Engaging employees with initiatives that satisfy a need for social impact

The Supper Club recently created a report, entitled Talent Tactics, highlighting the need for bosses to attract and retain millennials. While it delves into career progression and a need for better employee-employer relationships, we were intrigued by its look at corporate social responsibility and brand purpose.

According to Talent Tactics, employers are increasingly engaging employees with initiatives that satisfy a need for social impact. One of The Supper Club’s members, Ari Ratnakumar, founder of WeAreWiser, coincidently took part in the report.

He told Real Business: “Most people and generations, to a similar degree, are motivated to have a positive impact on the world around them. Millennials, however, are characterised by their upbringing in the age of the internet and social media.

“There, they have been confronted with social issues and witnessed debates rage first-hand, creating what I believe is the most socially and environmentally engaged generation to date. Awareness is high, and spreads rapidly through news, articles and networks.”

Alex Evans, programme director of The Supper Club, claimed that numerous members of The Supper Club tended to recruit successfully by ensuring young talent feel like they’re part of something that’s making a difference. Essentially, millennials crave purpose.

“This purpose can be social or commercial, solving a problem in the community or changing an industry,” he explained. “The crucial point is demonstrating that impact and the role talent will play in driving it.

“We’ve found that some of our members focus on social mobility as part of their purpose and have built this into recruitment, which addresses a challenge for society and the business by developing talent that might not have the same opportunities as others. Most bosses have adopted charities aligned to their values with fundraising initiatives that bring their teams together.

“Like anything related to mission and purpose, it has to be authentic and meaningful. It must have momentum if it’s going to keep delivering impact and cultural benefit.”

Of course, bosses do sometimes “get it wrong”. Millennials want to know where the business is going, how it’s going to get there, and their role in it. However, Ratnakumar suggested that founders don’t always communicate their vision, or update the wider business about the progress they’re making.

“As businesses scale, it’s harder to manage culture and regular communication is vital,” he explained. “As soon as people disconnect it’s the beginning of the end. Millennials need to be constantly reminded about why they are here and where they are heading. In startups, for example, founders expect people to learn on the job and don’t invest enough in training. Millennials want to learn and improve, personally and professionally.”

Making a social impact isn’t the only way to retain staff though. As Ratnakumar explained, it’s “only one piece of the puzzle.” Management, leadership, teams, growth opportunities, wellbeing, financial reward and culture are all big influencers when it comes to retaining staff.

“The best companies balance all of these and crucially, help employees believe their work matters,” he added. “Not every millennial is seeking to work in a charity or non-profit and save the world, but they all want their work to matter and do good in the bigger picture of their company or industry and feel appreciated for their contributions.

“I’d recommend companies to create a strong employer brand and organisational identity. Done well, it allows employees to align themselves with their organisation and creates a meaningful culture. Millennials feel more in the spotlight than any previous generation – so much about them is visible online.

“Create pride and purpose in being associated with that employer and engagement will improve. Always be open to embracing new technologies and ways of working. Don’t be stuck in the past and allow millennials to help lead the change.”

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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