 202%. But we’re not just talking the bottom line, we’re talking the greater good.

How much involvement do you have in your organization’s CSR program?

Susan Cooney head shotAbout the blogger: Susan Cooney is the founder & CEO of Givelocity, an online community for shared giving where members pledge to donate as little as $1 a month and create or join communities, or “neighborhoods,” built around shared causes like the environment, literacy or animals. She also co-founded and served as VP of Marketing for remote PC repair service pioneer PlumChoice.