Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility on Employer Branding and Candidate Perception

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Employers seeking new markets in which to establish operations have a myriad of metrics and parameters to consider when determining the best geographical location for everything from new manufacturing plants to retail stores, operations headquarters and even call centers. Once a company has assessed the minimum rate of pay, talent availability and workforce legislation regarding overtime, wages, healthcare, and other benefits, there is still another aspect of the most favorable markets for employers to consider. This last factor may not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but it is equally (and some may even argue more important) than all of those other factors which ultimately affect the bottom-line.

The mission and culture of an organization create the public’s ethical perception of a brand and its reputation. The adage that actions speak louder than words plays out on a daily basis for brands on social media. In an age when brand reputation management is full-time job rec, it is even more important for employers to be mindful of their company’s actions and how social legislation may impact workforce patterns. Candidates in the labor pool also develop an ethical perception of employer brands based on media, advertising, and the organizations actions. Whether a company chooses to sponsor an event associated with a brand not favored by the public or opens a new facility in a city that recently passed legislature that would adversely affect the workforce (which received negative media coverage) these choices may impact a candidate's level of interest in that organization as an employee.

By the year 2025, the generation referred to commonly as ‘Millennials’ (people born between 1982 and 1993) will make up 75% of the global workforce. At 80 million individuals, the millennial generation is the largest generation. They are tech savvy, vocally pro personal rights and extremely well connected to their digital world. In addition to this, global candidates overwhelmingly pointed to the increasing importance of employer brand when making career decisions, according to an October 2015 ManpowerGroup Solutions Survey. Over half of all candidates (56%) said ‘brand’ is more important to them than it was five years ago. The 2014 ManpowerGroup Solutions Candidate Preference Survey (which was limited to North America) found that increasing years of candidates’ experience in the workforce was positively correlated with the importance of brand reputation. Moreover, while this appears to be the case in the 2015 global survey, the recent study also showed a correlation between the importance of employer brand and younger, Gen Y candidates (18-34 years old). Regardless, the data shows companies can benefit from building and embracing an active employer value proposition (EVP), or a unique set of offerings, associations and values that positively influence target candidates and employees.

From the 2015 survey, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) also emerged as an important motivator and an important aspect of an employer’s brand for Gen Yers. Among those who identify CSR as one of the three most important elements of a company’s brand, 58% fell into the age range of Gen Y. The trend is even stronger in Australia and Mexico, with 62% of CSR-driven candidates in Mexico identifying as Gen Y. As Victoria Bombas, RPO Director at ManpowerGroup Solutions Europe explains, “Gen Yers in the UK are concerned with a company’s ethical profile. Specifically, they are concerned about sustainability and employment practices. In the UK, the media reports on poor company practices. It not only results in bad publicity but stocks decline as well.”

“Australian candidates expect more from companies these days when it comes to CSR,” said Guy Bryant-Fenn, Sales Director at ManpowerGroup Solutions Australia. “Inclusivity around the issue of people with disabilities is a big issue here, and our recruitment programs are starting to reflect that reality.” Furthermore, while the hot button issues and politically charged causes may vary from region to region, the responsibility that businesses feel to project a company culture of acceptance, equality, and forward thinking has recently become very evident in reports from major news media outlets. For example, high profile brands have announced that they will discontinue plans to create jobs or open new facilities in some markets due to conflicts between the company’s ethical, moral and social code and the social legislation of that city, state or province. Recognizing that a company’s decisions are reported in real-time on social (as well as by traditional news sources), many companies are identifying this area of business as an opportunity to build trust, with not only their customers but potential employees and candidates.

Being mindful of the perceived company and brand culture will only aid in the attraction of candidates and retention of existing talent. The first quarter of 2016 has already set the pace for a landmark year with regards to companies practicing confident CSR. Many are already making the news with investment and job creation decisions based solely on social legislation and social justice. Businesses are operating with the ideals of transparency, modern ideas about how teams collaborate, family/work life balance and breaking the barriers of the traditional nine to five work schedule. The response from candidates has been encouraging; with candidates listing a company’s website (53%), search engine results (52%) and social media (30%) as their primary resources for company information only increasing the importance of the availability of organic, favorable brand-centric digital content.