Three-Quarters of Millennials Would Take a Pay Cut to Work for a Socially Responsible Company, According to Research from Cone Communications

88% say their job is more fulfilling when employers provide opportunities to make a positive impact
Nov 2, 2016 11:15 AM ET

BOSTON, November 2, 2016 /3BL Media/ – Three-quarters (76%) of Millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work and nearly two-thirds (64%) won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices, according to the 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study. The study reveals that meaningful engagement around CSR is a business – and bottom line – imperative, impacting a company’s ability to appeal to, retain and inspire Millennial talent.

More than any other generation, Millennials see a company’s commitment to responsible business practices as a key factor to their employment decisions:

  • 75% say they would take a pay cut to work for a responsible company (vs. 55% U.S. average)
  • 83% would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues (vs. 70% U.S. average)
  • 88% say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues (vs. 74% U.S. average)
  • 76% consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work (vs. 58% U.S. average)
  • 64% won’t take a job from a company that doesn’t have strong CSR practices (vs. 51% U.S. average)

“Millennials will soon make up 50 percent of the workforce and companies will have to radically evolve their value proposition to attract and retain this socially conscious group,” says Alison DaSilva, executive vice president, CSR Research & Insights, Cone Communications. “Integrating a deeper sense of purpose and responsibility into the work experience will have a clear bottom line return for companies.”

Millennials Seek Involvement in Corporate Social Responsibility

Not only do Millennials want to hear what their employers are doing to be more responsible, they want to be co-creators and facilitators of CSR solutions. This group is the most likely among American generations to want to be directly involved in a company’s CSR efforts:

  • 88% think it is important their employer shares goals, progress and achievements related to CSR efforts (vs. 75% U.S. average)
  • 89% want to be active participants in helping their company improve its responsible business practices by providing feedback, ideas and potential solutions (vs. 78% U.S. average)
  • 89% expect employers to provide hands-on activities around environmental responsibilities in the workplace (vs. 77% U.S. average)

“For Millennials, it’s not enough to simply work for a company that’s doing good,” says Lisa Manley, executive vice president, CSR Strategy, Cone Communications. “This generation wants to get their hands dirty – providing ideas, suggesting improvements and participating in efforts on the ground. Companies that give Millennials opportunities to get involved will be rewarded with a more engaged and invested workforce.”

Millennials Look to Companies to Help Make an Impact Inside and Outside the Office

This always-on generation feels their work and personal lives are increasingly blended (81%), so it’s no surprise they want companies to provide opportunities to make a difference beyond the “9 to 5” work schedule. Millennials are significantly more likely than their older cohorts to view employers as conduits to making an impact both inside and outside the company walls:  

  • 83% want their company to provide support and resources for them to make positive social and environmental changes at home (vs. 70% U.S. average)
  • 84% want their company to help them identify ways to get more involved in their communities (vs. 65% U.S. average)
  • 83% wish their employer would provide volunteer opportunities they could do with friends or family (vs. 66% U.S. average)

“Millennials see where they work as an extension of who they are and what they stand for,” says Manley. “For this generation, it’s important to work for an organization that gives them the opportunities to make a difference in all aspects of their lives, whether that’s in the office or out in their communities.”

Millennials Seek Diverse Volunteerism Opportunities

Just as Millennials see their jobs as an extension of their personal brands, they expect the volunteerism opportunities provided to them to be just as diverse as they are. Although Millennials still see traditional opportunities like company-wide days of service and corporate-led activities as important, they are more likely to prioritize a range of options that allow them to multi-task during the day, put in sweat-equity after hours or take a sabbatical to fully focus on service. Millennials seek volunteerism activities including:  

  • Corporate-led activities (83% vs. 67% U.S. average)
  • Company-wide days of service (81% vs. 67% U.S. average)
  • Paid service leave (79% vs. 61% U.S. average)
  • Micro-volunteerism (76% vs. 63% U.S. average)
  • Service trips (75% vs. 54% U.S. average)
  • After-hours service opportunities (73% vs. 58% U.S. average)

And Millennials are not naïve in thinking employee engagement opportunities should only be about supporting personal passion points. This generation is nearly twice as likely as their Generation X peers to believe companies should provide opportunities focused on the social and environmental issues most important to the business (40% Millennial average vs. 21% Generation X average).

Meaningful Personal Benefits Drive Millennial Engagement

When it comes to what inspires Millennials to get involved in CSR activities, Millennials value professional growth and financial gain slightly more than perks or personal recognition. Although making a meaningful difference trumps other motivations (94%), Millennials are more likely than the average American to be motivated by self-serving reasons:

  • Professional growth (93% vs. 87% U.S. average)
  • Financial (e.g., bonuses or gifts cards) (91% vs. 85% U.S. average)
  • Meaningful personal experiences (e.g., exploring new places, meeting new people) (90% vs. 76% U.S. average)
  • Personal recognition (87% vs. 79% U.S. average)
  • Perks (e.g., better parking spaces, “casual Fridays”) (86% vs. 74% U.S. average)

Reaching Millennials Where They Are

Millennials seek information about CSR efforts in different ways. Although the average American employee views a company email as the most effective way to be reached with engagement communications, Millennials prefer to learn about opportunities from a senior leader or supervisor (47% vs. 38% U.S. average), followed by collateral at events or around the office (35% vs. 31% U.S. average).

Millennials are also most likely to use social media to not only learn about efforts (79% vs. 55% U.S. average) but also as a way to share the impact they’re making at work with their broader social networks:

  • 76% want to share their own photos, videos or experiences on their personal social channels (vs. 52% U.S. average)
  • 75% would use designated company hashtags to share their own photos, videos or experiences (vs. 48% U.S. average)

Not surprisingly, Millennials are more likely to use a number of different social media platforms to share their employee engagement activities. Although Facebook remains the top channel (74% vs. 57% U.S. average), Millennials are nearly twice as likely to see Instagram (45% vs. 23% U.S average), Twitter (34% vs. 20% U.S. average) and YouTube (34% vs. 19% U.S. average) as effective channels.

“Millennials view social media as a place to curate and share content that reflects their values – and this generation is enthusiastic about showing how their work is making an impact in the world,” says DaSilva. “Companies that arm employees with the tools to make social media sharing as turn-key as possible will create authentic ambassadors for their CSR efforts and build the brand from the inside out.”

About the Research
The 2016 Cone Communications Millennial 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, comprised of 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 ( 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 Omnicom Public Relations Group.

About Omnicom Public Relations Group
Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and specialist agencies in areas including public affairs, marketing to women, fashion, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,000 public relations professionals in more than 330 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.