As Seen on The Guardian: How Sustainability Can Help Companies Attract and Retain Young Employees

Oct 12, 2016 10:45 AM ET

By 2025, millennials will represent 75% of the global workforce – and that means three-quarters of employees will likely seek opportunities to make an impact on people and the environment through their personal lives and the companies where they work.

According to The Future of Business Citizenship, a study conducted by the communications firm MSLGroup, concern for the environment is among the Top 5 issues important to US millennials. The other hot topics: health, the economy, education and international affairs.

“Overall, it’s clear that millennials themselves have embraced the responsibility to solve today’s social issues, and they expect businesses to do the same,” the report said. “Businesses that meet these expectations and connect with millennials in meaningful ways will have a clear advantage in attracting and retaining talented employees.”

Meaningful jobs mean satisfaction

Many millennials want jobs that will make a difference in their communities and the world. Whether that’s through the type of work they’re doing, specific company initiatives or paid volunteer time, these can be impressive incentives.

A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 94% of millennials are interested in using their skills to benefit a cause, and that 57% wish for more companywide service days. Companies that make volunteering a key part of their work cultures can find more success attracting and retaining employees whose values closely align with that.

Millennials are often motivated not by money, but by the chance to make the world more sustainable. Businesses that foster this desire will have more satisfied employees and a bigger opportunity to grow. By embracing employees’ passion for participating in the community, companies will have a more positive impact on society as well.

“More and more, today’s employees want to be connected to a broader purpose, a higher calling,” General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said at a commencement address for the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “They want their companies and institutions to make the world a better place. I believe it’s up to leaders to set the tone, create the vision and inspire the behaviors that allow our organizations to best serve society.”

Benefit the bottom line

In addition to a more engaged workforce, companies that incorporate sustainability into their business practices also see increased profits. Corporate social responsibility practices often lead to an improved reputation, which can lead to eager job applicants among younger adults, and create efficiencies that improve the bottom line.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index, which asks employees about their level of job satisfaction, the most important way to engage workers is to enable them to make progress in meaningful work. Organizations that do this successfully have 3.9 times the earning per share growth compared with similar organizations.

When an employee leaves, it costs a company thousands of dollars in lost wages and training a replacement. So keeping influential employees like millennials happy via sustainability programs can keep turnover rates low and return value to the company.

“Taking care of your workforce, particularly by engaging them in implementing a corporate commitment to sustainability, will drive greater productivity, and thus greater profitability,” Hunter Lovins, president and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions, writes in an op-ed for Sustainable Brands.

Reposted from with permission.