Today, many companies are using corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities to strengthen bonds among employees and help them feel a sense of company pride. The participants are seeking more personalized experiences indigenous to the program destination, as well as activities that allow them to give back to the communities they visit.
According to research from Cone Communications, "Millennials are more engaged in corporate social responsibility efforts and are far more likely to participate in CSR initiatives." Which helps explain why the 2015 SITE Index research shows that incorporating CSR into an incentive travel program has become the norm, with approximately seven in 10 programs including a CSR activity.
More than ever before, we need to ensure that we are creating CSR activities that specifically target and excite this group. That has far-reaching implications for the travel and hospitality industry.
When looking to leave a legacy in a destination, we like to incorporate a wellness element into a CSR activity. One example is to revisit the traditional "treasure hunt" experience and instead provide delegates an opportunity to work together towards a positive, common goal of giving back to the destination. We supply each team with buckets, spades, seeds, saplings, and a GPS unit with coordinates to follow. At each designated spot there is the opportunity for the team to plant a tree or create a garden along their trail -- leaving a beautiful and lasting mark on the local destination, and at the same time providing the outdoor activity Millennials look for in their lifestyle.
Their preference for fun, personalized workouts, healthy foods, and holistic wellness can be incorporated into programs. At many Ovation Global events, we supply bikes for attendees to use to explore the destination, and we provide guides for attendees to walk the route to venues that are within walking distance. This combines wellness with a smaller carbon footprint.
When considering CSR activities, we need to focus a lot more on current global issues rather than just localized ones. Millennials have come of age during a time of enormous economic and social disruption, and this gives them a very different set of attitudes and behaviors than previous generations. One example is the current migrant crisis. That speaks closely to this generation as they are growing up experiencing it firsthand. CSR programs are now including opportunities for a company to give back to the migrant community by offering English as a second language classes and supporting employees whose relatives are still living in unsafe areas by providing safe transit and sponsorship.
Millennials are not looking for tried and tested programs -- they enjoy the unknown, and want to be challenged. It is important for planners to uncover Millennials' distinctive passion points, and engage them in a way that speaks to their personal drivers. And it's up to us, as experiential specialists, to design CSR activities that are far more creative and unique than ever before.
Aoife Delaney, CIS, director, global sales for Ovation Global DMC in Dublin, Ireland, is the youngest president-elect of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence.