How Doing Good Helps Recruit and Retain Millennials

The winning idea from the 2014 PRWeek Conference “Battle of Big Ideas”

Millennial Quote








On Sept. 16, 2014, five professionals took the PRWeek stage to present five-minute arguments for how doing good helps companies do well. Discussion of bottomline was off limits.

As the youngest of the group, I was asked to make a case for how doing good helps companies recruit — and retain — the most talented millennials. A modified version of my speech is below.

The Need to Recruit and Retain Millennials

Six years from now, millennials will make up 50 percent of the workforce. This means millennials are the future leaders of today’s companies, and also future leaders of companies that haven’t even launched. Companies that could become your competitors.

Unless your company wants to hire mediocre or below average talent, you need to appeal to talented candidates. The most talented employees in any generation will have options. As you recruit new employees, it is important to position your company as a top option in the minds of talented job seekers.

Perception Matters – But You Can’t Stop There.

While perception is not everything for your company’s success, and certainly not everything for retention, it is very important during recruitment. Why do I say that? An outsider has no idea if your company is actually as good as it appears to be on the surface. That’s something outsiders must determine by getting an insider’s view – either by speaking with someone who will provide an honest assessment of working at the company or by working there themselves.

Cone Communications’ Social Impact Study found that Millennials are 91 percent more likely to trust and 89 percent more likely to be loyal to companies that support environmental and social issues. Keep in mind millennials’ decisions about companies are largely based on their perceptions of those companies and not always based on direct interactions with them. Authentic social responsibility matters, but you also have to understand that the general public makes many decisions based on surface-level impressions.

To attract the best talent, your company needs to have a reputation for doing good and being responsible. Just don’t let it stop at the surface level.

Retention via The Millennial Hierarchy of Workplace Needs

Millennial Hierarchy of Workplace NeedsLet’s take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and rebrand it as the Millennial hierarchy of workplace needs. At the base level of Maslow’s hierarchy, there are physiological and safety needs. In the millennial work place, these basic needs are having a job, an income and job security. The least qualified millennials might stop there and just be happy you offered them a job.

Seeing as your company doesn’t want to hire the least qualified candidates, simply offering millennials jobs isn’t enough. You have to meet their mid- and high-level needs. Having their mid-level needs met could be enough reason for millennials to accept your offer. Highlight your culture and the bonds employees have, as well as the respect and recognition employees receive from their colleagues and managers, and millennials will see that your company is a good fit.

However, after a while, these talented millennials will want more than a great workplace. They will reach for Maslow’s highest level of need, self-actualization. This is where doing good comes in. Millennials want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to contribute to societal good. If your company allows them to do that, especially as an entry- or mid-level employee, that’s your gateway to retention.

Keeping millennials in the company is a combination of many things, but meeting the mid- and high-level needs in this hierarchy simultaneously will give you an advantage.

If you’d like an example of the hierarchy in action, here’s a brief anecdote I provided to hit the argument home:

I recently visited a friend from college. Soon after graduating in May, she started her first job. As a talented millennial, she had a few entry-levels offers. She chose this specific company for its work culture, and the social atmosphere at the office hasn’t disappointed. However, after four months, she is already considering whether her self-actualization needs will be met. This millennial told me she wants to contribute to the greater good, and if the company she is at won’t help her get there, you can bet she’ll start looking for a company that can.

If your company incorporates doing good into its business model, if it gives back and allows employees of all generations to be part of something bigger than themselves, that’s your competitive advantage for employee retention. This is why it’s not just about being perceived as a socially responsible company. It’s about integrating that responsibility into every piece of your company.

Have another “big idea” for how doing good can help your company do well? Share it below.


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