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How to Use CSR to Attract and Retain Top Talent in 2016


By Amanda Minuk

In sports, when a team is building for the future, it is understood that they won’t be as competitive as they were in the past. Fans understand the importance of a ‘rebuild’ and most have the patience to wait for better days ahead. In business, however, a company must always be competitive because employees, consumers and clients are often not as loyal (or forgiving) as sports fans.

High turnover, a lack of employee engagement and difficulty attracting top talent are common and costly employer challenges that can affect a company’s competitive edge. In 2016, the key to a strong future and a perpetually winning team lies with corporate social responsibility (CSR), community investment, social impact, corporate citizenship, sustainability or whatever term your company uses.

Not only do companies that invest in CSR do better financially, but they’re also better at attracting and retaining top talent -- millennials in particular. However, just because a CSR program exists at your organization does not mean you’ll win the talent war.

If you want to be effective at strengthening your organization and attracting and retaining top talent, make sure you take the following into consideration:

1. Authenticity in purpose and communication

Now, more than ever, employees are looking for work with a purpose and a paycheck. According to a Nielsen survey, 67 percent of employees prefer to work for a socially responsible company. Attracting and engaging your employees is no longer about the perks of a ping-pong table or free food; it’s about connecting them to your core mission -- why you exist.

Authenticity in CSR is about being an organization that not only stands for something, but also acts accordingly. It’s about saying what you mean, and meaning what you say -- both internally and externally. Authentic CSR has the potential to provide a sense of higher purpose that your employees are looking for and infuse meaningful work into the organization.

Signs of authenticity:

  • CSR means more than good PR for your company

  • Transparent communication practices exist both internally and externally

  • Senior leadership supports, believes and espouses company values (they ‘walk the talk’)

  • Employees understand your CSR program and how their efforts contribute to the business and the greater cause

  • Your company has a B corp designation (or is working toward one)

2. Business objectives

CSR is not a one-size-fits-all approach. While it’s about being true to your brand, your stakeholders and your culture, your CSR program ultimately needs to make sense for your business.

The saying “what gets measured gets done” is true for CSR, and leaders in the industry know that for CSR to be truly embedded within the organization there has to be business value and need. Ultimately, CSR must be tied to business objectives.

Signs your CSR program is tied to business objectives:

  • Performance metrics measuring CSR are created and communicated internally and externally

  • There’s a natural ‘fit’ between your company’s CSR efforts and the business

  • Senior leadership supports and champions the CSR initiatives

  • CSR is not siloed within the organization; there’s more than one person in your company dedicated to CSR

  • There’s an element of CSR in everyone’s job description and performance reviews

3. Your employees

A CSR program is often only thought of from an external perspective -- meaning: how the business is being a good corporate citizen. But CSR should be about more than just your responsible community practices. By only looking externally, you miss the biggest opportunity for doing well by doing good -- your employees.

Prioritizing your employees' needs (not just extracting value from them) signals you care, which in turn will help increase engagement and retention. According to recent research, the leading career need is related to development and growth. Consider the fact that 58 percent of millennials cite career growth and professional development as their primary career goal. Further, a lack of growth is the leading reason employees leave their current employer.

Signs you consider employees:

  • Your company has a formal or informal mentorship and/or development program

  • Employees have the autonomy, encouragement and support to work on personal side projects

  • Employees are recognized and rewarded for their contributions both formally and informally

  • Optional skills-based and physical volunteering opportunities are provided (employees are not forced to get involved or have to give up their weekends to contribute)

Building for a stronger future should be your No. 1 priority in 2016. The mere existence of a CSR program is not enough to create a winning team; it needs to be authentic, tied to business objectives and considerate of your employees. Use the checklists as a litmus test to understand how well your organization is doing and if you can’t answer yes to most of the points, then use this as an opportunity to grow as a company. Focusing on CSR will not only strengthen your company today but also build for the future without losing your competitive edge.


Amanda Minuk is a co-founder and CEO of Bmeaningful, a career site for social impact jobs. Bmeaningful helps companies showcase their impact and professionals find jobs with a purpose and a paycheque in corporate social responsibility, social good and nonprofit. Connect with her @impactjobamanda and @b_meaningful 

3p Contributor

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