Collaboration on Social Issues Helps Earn Young Americans’ Trust

A number of studies have shown that a company’s efforts to “do good” can influence young adults’ purchase and employment decisions. Now, a new study sheds light on whether those positive influences translate into the kind of trust that can build long-term customer loyalty.


Influencing Young America to Act is the first study by a new initiative, Cause and Social Influence, with support from the Case Foundation. The first of many to come, the report is a significant step toward identifying the influences that prompt behavior change in consumers ages 18-30.


Overall, the study found Young Americans are unhappy with the direction in which our country is moving. Though they are dissatisfied with President Trump’s leadership in general and his approach to addressing social injustice in particular, young adults have less trust in companies than in government to bring about social change.


Influencing Young America to Act is a call to assess your company’s social good program from the perspective of today’s young adults with an eye toward inspiring and cementing their trust in your authenticity, values, and motives.


Young Americans port their cause engagement

When young adults take a stand on an issue, will they find you already in the conversation, offering information and support – and taking an unequivocal position? If you have been the conduit for young people to get involved in a cause, do you immediately begin building a relationship, or do you move on to the next potential consumer?


Influencing Young America to Act showed that while adults 30 and under stay passionate about the causes they care about, they can and do change their minds about the organizations through which they support their cause. If your company isn’t perceived as authentically involved and supportive, they will take their business/money/support where they believe it will be more effective and appreciated.


The bottom line: Companies must nurture these relationships with transparency, collaboration, and open dialogue.


Your young adult employees make up the first audience you should be nurturing. You simply cannot take their support or involvement for granted. By collaborating with employees on the creation of CSR and workplace giving/volunteering programs, companies can demonstrate inclusivity and strengthen their relationship with their young adult employees. 


Lead from behind

Having a powerful, influential voice about a cause does not necessarily mean you should be its leader, no matter how many resources you have.


Where Young America lacks trust in companies and government, they make up for it in trusting (and thereby influencing) each other. They’re not looking for a savior; they don’t want your company to lead them to what you perceive as the answer. They want a partner. This is the role you can play working side by side with young Americans on social issues.


Explore the philosophies of leadership and leading from behind. Take a clear position on a cause and share resources, as long as you’re working collaboratively with others who are doing as much as they can, too, to help the cause. This means exercising influence indirectly, sharing ideas as an equal participant, allowing everyone to contribute and sharing the credit for milestones, and creating opportunities for learning. Then, when the group needs more clout and protection than anyone else can provide, you can step up.


It’s the right time

Young Americans believe that their actions on social issues will lead to improvements – far more than those who do not. Concurrently, though, many are uncertain whether their actions will make a difference. That’s where companies can truly have an impact: by empowering individuals, causes and movements to make real change happen.


As we contemplate the possibilities for mobilizing Young America in support of our companies’ causes, we must work harder to strengthen their trust in us.


To find the recent report, click here.


[Editor’s note: Derrick Feldmann will be speaking at our 2018 Corporate Citizenship Conference November 14 and 15. Click here to learn more.]