Want to attract and keep talent? Give employees purpose

New research suggests a majority of student job-seekers and currently employed professionals value employers concerned with social or environmental impact.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

There have been plenty of research studies suggesting engaged employees who actually care about the company that employs them or, at the very least, about the sort of work they do are more likely to be productive. Fair enough.

Increasingly, however, professionals and job seekers are seeking purpose along with their paycheck.

Now, new research from non-profit organization Net Impact suggests a link between employee satisfaction and the focus that their employer puts on corporate or environmental responsibility. It turns out that professionals that are in a position that they feel will make a better world or contribute to society are much more satisfied than their counterparts -- by a 2:1 ratio.

The authors of "Talent Report: What Workers Want in 2012" note:

"We see these satisfaction levels reinforced when digging into ways people feel connected to impact through their jobs, too. For example, 45% of employees who say they worked directly on a product or service that makes a positive social impact report being very satisfied with their jobs, compared to 29% of those who don't. The research finds similar numbers for people who provide input on sustainability or corporate responsibility issues at work or volunteer alongside their co-workers."

The Net Impact research is based on a sample of 1,726 university students about to enter the workforce and employed college graduates from three different generations: Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers. The satisfaction numbers above obviously apply to those who are employed. Overall, approximately 55 percent of that group reported that they felt they were in a job role where they could make a social or environmental impact on the world.

If probably isn't a surprise to you that the data shows students were more like to rank finding "an impact job" as either "very important" or "essential" to their happiness. Approximately 72 percent indicated that this was so, versus 53 percent of the currently employed survey respondents.

Moreover, 35 percent of the students said that they would take a 15 percent pay cut to work at a company committed to corporate social responsibility; 45 percent said they would be willing to do it for a job that makes a social or environmental impact.

Net Impact reports that attitudes about working for a company or business with a purpose are more similar than not across different generations. Between 61 percent and 70 percent of the respondents across all generations believed that they held personal responsibility for improving society.

Indeed, gender seemed to be the biggest differentiator: 60 percent of employed women said that working for a company that prioritizes social or environmental responsible is very important, compared with 38 percent of men. I have a sense that those numbers might reflect simple economic realities, and that it probably reflects the rise of two-income households.

There were some notable generational differences, however, surfaced in the Net Income survey:

  • Less than half of the students voted in the past year, versus 77 percent of the Boomers
  • More individuals from older generations said they had actually boycotted a product or service because of the values of the company that makes it
  • Boomers were more likely to donate or volunteer in their community

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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