ATD Blog

6 Sustainable Strategies to Attract Millennials

Monday, October 31, 2016

An organization’s mission, vision, and culture have a significant impact on the quality of the candidates it attracts, especially Millennials. Given the pervasiveness of social media, websites, and “best of” rankings, an organization’s culture is apparent to potential candidates well before they become an employee. Highly successful companies engage potential candidates on key issues, such as their sustainability vision, strategy, and programs as part of their information and recruitment processes. While all potential candidates find this information relevant, Millennials are especially interested in selecting an employer whose values align with their own. 

According to the Pew Research Center, the Millennials (75.4 million) have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation living in the United States. Millennials make up a third of the American workforce and their numbers are growing. Engaging Millennials on social and environmental issues such as diversity, supply chain standards, community investment, climate response, and carbon footprint is crucial to attracting the best and the brightest talent. According to a Deloitte survey, 87 percent of Millennials view a successful business as going beyond financial metrics to focus on issues such as product quality and safety, stakeholder satisfaction, and environmental and social impact. In fact, according to a Brookings Institute paper, 64 percent of respondents indicate that they would take a $40,000 per year position that they value, rather than a $100,000 per year position they don’t. Attracting top Millennial talent requires organizational leadership to adopt a sustainable strategy supported by authentic messaging, a robust culture, and functional actions that build social, environmental, and financial capital. 

Human capital management professionals have an important role in shaping, communicating, and promoting a sustainable culture to attract and retain top talent. Some best practices to promote an organization’s sustainable strategy to Millennials include:

  • identifying Millennials’ values and demonstrating alignment with your organization’s sustainability vision, mission, actions, and behaviors

  • engaging potential candidates by promoting environmental, social, and governance goals and actions in websites, marketing messages, and applicant portals

  • educating college recruiters on the organization’s sustainable strategy and developing a narrative including examples of programs and projects that demonstrate senior leadership’s commitment to sustainability

  • creating a clear program for college recruits to understand how their role will affect sustainability goals

  • leveraging cross-functional relationships to ensure that the organization’s sustainability message and commitment is consistent both internally and externally

  • introducing your firm’s sustainable vision during the onboarding process and getting new recruits involved with projects and programs that demonstrate your corporate social and environmental responsibility from the beginning. 

Once you have recruited the top Millennial talent, make sure that you have plans in place to keep them engaged. This group is one of the most diverse generations. Programs such as employee resource groups, flexible work arrangements, and skill-based voluntarism help to support a sustainable culture by creating an inclusive and meaningful environment. But the secret is C-suite leadership and demonstrated action. Employees want to be proud of their employer; that means management must truly commit to a sustainable organization. 
Jet Blue’s leadership team is committed to a sustainable approach, stating that its business success depends on a healthy environment and efficient and effective natural resource utilization. To keep their sustainability mission at the forefront of employees’ minds, Jet Blue has a garden at JFK airport where it grows its signature blue potatoes and other crops. Employees volunteer to help in the garden and often pick up a few things from the garden on their way through the terminal. The garden serves as a great reminder to Jet Blue employees that sustainability is a core organizational pillar and part of everyone’s job. Jet Blue was listed in the top 10 of the Forbes America’s Best Employers of 2016 list. 

Find more information on how to leverage a sustainable strategy to attract, engage, and retain the workforce in Becoming a Sustainable Organization.

About the Author

Kristina Kohl is the managing principal of Becoming Sustainable, a division of HRComputes, which provides strategic guidance to senior management to maximize the value proposition of sustainable strategy. Kris has spoken at global conferences including the PMI Global Congress and the Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference and has been a guest lecturer at numerous institutions and events. In addition, she has contributed whitepapers and articles to various organizations and publications. Kristina holds an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. She is also a Project Management Institute member and a certified PMP. Please contact her at [email protected] or follow her @KrisKohl.

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