Recruiting

A Focus on the Environment to Attract Top Talent

Recruiting and retaining top talent is one of the most essential tasks of any organization. Particularly in the modern economy of the United States and other advanced nations, the human assets of a company often represent the greatest assets overall.

Understanding how to bring in and keep top talent is a dynamic endeavor. The things that motivated Baby Boomers aren’t necessarily the same things that motivate Millennials or Gen Z.

Environmental Concerns Matter

In particular, environmental concerns that were at most an afterthought for most baby boomers when considering employers are front and center for today’s younger workers.

Deloitte research indicates that 77% of Gen Z respondents feel it’s important to work at organizations that share their values. Writing for BBC Worklife, Christine Ro says, “Social values matter deeply to this population, and the issue of climate change particularly—in the US, Gen Z (people in their teens to mid-20s) are much more concerned about climate change than older generations. Similarly, in the UK, the health insurance company Bupa found in 2021 that 64% of surveyed 18-to-22-year-olds consider it important for employers to act on environmental issues, and 59% would remain longer with responsible employers. In Australia, young workers have left companies that aren’t doing enough to respond to climate change.”

Given this generational shift in attitudes toward the climate and the willingness to tie corporate environmental policies to willingness to work for a particular company, we wondered what employers might do with respect to their environmental policies and posturing for employee recruitment.

The Importance of Asking

Many experts in the fields of recruitment and retention talk about trying to guess what motivates younger workers. But, while it certainly is important to know what motivates this cohort, it shouldn’t be a guessing game. If employers ask younger workers what’s important to them, those workers will be happy to share.

“We’re constantly in conversation with our employees and candidates about what environmental issues matter to them and how they’d like to see us address them,” says Nelson Sherwin, manager of PEO companies.

“People want to know that their employer cares about the same things they do, and we feel that keeping an open dialogue going about environmental issues with our people shows that we are concerned and that we are listening to the concerns of our people,” he stresses.

Local Action Demonstrates Genuine Commitment

Many companies prominently proclaim their commitments to sustainability and environmental stewardship. But taking concrete action is a key step in proving that commitment to a generation that isn’t easily swayed by words alone.

“One of the best ways to attract and retain employees through green initiatives is by engaging in community support and interaction,” says Kathleen Ahmmed, cofounder of USCarJunker. “After all, a major aspect of eco-friendly branding comes down to generating goodwill among your target audience,” she says.

Ahmmed adds that organizations can do this by financing and supporting local charities, community initiatives, eco-friendly programs, and other activities. In addition, she suggests, it can also be helpful to “create a specific day each quarter where your staff can get out of the office and work as a team to help out the local community.” These activities, Ahmmed says, can be promoted in a variety of ways—for instance, through photos and videos that can be shared on social media channels.

While it may seem “a bit egotistical to talk about your company’s good deeds,” Ahmmed notes, it’s not. “You are simply letting people know that your business practices what you preach and has more to offer than just words.”

Internalize the Message with Eco-Friendly Company Policies

Making bold statements of support, and even taking part in external efforts to help protect the environment, can come across simply as PR stunts if companies don’t live up to their messaging with their own internal policies.

For companies with large fleets of vehicles, this could mean a commitment to switching to electric vehicles to reduce carbon emissions, for example.

For companies with less direct impacts on the environment, simply replacing older lightbulbs with more efficient alternatives can demonstrate action.

There are a number of simple things companies can do to help internalize an eco-friendly message. For instance:

  • Focus on promoting environmentally friendly practices in the workplace by making recycling efforts prominent.
  • Adopt environmentally friendly energy solutions, and make sure to share these efforts with key internal and external audiences.
  • Offer incentives and recognition to staff members who suggest or implement initiatives that are environmentally friendly.
  • Make green thinking an important part of your internal messaging to keep it top of mind.

The more you communicate the importance of being environmentally friendly, the more likely you are to engage employees in the process and boost your reputation as a green-conscious employer.

Encourage and Support Individual Contributions

While working for an environmentally conscious employer is great, younger workers with a passion for the environment also want to be able to contribute directly. It provides a sense of agency and impact that is often difficult for new hires to find.

To the extent possible, companies should encourage workers (of all ages) who are passionate about the company’s environmental policies to get involved directly. This could include anything from tasking a new employee with organizing a tree-planting event for Earth Day to including environmentally passionate workers on internal committees responsible for directing the company’s environmental policies.

Each generation approaches work and careers a bit differently. While financial incentives have long been paramount for many, younger workers today are passionate about social causes they see as directly impacting them, and the environment is the preeminent issue for many.

These most recent entrants to the labor market want to know that their labor and efforts are part of something larger than a job. Savvy employers recognize this and are seeking ways to assure current and potential employees that the company is a place they can be proud to work for.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.