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The Untapped Potential of Millennials

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The “Problem” With Millennials

Countless articles have been written about the transient nature of 20 somethings: their continuous feelings of stagnation, of being lost in their current work and looking to be “fulfilled”. There is a New York Times best seller, complete with accompanying website, and multiple blogs, tumblrs and self-help landing pages all looking to help us find our way, or at least make a joke on our behalf. This is a feeling often misunderstood by older generations as selfish entitlement. StrateJoy has one of the best descriptions I’ve seen for the Millennial mindset:

“You’re most likely a baby of Gen Y who refuses to settle for a ‘good enough’ life.  You want the whole enchilada. You want the energy that comes along with being authentic, the “I love my life” sparkle, the inner calm that surfaces when you’re on the right path.”

The short answer to this is, “YEA! SO?!” Sure, my generation has the reputation of being entitled, but this is in part a result of our desire to engage with the world around us. A previous post by Allison McGuire hit the nail on the head when she wrote:

“We feel responsible for ourselves, our neighbors (online and off), our communities, our planet. We grew up learning the importance of recycling and using less water, and that our actions directly affect our communities. In return, we believe that companies have a responsibility to us, our society, and our world.”

Millennials, Purpose and Turnover Rates

Yes, Millennials believe in engagement. According to the 2012 Edelman goodpurpose survey, Millennials and Gen X’ers are more likely to buy or recommend a product or service from a company that supports good causes and to switch brands if a different brand of similar quality supports a good cause. The impact of purpose on Millennials’ purchasing decisions is undeniable, but it can also influence their career choice.

Millennials are notorious for having high employee turnover rate, particularly if their job does not provide a sense of fulfillment. According to the Deloitte’s global talent survey, “Talent 2020”, Millennials are statistically more likely to leave their current position than any other segment of employees. To combat this, employers need to find a way to harness Millennials’ belief in engagement.

But why bother? Simple- Millennials have the potential to be a company’s biggest employee advocate. A recent Gallup study assessed how behavioral economics, which emphasizes the role of psychology and the interplay among rational, perceptual and emotional processes in human decision making and economic behavior, can drive business growth and profitability. The study found that “just as engaged customers are among an organization’s most profitable patrons and passionate advocates, engaged employees are an organization’s most productive and efficient workers.

So how do you engage Millennials?

For starters, look at employee trust in your company. Deloitte’s “Talent 2020” study found that more than six in ten employees who plan to stay with their current employers report high levels of trust in corporate leadership. The goodpurpose study also shows that 56% of global consumers think it is the role of the CEO to create socially responsible and innovative products. Similarly, the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer found that corporate citizenship is a major factor in building trust. All these surveys show there is a huge opportunity for engagement through strong leadership. CEOs must think proactively about using their business to address issues, which will in turn raise employee trust.

Creating opportunities for employees to engage in social purpose is equally important. This could be anything from surveying employees on where to donate a portion of the company’s profits (the Edelman goodpurpose study found 51% of global consumers believe companies should donate a portion of profits or products and services to help address a social issue) to creating a volunteer program. (According to a 2011 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT survey, 61% of Millenials said a volunteer program would be a factor “when choosing between two potential jobs with the same location, responsibilities, pay and benefits.”) For more ideas on employee engagement, a recent Forbes article by Ryan Scott offers up some interesting thoughts around how to get your employees to stop job hunting.

Ultimately, it comes down to engagement. According to the Gallup study, organizations that engage employees grow their earnings more than 2.5 times faster than organizations that do not. Millennials are already open to engaging with brands and look for purposeful work. It’s time to start leveraging their potential and incorporating employees into the planning and implementation of purpose goals.

Rebecca Andreassen is an account executive in Edelman’s San Francisco office. You can follow her @thisbeccalynn.

This post originally appeared on purpose.edelman.com on October 24th, 2012.

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