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Growth Through Purpose ™
Growth Through Purpose ™

What Millennials Want at Work: 5 Ways to Inspire Purpose & Satisfaction

Studies show that millennials want to be part of building a better world and strongly believe that companies should do more than make profits. Although the business community is waking up to the realities of social responsibility, there’s still a disconnect between stated values and corporate action.

In fact, a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) survey found that nearly 80 percent of business leaders believe purpose is essential to company success, yet only a third actively incorporate it into strategic decisions. Further, the PWC report noted that while marketing efforts often emphasize brand purpose, internal employee culture frequently lacks a sense of clear social vision. Perhaps this is why less than a third of American employees are engaged in the office.

Purposeful work is so important to young business-minded individuals that they are willing to make less money in exchange for meaningful employment. A recent study found that over 90 percent of business students said they would forfeit a percentage of forthcoming earnings to work for a company actively involved in corporate social responsibility. Thus, it’s clear that millennials value more than money and strive to contribute to something bigger than themselves.

Just as millennials want a better world, they also want better lives. While serving a higher purpose is critical to millennial satisfaction, so is having a flexible work-life balance. This means letting employees choose when, where and how they work. Additionally, this technologically-savvy generation is ready to incorporate automation, but as Deloitte’s 2017 Global Millennial Survey illustrates, they are weary of the threat that artificial intelligence (AI) has on job security. Therefore, the most progressive brands balance goal-setting and flexibility, while simultaneously ensuring employees are included in technological advancements.

Here are 5 ways to appeal to millennials in your workplace:

1. Ensure employees know how they add value to business and society:  Millennials have made it clear that they want to contribute to a higher purpose; yet many feel unable to ignite real change. The Deloitte survey also found that this generation views work as an opportunity to have greater influence on global issues. Thus, it is essential to ensure each and every employee feels like they can actively contribute to building a better world on the job.

PWC was the first company to assign a Chief Purpose Officer tasked with embedding an understanding in every employee of how their work contributes to company vision, personal goals and the benefit of humanity. While this is an amazing signal to both internal and external stakeholders, brands should strive to engage all team members as ‘gears’ in the purpose machine. As Rich Lyons, Dean of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business wrote, “Make every employee a Chief Purpose Officer.”

2. Afford flexible working conditions: Flexibility not only gives employees a greater sense of freedom and control over their own lives, it also correlates with higher levels of satisfaction, productivity and profits. What’s more, it enhances ethical performance, brand reputation and strategic direction. Ultimately, setting performance goals, then letting millennials achieve them on their own terms, is an excellent way to keep employees happy.

3. Be transparent about automation and offer development courses: Although millennials expect automation to increase productivity, economic output, and creative time, they fear that robots will take their jobs.

This fear is not totally irrational; although, the transition to higher integration of AI will likely take place over decades, not months. In fact, a recent study by the McKinsey Group found that although nearly 50 percent of today’s jobs could be conducted with current AI, significant barriers — such as associated economic, social and political factors — hinder widespread automation in the near future.

Subsequently, changes in the job market will be adaptive in nature and require employees to learn new technologies. While IQ has been revered as a telling predictor of success, developing emotional intelligence to build strong interpersonal relationships between brands and consumers, shareholders and partners will be evermore essential.

Given these trends, in order to foster a sense of security and belonging brands should keep employees updated about technological developments, offer trainings and workshops that not only advance the company, but also help employees develop valuable skills pertinent to changing job markets.

4. Encourage participation in extracurricular purpose: While one might think compensating employees for charitable work would hurt the bottom line, embedding social activism into brand culture actually produces positive quantifiable effects in the long run.

According to the Deloitte survey, 35 percent of respondents that participated in charitable activities stayed with a single employer for five years or more, compared with just 24 percent of those without company-affiliated socially conscious extracurricular activity.  Essentially, employees who are encouraged and paid to participate in building a better world feel a deeper connection with their employer and tend to be more loyal.

5. Welcome engagement in social good: Open discussions between company leadership and employees about corporate social responsibility is an excellent way to strengthen employee involvement and internal community. To take it further, brands can invite input on key charitable decisions, such as what types of projects the company funds and its core social good strategies. Increased internal engagement in external initiatives can not only increase participants’ feeling of involvement in something bigger than themselves, but is also a great way to strengthen ties with strategic partners and showcase your positive impact to the world through happy and empowered employee brand ambassadors.

Millennials want a better world, not just bigger salaries. Thus, employee purpose is essential to maintaining a happy and engaged millennial workforce. Additionally, flexibility, technological integration and skill development offers employees improved quality of life and opportunities for creative innovation. All things considered, companies that weave purpose, flexibility and employee development within the fabric of the workplace will be better positioned to attract and retain top talent, optimize productivity and increase the bottomline; not to mention, taking part in a global corporate revolution, redefining capitalism to shape the future we all want for the next generation.


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Title image via Flickr courtesy of user Kathryn Decker at