Half of Employees Won't Work for Companies That Don't Have Strong Corporate Responsibility Commitments, According to New Cone Research

Giving and volunteerism remain a priority, but employees want more
Jun 1, 2016 11:15 AM ET

BOSTON, June 1, 2016 /3BL Media/ – Two-thirds of American employees feel their work and personal life are becoming increasingly blended and nearly all (93%) want to work for a company that cares about them as an individual, according to the 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study. The study reveals an increased expectation for companies to provide not only basic benefits but also ones that allow employees to bring their passions for social and environmental issues to the workplace.

Employees today want it all. In addition to traditional benefits, such as affordable and quality health insurance (94%) and a competitive financial package (92%), employees are seeking more contemporary benefits. In fact, employees say opportunities to support causes or issues they care about (64%) is as important as wellness programs (69%) or tuition reimbursement (66%). Beyond benefits, more than three-quarters (78%) say they want to be an active participant in helping their company improve its responsible business practices by providing feedback, ideas and potential solutions.

“As employees integrate their work and personal lives, they see coming to the office as much more than collecting a paycheck,” says Alison DaSilva, executive vice president, CR Research & Insights, Cone Communications. “They are not limiting their social consciousness to after work hours and want their employers to give them opportunities to make a meaningful difference, whether that’s providing a platform for supporting personal issues or being an active participant in their company’s corporate responsibility efforts.”

Corporate Responsibility Drives Recruitment and Retention

A company’s social and environmental commitments are key drivers in recruitment, retention and loyalty for today’s workforce. Nearly three-quarters of employees (74%) say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided with opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues – and seven-in-10 (70%) would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to important issues. Corporate responsibility (CR) is also a significant consideration for candidates when deciding which job to take:

  • 58% consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work
  • 55% would choose to work for a socially responsible company, even if the salary was less
  • 51% won’t work for a company that doesn’t have strong social or environmental commitments

The notoriously transient mature Millennial segment, aged 27-35, is significantly more likely to view CR as a key factor. Two-thirds say they won’t work for a company that does not have strong CR commitments (vs. 51% U.S. average); and once hired, they are more likely to be loyal (83% vs. 70% U.S. average) when they feel they can make a positive impact on issues at work. Retention among this highly sought-after employee base has huge implications for business.

Employees Set Sights on CR Commitments    

Employees want more than traditional engagement opportunities -- they want to feel invested in their company’s CR commitments. More than seven-in-10 not only want to know what their company is doing, but are also willing to roll up their sleeves to further their company’s positive impacts:

  • 71% want their company to provide opportunities for them to help make a positive impact on the company’s social and environmental commitments
  • 75% say it’s important their company shares its goals, progress and related achievements
  • 77% say it’s important their employer provides them with hands-on activities around environmental responsibility
  • 47% believe companies need to find a balance around providing opportunities that focus on individuals’ personal interests and the social and environmental issues most important to the business

“Today’s employees are eager to make a positive impact at work and they want to be actively engaged in CR initiatives,” says Lisa Manley, executive vice president, CR Strategy, Cone Communications. “Companies can improve employee engagement and enhance business performance if they give all employees an opportunity to engage in CR through education, activities and open calls for ideas and innovations.”

Volunteerism on Employees’ Own Terms

When it comes to volunteering at the workplace, traditional opportunities still lead the way. Employees look to companies to provide turnkey ways to participate in volunteerism through company-wide days of service (67%) and corporate-led activities throughout the year (67%). However, more than half of employees are looking toward more progressive volunteer models, such as micro-volunteerism (63%) and paid service leave (61%), as well as a strong desire to engage through after-hours opportunities (58%).

Preferred engagement varies based on different demographics. Although both men and women prioritize corporate-led activities, men are more willing to make a greater time commitment to volunteerism through paid service leave (67% vs. 56% women), after-hours service opportunities (60% vs. 55% women) and service trips (59% vs. 48% women).

Employees also want to flex different muscles in applying their time and energy to worthy causes. Although much attention is given to a newer skills-based volunteer approach, only a quarter of employees say this is their preferred type of engagement. Over half (53%) prefer a blend of skills-based and non-skills-based activities, and nearly a quarter prefer to leave their workplace skills at the office (23%).

