Why a green workplace culture attracts Millennials

millennials
Karen Gately

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written on December 12, 2017

As Millennials will soon dominate the workforce, here are some tips to satiate this socially conscious generation.

Australian greenhouse gas emissions are at an all time high, says a recent report in the Guardian – as good a reason as any to consider going green. But there is another factor at play – attracting millennials.   By 2025, Millennials will make up three-quarters of the global workforce. The need for organisations to attract and retain them is growing; yet all too often leaders and HR professionals alike continue to criticise what they perceive to be an impatient, unrealistic and demanding generation. 

The time has come to stop complaining about the challenges Millennials typically bring, and prioritise how to get the best from them. Like any other generation, Millennials are unique and demand different things in order to earn their loyalty.

Why a green culture matters

Research consistently points to the need for meaningful engagement around corporate social responsibility (CSR) in order to attract, retain and engage Millennial talent. Socially and environmentally conscious, Millennials typically care about the impact the organisation they work for has on the world.

More than any generation before them, Millennials rank an organisation’s commitment to responsible business practices highly in their employment decision making.

According to a recent Millennial employee engagement study by Cone Communications, three-quarters of Millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.

Alison DaSilva, executive vice president of CSR Research & Insights at Cone, argues companies will need to “Radically evolve their value proposition to attract and retain this socially conscious group”. With 83 percent of Millennials being more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues, DaSilva suggests that “Integrating a deeper sense of purpose and responsibility into the work experience will have a clear bottom line return for companies”.

The Opportunity

A recent study undertaken by Generate Insight found Millennials are one of the most highly educated demographics when it comes to understanding the importance of ecological and environmental conditions. The 2017 Deloitte Millennial survey found 59 per cent believe they have at least a fair amount of accountability for protecting the environment.

The Deloitte report also suggests, however, that “Many Millennials feel unable to exert any meaningful influence on some of society’s biggest challenges”. Only 38 per cent believe they are able to have any real influence on environmental issues.

The good news for employers is that research also suggests being involved with a “good cause” through work helps Millennials feel empowered and able to influence the world around them. Deloitte argue that through workplace programs, Millennials “Can feel a greater sense of control – an active participant rather than a bystander”.

Building a green culture

Among the most important steps an employer can take to build a green culture include:

Be real

There’s little point claiming to care about the environment if your organisation’s actions say otherwise. Be honest in the way you describe your organisation’s aspirations and efforts to make a positive difference to our planet.

Drive from the top

Like any other aspect of culture, change must be driven from the top. Work with the CEO and senior leadership team to ensure they understand not only the environmental but also commercial benefits of a green culture. Focus leaders on the role “going green” can play in attracting and retaining the best among the Millennial generation.   

Apply your values

Reflect on your organisation’s values and the ways in which they can be applied to support environmental causes. For example, a commitment to quality can be leveraged to articulate the importance of avoiding waste.

Educate

Invest in your team’s understanding of environmentally responsible practices. Through training and policies, support people to grow their awareness of the difference they can make. Even small reminders such as the need to turn lights off can make a difference.

Challenge ways of operating

Encourage every member of your team to challenge the way in which your business and people operate. Implement operational and policy changes that will allow your team to go about their jobs in a more environmentally sustainable way.

Focus your efforts

Channeling fundraising or volunteering efforts towards a targeted charity or cause can have a big impact on employee engagement. While supporting a broad range of initiatives or organisations is valuable, far greater impact is likely to be achieved when people feel united toward a common goal.

Provide resources

Invest in resources that support your team’s efforts to be environmentally friendly. For example, provide bike racks to encourage people to ride to work, bins to enable recycling and biodegradable products.

Reward contributions

Look for opportunities to reward individuals or teams who stick to green practices or achieve improvement targets. Maintaining engagement can in part be achieved by showcasing what the organisation and individuals have been able to achieve.

Aim for gradual and sustainable change

 Rolling out a whole bunch of green initiatives in one hit is unlikely to work. Take a longer-term view of educating and inspiring people to think and act green every day. Reinforce commitment through ongoing review of the approaches you take and initiatives you support.

Karen Gately is a founder of HR Consultancy Ryan Gately.

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Comment

One thought on “Why a green workplace culture attracts Millennials

  1. There is no doubt corporate social responsibility has gained momentum over the last 10 years. In large organisations dedicated resources provide easy access to managing and delivering programs to engage employees. Not only Millennials though across all generational demographics.

    In small or medium size organisations this relies upon champions of ideals to ‘sell’ the idea to leaders and initiate working groups. I have observed this work effectively, however, it does rely upon a few dedicated to the cause employees that continue to drive the programs. The results are worthwhile, especially when leaders approve paid work time.

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