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Using corporate responsibility to mind the talent gap

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Shannon SchuylerNews headlines across the world remain focused on record joblessness and struggling economies. A deeper story, however, lies in the scarcity of talent facing corporate America. Today’s workers simply don’t have the skills employers need.

PwC’s recently released 2012 Global CEO Survey found that almost 60 percent of U.S. CEOs planning to hire this year believe it won’t be easy to find the right people. (And this despite a jobless rate that’s hovered in the 9 percent range for months in the U.S.)

Almost a quarter of the U.S. CEOs confirm they were unable to pursue a market opportunity and another fifth were unable to innovate effectively because of talent constraints. Eighty-four percent of these CEOs are making direct investments in workforce development, but these measures alone aren’t enough. Most people consider hiring and retaining the right people a human resources issue, but I and others in the corporate responsibility (CR) community consider recruitment and retention inextricably linked to our field.

Once new employees have been recruited, companies can use CR as a lever to keep them engaged, satisfied and productive. A meaningful link exists between corporate responsibility and employee engagement, recruitment and management.  Numbers support this: A 2006 GlobeScan survey found that 83 percent of employees in the so-called G7 developed countries say an employer’s positive CSR reputation increases their loyalty, and loyalty is directly linked to retention and pride in quality service and deliverables.

For a company like PwC that doesn’t manufacture any goods, talent issues are amplified because human capital is our greatest asset. Our employees are undoubtedly our most important internal stakeholders and we want to be responsive to their priorities, both professionally and also in the CR space. Acting as a responsible company means listening to what employees want and providing them with an opportunity to accomplish it. Viewing affinity circles as more than just an avenue for diversity, but for like personal commitments whether it is environmental stewardship, social innovation or hand-on volunteering, is critical to move interest in firm sustainability efforts into engagement. Studies show that Millennials – those born between 1981 and 2000 – are more interested in CR than previous generations. Seven of eight Millennials are more likely to choose an employer with CR values that echo their own, according to a 2008 PwC survey, “Managing Tomorrow’s People”. On the flip side, a similar percentage would consider leaving an employer if its CR values no longer matched their expectations. This should be viewed as a real opportunity and further evidence that CR needs to embedded into the culture and daily experience of an organization and not solely driven by external brand awareness or technology driven efficiencies.

At PwC, the average age of our employees is 27. So, for us, it’s clear how a strong CR commitment further connects Millennials to the firm. Our CR fellows program, founded in 2011, allows employees to take on CR leadership roles on a rotating basis on the national team. This fosters engagement, empowers our people, and delivers the nontraditional skill-building that creates great leaders in an increasingly complex marketplace. By engaging employees, we enhance business value in dollars (higher productivity and quality), recruitment (attracting and developing your biggest advocates and champions) and ultimately retention.

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