An Overlooked Strategy in the War for Talent

The financial industry is engaged in a war for talent, and the competition is especially fierce for tech workers who have much more choice and bargaining power than the average job seeker. The major players are big banks, credit unions and community banks, and fintech firms. Though fintechs and big banks may be winning on salary, as they battle it out over money, many millennials are considering jobs at credit unions and community banks. One large reason is a distinct competitive advantage they offer: a more tangible commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

Today’s workforce, and not just the millennials, is highly engaged with social and environmental causes. Embracing and demonstrating your commitment to these causes is a powerful differentiator in the war for talent and will help you recruit and retain the best talent.


The biggest challenge in the war for talent is recruiting new employees in competitive fields. If a candidate can work anywhere they want and a fintech is offering more money, why should they come work for you?

According to a study by Cone, 76% of millennials (the workforce’s largest social cohort, with approximately 92 million US members) consider a company’s social and environmental responsibility practices when looking at a job offer, and 64% of millennials will not even consider a job with a company that doesn’t have strong practices in place. And it’s not just millennials, for the general population these stats are 58% and 51% respectively.

But perhaps the most surprising statistic is that 75% of millennials and over half of all Americans would take a pay cut to work at a more responsible company. So that salary gap between your credit union and a fintech might not be as big of an issue as you think.

Reducing Turnover

As every manager knows, recruiting is only half the battle. When you get a highly skilled and in-demand hire, their email and LinkedIn inboxes will be targeted by your competition from day one.

A study by Donald Vitaliano, a professor of Economics at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, looked into turnover rates of the Fortune Magazine list of 100 best employers controlling for all variables but measures of corporate social responsibility. His results were dramatic, showing an annual quit rate of just 3-3.5% at firms rated as socially responsible. These numbers were 20-30% lower than those of firms that weren’t rated as socially responsible.

So when fintech and big bank recruiters start hitting up your employees on LinkedIn, your organization’s reputation for social and environmental responsibility will make them a bit less likely to reply.

Boosting Morale and Productivity

The same values that attract and retain employees can also make them happier and more productive. Employees working for an organization that actively values social and environmental responsibility have a stronger sense of purpose and tend to believe in their mission more than employees at average companies. This sense of purpose gives them a strong drive to get better results for the organization.

A UCLA study analyzing data from 7,700 firms put this hypothesis to the test by building a model that uncovers the relationships between environmental standards, labor productivity, and a number of other variables. They found that the adoption of environmental standards had a strong impact on labor productivity, resulting in a productivity increase of 16% to 21%.

This investment can not only help you build a highly skilled workforce, it can also help them stay at the top of their game.

Communicating these Values

How can you communicate your social and environmental values to candidates and employees? One of the strongest messages you can send is through your physical buildings – the first impression that candidates have of your organization.

A building designed with sustainability and wellness in mind, especially those built to LEED or WELL Building certification standards, will help the candidate feel like this place where they’re considering spending a third of their lives supports not only themselves but also their personal values.



To learn more about the impact that your workplace has on your organization and your people, check out our Workplace Ideabook.

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