How to lure Gen Y workers? Do good

Recruiters highlight their community and environmental projects to draw civic-minded youth. Efforts are window onto corporate culture and give firms a leg up with top students.

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By Tami Luhby, senior writer

Mary Morgan spent a week working with children in Belize during her summer internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
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NEW YORK ( -- When it comes to recruiting the Millennial Generation, it isn't only about salary ... it's about community service.

Young people entering the job market today want to work for companies that care about the world, and employers are picking up on this trend.

As recruiters prepare to descend on college campuses next month, many are revamping their brochures and banners to highlight their community service and environmental initiatives. They are drawing attention both to their corporate responsibility efforts and to the volunteer opportunities they provide their workers as a way to lure top students to their firms.

"Companies are now recognizing that it's a powerful way to recruit and attract the Millennials," said Alison DaSilva, executive vice president at Cone Inc., a strategy and communication firm in Boston that has studied Gen Y's dedication to social issues.

Millennials, who grew up volunteering and recycling, want to work for companies they believe are socially aware, experts said. A record 83.3% of incoming freshman reported they frequently or occasionally volunteered over the previous year, even though the vast majority of them were not required to do so, according to the 2007 CIRP Freshman Survey, conducted annually by the University of California, Los Angeles.

More than just talk

For this generation, a company's community involvement often needs to be more than just talk, experts said. Nearly four in five Millennials say they want to work for a company that cares about how it affects or contributes to society, according to a 2006 Cone survey. Some 68% said they would refuse to work for an employer that is not socially responsible.

When meeting with prospective employers on campus, students are increasingly asking about companies' social and environmental initiatives, experts say. And the Millennials talk about their own commitment to changing the world.

"We see it in the activities they organize in their clubs and fraternities," said Amy Thompson, director of campus recruiting at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which in June sent 100 of its interns to Belize to volunteer in four elementary schools. "Their interest is real."

Seeking to capitalize on this growing trend, firms are retraining recruiters to talk to prospective interns, who may one day join the companies full-time, about community involvement.

"It's an actual talking point," said Richard Bottner, founder of Intern Bridge, a college recruiting and consulting firm. "In the past, it was never part of the pitch."

Seedling giveaways

Even the giveaways send a message. Instead of post-it notes and highlighters, some companies are handing out tree seedlings and recycled bags, said Laura Bochenek Klein, an associate director in Rice University's career services center.

Some employers are taking it a step farther. IBM, for instance, is debuting a new recruiting campaign with the tagline "Work for the World. Start @ IBM."

IBM's brochures highlight the company's involvement in green technology and innovations in helping the blind experience streaming video and animation. It tells prospective employees: "You will make a might contribute on a grand scale or perhaps influence the life of a single individual." Recruiters, meanwhile, will further explain the tech giant's efforts in cleaning up rivers around the world or aiding employees who volunteer in their local schools.

The company hopes that showcasing such initiatives will lure top college talent.

"This is a real differentiation point for IBM," said Vera Chota, IBM (IBM, Fortune 500)'s manager of university recruitment and internship programs in the United States. "We think this is something students are interested in."

An eye into corporate culture

Employers also see the heightened community service focus as a way to introduce students to firm culture.

At a Merrill Lynch recruiting booth, for example, the Millennials can learn about the investment bank's global philanthropy initiatives, including teaching children about personal finance and entrepreneurship. Merrill also discusses the firm's environmental efforts, which range from providing mass transit incentives to employees to studying wind turbines.

"We want to tell them about our culture," said Lauren Casa, a recruitment manager for Merrill Lynch (ML). "At the end of the day, they make a decision on where they feel most comfortable and whom they identify with."

Mary Morgan of Saddlebrook, N.J., knew that PricewaterhouseCoopers was the firm for her after she learned about its fundraising drive for malaria and participated in its Project Belize this summer. The Manhattan College senior, an uber-volunteer who also raises money to buy anti-malaria mosquito nets and provides books to low-income children, accepted a full-time position at the firm because she admires the high-priority it gives to community service.

"They showed me they really live this corporate social responsibility," said Morgan, 21, a double major in economics and accounting. "That really resonated with me." To top of page

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