Strong corporate social commitments drive millennials to jobs

Updated December 10, 2017 - 2:28 pm

Henderson resident SiddeeQah Jones, 27, spent a Thursday morning in November browsing at a job fair at Palace Station. But she wasn’t looking for just any job.

“It’s very important to me to work for a company that gives back,” she said.

After moving to Las Vegas in early November from Philadelphia, Jones found a customer service job at Williams-Sonoma Inc.

She thought of the job as “a short-term option” until learning more about the company’s corporate social responsibility policy, which is a company’s approach and policies intended to promote positive social and environmental change.

“I was actually able to speak with someone from Williams-Sonoma and do more research,” Jones said. “As a company, they do participate in several charities which employees can participate in, and (they) also have a matching gifts program for employees such as myself. This type of charity is something that would make me a long-term employee.”

Millennial migration

Millennials like Jones soon will make up 50 percent of the workforce, and companies will need to find ways to engage with them, according to a 2016 Cone Communications millennial employee engagement study. Strong corporate social responsibility policies might help recruit and retain millennials.

“Integrating a deeper sense of purpose and responsibility into the work experience will have a clear bottom line return for companies,” said Alison DaSilva, executive vice president of corporate social responsibility research and insights for Cone Communications, in the report.

The study found that 76 percent of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work, and nearly 64 percent of millennials won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong corporate social responsibility practices.

Overall, Las Vegas companies are poised to take advantage of this preference, experts say. That’s especially true as Nevada is one of the top 10 states to which people between the ages of 20 and 35 moved in 2015, according to a September study by SmartAsset, a financial technology company.

Points for Las Vegas

“The companies here, the gaming companies in particular, have always been very proactive in their charitable giving and diversity practices and doing sustainable things,” said Fletcher Whitwell, managing director of Las-Vegas-based marketing and advocacy agency R&R Partners. “Vegas has not always been the easiest market to attract talent, and having great benefits and great practices has helped attract people.”

Phyllis James, chief corporate social responsibility officer at MGM Resorts International, Las Vegas’ largest employer, said MGM has known that corporate social responsibility is an important factor in recruiting employees “for some time.”

In a fall 2016 MGM employee survey, the largest driver of employee engagement — “by a huge margin” and across the age spectrum — is what the company does in corporate social responsibility, James said.

Corporate giving over time

“We have employees saying, ‘That’s one of the reasons I joined the company,’” she said. “Increasingly, we find that employees are also considering the reputation of the company and its role within the communities where they operate.”

James added that employees want to identify with their employer.

“They want to feel that their employer stands for something more than the source of a paycheck,” James said. “And that is a very, very powerful motivation for a lot of our employees nowadays.”

Dawn LaBonte, senior vice president for community relations and senior manager at Wells Fargo in Las Vegas — Las Vegas’ largest financial services company — said she agrees that corporate social responsibility has always been a part of the equation for employees.

“What attracted me all those years ago was going out in the community and seeing all these people all the time volunteering. Everywhere I went I saw Wells Fargo people; I saw Wells Fargo cares about the community,” LaBonte said. “I made a conscious choice to come to Wells Fargo because that mattered to me.”

But LaBonte said she’s also noticed a change.

“What I’ve seen was more of a strategic lens begin to develop, as awareness came around the importance of social responsibility — and more importantly with our younger generation. They know that there’s a difference in employers, and they are looking for spaces where they can connect with community and find a relevant space. They’re looking for employers that embrace and connect with diversity and inclusion in our diverse markets,” LaBonte said.

Authenticity and messaging

James said it’s MGM’s authenticity that has helped its corporate social responsibility to be successful in helping with recruitment.

“Our programs are based on how we see our position in our community and our commitment to the execution of our commitment. And it’s our commitment that drives our sister programs which in turn is what we talk about in our recruitment,” James said. “We haven’t evolved our corporate responsibility in order to do better recruitment. It’s quite the opposite.”

LaBonte called recruitment and retention a “great side effect” of Wells Fargo’s initiatives.

A 2016 Deloitte millennial survey found that employees likely to remain longest at a company share their organization’s values and are more satisfied with its sense of purpose and support of professional development.

But it has to be authentic, Whitwell said.

“Companies like Toms, it’s in their DNA. You buy a pair of shoes, and they give away a pair of shoes. You see more companies taking that route. Subaru and Patagonia are totally for the environment, as just part of who they are. The customers who they have come back because they’re supporting the brand and because they support the things they stand for.”

Millennials have played a role in this shift, he said, because there are 80 million of them in the United States alone, making up a large chunk of the workforce and consumer base.

But it’s also a combination of the digital age and a changing culture.

“Brands used to talk to customers by giving out messages. And now, customers can share and provide feedback and give ratings with social media. I think that has customers asking what they want from brands, and looking to seek a brand that is aligned with their values,” he said.

Derrick Feldmann, the lead researcher behind the Millennial Impact Project, said millennials are just the embodiment of “years and years of conversations around community service and work/life balance.”

Jones, the Henderson resident, said she inherited a lot of her attitude toward working and volunteering from her mother, Valerie Frazier.

Frazier agreed and said she was recognized two years in a row, she thinks 2010 and 2011, for being one of the top 10 volunteers at her previous workplace in the health insurance industry in Philadelphia.

“I think I did something like 63 volunteer hours,” she said, and Jones would often come along.

Contact Nicole Raz at nraz@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512. Follow @JournalistNikki on Twitter.

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