How Brands Can Attract Millennials Looking For Meaningful Work

Young, idealistic workers are now the majority of the workforce. That means big opportunities for nonprofits and social-driven businesses, if they play their cards right.

How Brands Can Attract Millennials Looking For Meaningful Work
[Photos: Flickr user Santea]

Millennial ideals are about to take over the workforce.


This January, millennials began outnumbering their older colleagues in the workplace, and as a handful of studies have shown, this generation cares a lot about finding meaning in the workplace. That’s a big opportunity for nonprofits, B Corps, and other companies with social good missions. Over half of millennials are willing to take a 15% pay cut to work at a company that matches their ideals, research shows.

In a new white paper, urban innovation hub MaRS and social impact career site BMeaningful examine what it takes for mission-driven companies to find the millennials who are the best fit for their workplaces–and how millennials can be more attractive to these companies in the first place.

For companies, there are a number of hurdles involved in attracting top talent. One of the biggest problems is brand recognition. There are just a handful of well-known social impact brands–Patagonia, Toms, Warby Parker–while startups and lesser-known companies can struggle to get applicants. The report’s advice? Step up recruiting efforts by competing for top students before they graduate.

“There’s a lot of top talent, especially in university. This top talent might be interested in working in, say, a social finance organization, but no one is recruiting. There’s Goldman Sachs with a job offer for them, and they end up taking the formal but known approach,” says Amanda Minuk, co-founder and CEO of BMeaningful. Cultivating interns for future full-time positions also alleviates the pressure (and cost) of outside recruiting efforts.

Another challenge: Millennials are vocal in surveys about being interested in meaningful work, but this hasn’t always translated into action. According to the white paper, just 18% of college students in the U.S. say that they plan to enter the nonprofit or teaching fields (more than that may be interested in for-profit social impact work, of course). That means mission-driven organizations have to work extra-hard to attract young workers.

Compensation is a major consideration for potential employees, and mission-driven companies don’t often have the advantage in that area. Instead, the report suggests that companies focus on the non-monetary forms of compensation that they can offer, like a sense of purpose, opportunities for growth, and a quality work culture. “Especially if you’re a new grad, you might be willing to forego higher compensation if you can foresee the long-term gain,” says Minuk.

Job descriptions should take pains to highlight these benefits as well. Instead of focusing purely on the nuts and bolts of a position’s requirement, they can attract socially minded candidates by pointing out the company’s larger social impact and its unique opportunities for growth. These are, Minuk writes in an email, “key factors that influence top talent and will help prime future employees to know what it’s really like to work there. ” According to the report, millennials are especially fond of volunteering. Some 94% of millennials enjoy skills-based volunteering, and 87% like company volunteering days.


As for how millennial job-seekers be more attractive to potential employers–the report suggests that workers first expand their definition of a mission-driven job. “A lot of people, when they think of meaning, it only has to be working with a charity,” says Minuk. “There’s more to a job than charity.”

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.