CSR and the Coming Talent Wars

Why do talented employees leave companies, often despite good salaries??

This question keeps appearing uttered by talent agents and newscasters alike. They are saying this because, despite the ugly job market, people are jumping ship.

Beyond the typical reasons of bad management, poor working environment, and lack of stimulus – I would say that the top talent are fundamentally looking for something else.

  • Photo by Asif Akbar courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/photo/993138 Engagement
  • Purpose
  • Meaning
  • Challenge
  • Leadership
  • Inspiration

They leave because of a lack of one, or more, or all of the above.

The X-Gens were chastised for wanting to have jobs that have meaning and purpose. The Millennials believe in community and doing good. Neither generation respond particularly well to money as incentive, beyond what is fair for the role they are playing.

This is one reason Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Sustainability, and Corporate Citizenship are gaining traction. This is a movement being led for the most part from within. Patricia Aburdene, author of Megatrends 2010 talked about the rise of conscious capitalism and these trends devaluing money as the motivation for employees. Daniel Pink’s latest work, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, echos these sentiments.

Companies that become aware of the impact that their business is having on the world (social, environmentally, culturally) and engage their workforce in finding solutions are  inspiring their employees, giving their work purpose and meaning. People start to ask “Why are we building these widgets in the first place?” “Is there a better way to do this?” “Who does this impact/serve?”

When people can connect their own personal values and vision with the work/task/job they are doing it creates meaning and purpose. Money rarely can provide that.

Just look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  We forget that for all intents and purposes, despite the recession, most of us have our basic and medium level needs met by work and life.  It’s our higher needs of purpose and meaning that are unfulfilled. Ironically, the recession has exacerbated this because as people have simplified and downsized their lives, their awareness of what their needs really are get magnified along with what is important to them. This then translates to “Why am I doing this work?” and “How does it provide value and meaning and purpose to my life – beyond financial.”

Top talent migrates toward value, meaning, and purposeful work.

This means a radical shift in talent retention and acquisition in the coming years as X-Gens and Millennials dominate the workforce.

Is your company embracing Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability on a employee by employee basis?

Hint: Walmart is – starting with their PSP – Personal Sustainability Projects.

Closing Thought: The REAL Green Jobs Movement will be the result of fundamental changes in everyday business to be more conscious and engaged in their social, economic, environmental, and cultural impact.

Copyright ©2010 Matthew Rochte, Opportunity Sustainability℠ – Share with attribution

Opportunity Sustainability℠ is a Midwest-based sustainability and corporate responsibility consulting firm specializing in green innovation and seeing opportunities where others see burdens. Matthew Rochte LEED AP, an experienced, operations-based sustainability consultant, works with company management to navigate and realize the opportunities in taking their company green and growing sustainably.

Daniel Pink’s latest work, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, echos these sentiments.

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  • Hi

    I read this post with interest and completely agree to points made above. I’m with a global broadcaster and now keen to move on to work involving values behind CSR. I spend alot of time outside the TV job to do volunteer work and run hati.org.my and that I say gives me great satisfaction. My question is, where does one evolve when/if they fulfilled their needs to have purpose, meaning,etc?

    Many thanks

  • Some related resources:
    For more info on Maslow’s Hiearchy of Needs check out

    For a more advanced philosophical view of cultural/personal evolution check out Spiral Dynamics

  • Matthew,

    This piece really spoke to me. I heard Daniel Pink talk about changing expectations (including money as less of a motivator) in a recent interview. I like the question you ask: Does your company embrace CSR on an *employee by employee* basis? What are some of the ways you’ve seen companies effectively do this?

  • Nithya

    Hi Mr.Matthew,

    Thats really amazing to see your above mentioned idea about the talent wars!! I felt in same way you mentioned, I was blind about the reason behind, but now its like eye opening!!! Its a true factor that you had mentioned as below as the expectations of talents like me.
    Inspiration ”

    Being a comitted and talented Social Worker, still searching for right career in CSR field which is most suitable sector for attitude and Intelligence.


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