There’s much talk these days about Millennial engagement – or disengagement, depending on the workplace you’re now inhabiting.

Actually, it’s more than idle conversation:  Executives, HR leaders, consultants, and professional pundits fill the media with analyses (psychological and otherwise), statistics, and good old solutions.  How do we retain and recruit this generation?  What’s the magic bullet?  Do we, can we truly understand this cohort?

In our head, the answer’s found in three letters many companies embrace:  CSR, or corporate social responsibility.  Today many of us recognize that Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life applies not just to individuals, but also to organizations.  The sense of contributing to a larger good, whether that means creating and implementing sustainable food strategies or lifting up the communities in which we work, is pervasive and, often, genuine.   That calling, experts say, motivates us to be more productive, toil longer hours, and be less likely to dial in sick or bolt for another position. 

But.  Many Millennials yearn to be on the CSR frontlines, actively, daily, even hourly making a difference.  The occasional service day won’t suffice.  Neither will a sense of belonging to a company that practices good. 

On the other hand, there are all too few dedicated CSR positions, for-profit or not.  [Our prediction:  The economy’s ebbs and flows will dictate an ever-decreasing number.]  And this M generation, not unlike the Boomers, has little patience for waiting.

Why not embed CSR in every individual’s job description, then?  Those fueled by the mission for a better tomorrow will automatically integrate at least a few sentences – and actively look for appropriate ways to contribute … in addition to their full-time gigs.  We’ve seen it happen:  The thoroughly blasé become enthusiastic; the slackers, actually engaged.  The kicker word is, of course, “appropriate.”  Every people manager must be trained on CSR’s meaning, what is acceptable (and not so much).  As should every employee at every level. 

It’s the meaning that matters, after all.