Abraham Maslow would have been a great recruiter. The groundbreaking psychologist described human needs from the bottom up: people first seek physical survival, then safety, then belonging and acceptance, and finally a life in which they can create and positively affect others. The work world follows a similar progression as employees seek out baseline security, earnings, and work/life balance, all the while, striving for a job or career that actually means something.
Filene attended recruiting conferences and hosted roundtables with MBA students to talk about how to put credit unions on their employment radar. Not surprisingly, some MBAs are so focused on strategy consulting, or investment banking, or technology startups that credit unions didn’t even register on their radar. But a surprising number responded to the ideas of “people helping people” and “people before profits.” What most surprised us at Filene was that these students were intrigued by credit unions, but few credit unions were intrigued by them.
As not-for-profit cooperatives, credit unions have social responsibility in their DNA. Credit unions were a movement long before they were an industry, and where the shareholders are the customers, responsibility follows. This history and the structural difference mean that credit unions are socially responsible in a simple, do-right-by-members way. That ethos can turn into a recruiting advantage for credit unions that recognize it and act accordingly. But too often credit union rhetoric about member service is mired in old language. Even worse, too few credit unions make an explicit link between their socially responsible structure and their recruiting. We can’t assume potential employees will discover the link on their own. We must make it explicit and compelling.
All else being equal, I would take a 15% pay cut …
We conducted recruiting research in a partnership between the Filene Research Institute and Net Impact, a community of more than 30,000 change makers using their jobs to tackle the world’s toughest problems. In Talent Report: What Workers Want, Net Impact and Filene set out to investigate how people view impact jobs, or those jobs that provide the opportunity to make a social or environmental impact. Net Impact’s survey looked at a statistically significant national sample of 1,726 university students about to enter the workforce and currently-employed four-year college graduates from the millennial, Generation X, and baby boomer groups. At the time of this survey these generations were defined as follows: millennials were between 21 and 32 years of age, members of Generation X between 33 and 48, and baby boomers were 49 to 65 years old. The researchers examined each group’s life goals, job satisfaction, and prioritization for making an impact at work against other key job criteria.
But get underneath those baseline expectations and it’s clear that credit union values can be a powerful recruiting tool, because most employees, young and old, desire to work in a place that mirrors their values, and many actually want to work for a company that advances a social good, not just private interests. Lest you write such responses off as easy altruism, consider that more than one-third of young workers would take a 15% pay cut to work for a company committed to social responsibility and nearly one-half (45%) would do so for a job that makes a social or environmental impact.
Here are some other findings credit union recruiters and HR managers can put to use:
Impact jobs are satisfying. Slightly more than half of professionals (55%) say they are currently in a job where they can make a social or environmental impact on the world. These respondents are more satisfied with their job by a 2:1 ratio (49% report high satisfaction levels, compared to just 24% of those who do not have impact opportunities at work).
College students care. Responding to the statement, “Having a job where I can make an impact on causes or issues that are important to me,” 72% of college students say this is either essential or very important. That’s 13 percentage points more than millennials and 23 more than Gen Xers.
Impact expectations are high. The majority of students in our study expect their future job to offer impact opportunities. Companies or nonprofits that can offer students direct ways to engage with such opportunities through their job will have a recruiting advantage over others that can’t.
Women care more. For employers hoping to attract and retain more women, investments in impact jobs will pay off, as women are much more likely than men to say making a difference is important to them.
For some examples, consider including member testimonials on your jobs page. Connect directly with the Net Impact or socially responsible business club at your closest college. Give recruiting duties to your most passionate employees, whether they work for HR or not. Talk about how credit unions recycle your community or SEG’s deposits into community loans. Use language like “surplus” instead of “profits.”
Not every credit union is positioned to take advantage of these trends. For some, the idea of a credit union movement is a memory, not a motivation. And that’s just fine. But credit unions that see their differentiator as doing good by members every day should take these findings to heart and use social responsibility to attract conscientious employees. Those employees will stick around to become conscientious leaders.
Ben Rogers is the research director at the Filene Research Institute.
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