Thoughts on attracting, nurturing and retaining the talent to sustain your business.

Workplace flexibility, better benefits and higher pay are not the only causes of the current so-called 'Great Resignation'. While employee turnover is nothing new, the regularity with which people are moving roles is increasing, because their motivations are changing.

It wasn’t that long ago that jobs were a simple transaction – do the work and get paid. Motivations have been of a ‘carrot & stick’ nature for many generations. However, it has been reported recently that almost two-thirds of people would prefer to work for a company with effective environmental policies, and many millennials would actually accept a pay cut to do so. Quitting because of a mismatch between personal values and an employer’s was relatively rare but now it is not that unusual.

Employees don’t just want higher salaries, although they will of course demand them, they also want investment in their and society’s future. They want a collaborative endeavour, a shared sense of identity, and common purpose towards a greater good. It’s important to them that they have a genuine, though not necessarily an in-person ‘connection’, with their co-workers and their employer.

A strong ‘green’ ethos within an organisation is a key factor for many candidates when choosing where to work. Recent studies by Deloitte and McKinsey have highlighted the climate as the single biggest issue younger workers care about and this is consistent with the underlying trends we see in the media. Sustainability really is important if your company is to win the best talent out there. The current experience of many employers might not yet reflect this because a large proportion of management are Generation X, of whom only 17% feel the same way. As soon as 2025, Millennials will account for 75% of the global workforce, so understanding their mindset is an immediate issue, demanding attention and action right now.

The ‘greenwash’ of discursive prolix position statements (all abstract aspirations and woolly goal-setting) are easily dismissed and are increasingly being mocked. Consider too that the millennial candidate is, thanks to the convergence of many other factors, now in a relatively strong position to be the interviewer – that is, to determine if your company is worthy of their time.

'Ethos & Credibility'

Essentially, the efficacy of your answers to sustainability questions will boil down to whether your company can be trusted to keep to its promises. Some corporate soul-searching might be tough and corrective measures painful, but hard-earned credibility will serve you well over the longer term; and ‘employer branding’ has never been more important.

To achieve any meaningful change, companies must accurately measure and honestly report their carbon footprint. This isn’t just essential for the planet, it is an opportunity to relaunch and remarket your business, not just to its customers, but to the talent it will need along the way.

Having a published strategy on sustainability is no longer a competitive advantage, it’s a fundamental requirement – a pre-qualifier. The good news is, it’s never too late to get one, but it should be refreshed regularly to keep pace with the science and public sentiment. Get this right, and the best talent will be drawn to you. It assuredly will.

The really hard part is not the strategizing, nor the recruiting of such talent (both are challenging, no question) but it is the leadership of the business that is vitally important to get right. The skillsets and mindsets required of managers, executives, directors – and especially the CEOs – at the top of every company are very different now in this incredibly competitive recruitment market. If a company has the right leadership in place to respect and recognise the values of its people, as well as reward them for their efforts, it will have a fighting chance.


Lorri Lowe
Partner, UK

First published by the Confederation of British Industry on 6 June 2022 here.

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