“The stakes are higher for companies to provide more progressive types of volunteer experiences,” says DaSilva. “Employees seek opportunities that give them the flexibility to customize when they do it, what they do and how they participate, whether that’s quick opportunities they can do at their desks or life-changing paid sabbaticals.”

Philanthropy at the Office Gets Personal

Employees view their employers as facilitators and multipliers for their own philanthropic efforts. With the explosion of crowdfunding today, helping colleagues in individual fundraisers or during times of need (78%) topped the list of giving opportunities. Employees also prioritized other donation programs that allow them to support issues that are important to them personally:

  • Matching gifts (70%)
  • Dollars for doers (69%)
  • Urgent appeals for critical issues or during times of disaster (69%)
  • Payroll deduction (60%)

Reach Employees Where They Are With What Matters Most

Employees don’t want to look too hard to find information on engagement opportunities. Companies should leverage tried and true communications channels to reach employees where they are looking. Employees prefer to learn about opportunities through internal email or newsletters (43%), management (38%) or collateral or events at their place of work (31%). A quarter of employees also see newer methods, such as intranets or customized portals (27%) or employee ambassadors (23%), as priority channels.

Social media also presents a burgeoning communications opportunity, as employees see this as a way to personally share and amplify their participation:

  • 52% want to share their own photos, videos and experiences on their personal social media platforms
  • 48% would use designated company hashtags to share their own photos, videos and experiences

When looking at particular social media channels, Facebook reigns as the best channel to reach all employee demographics (57%). Yet, marked differences exist among specific audiences:

  • Men are more likely than women to use Twitter and YouTube (Twitter: 26% men vs. 14% women; YouTube: 28% men vs. 11% women)
  • Millennials are twice as likely to engage on Instagram and Snapchat (Instagram: 45% vs. 23% U.S. average; Snapchat: 25% vs. 10% U.S. average)

To further motivate employees to participate, it’s important to understand they are equally inspired by altruism and personal gain. Although making a meaningful difference (85%) is a top incentive for engagement in workplace activities, employees are just as motivated by more self-serving goals such as professional growth (87%) and financial incentives such as bonuses or gift cards (85%). Other important motivators include:

  • Personal recognition (79%)
  • A meaningful personal experience (e.g., exploring new places, meeting new people) (76%)
  • Perks (e.g., better parking spaces, “casual Fridays”) (74%)

Mature Millennials and Young Gen X are Standout Supporters

Mature Millennials (27-35) and Young Generation X (36-44) rose to the top as highly-engaged employees in today’s workforce. These segments are prioritizing involvement in social and environmental issues with much more enthusiasm than the average American:

  • Consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work:   79% Mature Millennial; 68% Young Gen X; 58% U.S. average
  • Would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues: 83% Mature Millennial; 79% Young Gen X; 70% U.S. average
  • Believe it is important for their employer to share goals, progress and achievements related to the company’s social or environmental commitments: 89% Mature Millennial; 83% Young Gen X; 75% U.S. average

“All eyes may be on Millennials as the next wave of engaged employees, but companies shouldn’t forget their managers and leaders,” says Manley. “Young Gen Xers share the enthusiasm of their younger cohorts and are ready to invest their time, money and personal passions to support important issues at the office and in their communities.”

About the Research
The 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study presents the findings of an online survey conducted April 11 – 20, 2016 by Toluna among a random sample of 1,020 adults, employed at companies with 1,000 employees or more, comprising 510 men and 510 women, ages 20+. The margin of error associated with a sample of this size is ±
3% at a 95% level of confidence.

About Cone Communications
Cone Communications (www.conecomm.com) is a public relations and marketing agency that is Always Making a Difference for business, brands and society. With a unique combination of corporate responsibility, consumer brand and integrated marketing expertise, our people deliver emotional storytelling and business value for every client. Cone is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC), a global group of marketing services companies.

About the DAS Group of Companies
The DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) (
www.omnicomgroup.com), is a global group of marketing services companies. DAS includes over 200 companies in the following marketing disciplines: specialty, PR, healthcare, CRM, events, promotional marketing, branding and research. Operating through a combination of networks and regional organizations, DAS serves international, regional, national and local clients through more than 700 offices in 71 countries.