Employers spend lots of time working out what makes Generation Z tick. And how to shape their practices and policies to attract this coveted group.  Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is never far from their minds.

Today’s new wave of recruits prioritise social responsibility in their own lives and are determined to join organisations that care about their well-being, as well as that of the community. In a nutshell, that means CSR must become part of a company’s recruitment strategy to attract top talent.

The stats are fairly compelling. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, “7 in 10 young adults consider themselves social activists” – that was fewer than 4 in 10 ten years ago. And 78 percent of millennials indicated that CSR directly influences whether they would work at an organisation. Gone are the days when an extra week’s holidays would be enough to entice prospective employees.

We know this generation is seeking meaning in their work. That’s easy to take on board but truth is, on the ground, it’s not always easy to make mundane office tasks meaningful. However, if you can link that work to meaningful initiatives in the community, you can create a real opportunity for differentiation from your competitors. Let’s face it, in many sectors, lots of firms must appear very similar on the outside. It’s through associations with social causes that they can achieve stand out.

So how do you sync your CSR strategy to your talent attraction strategy?

First and foremost, make it real – it needs to be cemented into the very foundation of your organisation. This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to an inability to find the right talent or follow the crowd. Today’s generation will quickly detect the insincerity!

Don’t be quiet about it. In many instances CSR activities is just an afterthought, so show real commitment by making it front and centre in how you present your company. On your website, for example, don’t relegate it to a drop-down from your ‘About Us’ tab – give CSR its rightful place on the navigation bar.

Remember, meaningful CSR is not about donating, it’s about engaging. A cheque handover is pretty lame compared to mobilising the office into helping a hospital or cleaning up the local environment – because it’s bottom up, not top down. Inviting input from staff in determining what cause to support is part of this.  That said, be consistent with your CSR – it stands to reason that long-term support will be more beneficial than one-off stunts designed just to garner publicity, so be committed to it.

Segment your target market – what causes appeal most to prospective recruits and can they be stitched meaningfully into your CSR strategy? Homelessness, sport, children, inclusion … these are all areas that are likely to strike a chord with Generation Z. This is not cynical or self-serving – it is a given that CSR will work best in your organisation if the causes its supports are those that matter to the people who make up the organisation.

And there’s another benefit. Staff can learn new skills through involvement in the company’s corporate responsibility practices – skills which they can bring to their roles in the company.

For example, in IBM staff bring their core competencies and skills in such areas as project management, strategic planning and engineering to entrepreneurial companies based in emerging markets. What better way to nurture global leaders?

CSR is about giving, not taking. But by doing it right, in a sincere way that resonates with staff as well as customers, the rewards for both giver and receiver can be substantial and enduring.