Social Causes at Work: Why Millennials Are Connecting to Causes and Companies

By Amanda Moore, Senior Sustainability Manager
Jul 9, 2014 1:05 PM ET

Social Causes at Work: Why Millennials Are Connecting to Causes and Companies

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the MCON Conference in Chicago, an event AT&T proudly helped sponsor. MCON is focused on bringing together leaders from corporations, social causes and the public service sector to engage Millennials across these fields. Samantha Lasky, Director of Communications for AT&T’s C&S team, spoke on a panel of peers that explored corporate engagement of Millennials in the workplace and highlighted AT&T’s emphasis on social responsibility and talent development.

Millennials are often characterized as “slacktivists;” their activism is defined by “likes” on social media (think of that person spamming your page with opinions on a social cause) and signing internet petitions, but generally not by taking concrete action to support the causes in which they claim to believe. Spending two days at MCON highlighted that many Millennials are not only committed to changing this perception, but using their work and their companies to inspire others to become more engaged in their communities and causes.

Social cause entrepreneurship was a popular topic, including discussions about the importance of education, providing skill sets to workers in developing nations and focusing on social good over technology. And the discussion was not just limited to small businesses and non-profits; several leaders from large corporations spoke about their commitment to communities and using their resources to sponsor social causes. One corporation focused on partnering with a non-profit that connects kids with community service opportunities. A leading restaurant chain wanted to go beyond simply donating leftover food and created several non-profit community cafés where payment is by suggested donation and volunteers are a significant part of the staff.

So why does AT&T care about engaging with Millennials? AT&T recognizes that the Millennial generation is critical to the future success of our company. We are #5 on Forbes’ “Top 20 Companies for Young Professionals” ranking in 2014. Talent development is a major priority, and we have multiple career programs designed to train recent graduates and shape future leaders. I completed one of AT&T’s development programs after graduating from college, and I certainly credit it for allowing me to develop my career in a unique way within a company the size of AT&T. I’ve seen first-hand the growing emphasis on recruiting innovative Millennial employees, highlighting their contributions and focusing on retention (i.e. creating the OxyGEN Employee Resource Group to attract, develop and retain AT&T’s young professionals). AT&T’s commitment to and emphasis on  hiring Millennials is especially apparent as AT&T has moved away from being the “phone company” to being an innovative technology company.

AT&T initiatives like Aspire and the Udacity nanodegree program demonstrate our commitment to investing in the future and an important social cause: education. From the employee side, we can do many things to contribute to the cause: mentor students, host job shadowing events or take advantage of opportunities to build our own skill sets. Encouraging our employees to support and participate in advancing our mission around education ties back into the MCON conversation around social cause and the role of corporations in the community. I’m proud to work for a company that invests in the community and leads by example in the future of education.