Millennials, the technology-addicted generation of effortless multitaskers, have shaken up society. We are changing attitudes, driving change and looking for solutions to many of the problems created by previous generations. From an employment perspective, we try to avoid more mundane occupations like waiting, construction or auditing, and instead look to develop our careers in more fulfilling ways. We are also less likely to show loyalty to a single employer, hence the ‘job hopping’ characterisation. Instead, we yearn to be part of an organisation that makes a positive impact on society and the environment, and one that offers the freedom of job flexibility. This is having a massive impact on how companies run their businesses – and even how consumers invest their money.
The ethical employee
As millennials were brought up in a society that is evolving rapidly – both technologically and culturally – ethical, societal and environmental change is important to us. This has driven us to avoid conventional careers, and big organisations who do little by way of sustainability management. According to a worldwide study by Deloitte, 75% of millennials feel that corporations are only out to pursue their own agendas, which primarily involve financial gain. Although this is, obviously, critical to the running of a company, the overall success of a business is increasingly being judged against a wider range of measures. As a result, we are seeing companies strive to make a more positive impact on society and the environment; develop innovative ideas, products and services; nurture employees’ careers; and diversify their workforces.
Much of this millennial trend can be traced back to the importance we place on having satisfaction in what we do for a living. We want to be proud of what we do and how we contribute to an organisation’s wider aim of improving itself, its workers and the society in which it operates. It is with such companies that millennials will want to work.
Similarly, a policy of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can boost a company’s attractiveness to shareholders. In the 2016 Responsible Investment Association Trend Report, it was revealed that 75% of investors analyse a business’s stance on governmental, social and environmental affairs. Almost equalling this figure is the percentage of investors who view sustainability management as a way to dampen risk factors in an uncertain market. For example, General Electric (GE) introduced its ‘Ecomagination’ brand in 2004, in which the company sought sustainable practices for social and environmental issues; this project was GE’s only source of growth during the 2008 financial crisis. From this example, it’s clear that adopting a serious CSR policy can significantly benefit a business, even one as large as GE.
The flexible fanatic
The other priority item on the workplace agenda of millennial employees is flexible working. These days, we all want to enjoy a healthy work-life balance. This is not just an aspiration that older generations aim for but largely fail to achieve; for us, it’s essential. The good news is that, globally, according to the Deloitte report, two thirds of millennials admit that their employer has adapted to flexible working arrangements in one of the four forms: flexible working hours, flexible recruitment, flexible role or flexible location. Embracing such flexibility clearly leads to a more positive working environment. In turn, it’s not hard to see that it enhances the success of the business, and the well-being and loyalty of its staff. To quote the report: “those employed where flexible working is highly embedded [compared with those employed where it is not] are twice as likely to say it has a positive impact on organisational performance and personal well-being.”
In addition, any employer that looks to maximise its employees’ experience in the workplace will see a rise in productivity as their staff go above and beyond their contracted tasks. This is shown in the research of Jacob Morgan, author of The Employee Experience Advantage, who writes: “experiential organisations had more than 4 times the average profit and more than 2 times the average revenue. They were also almost 25% smaller, which suggests higher levels of productivity and innovation.”
This hunger for flexibility means that the gig economy often catches the eye of the millennial. The opportunity to take on contracts and projects at their own discretion provides greater freedom, and potentially a higher income. Again, to cite the Deloitte report, 70% of millennials in full-time senior positions would consider short-term contracts or freelancing.
The future of work and investment
Millennial employees should be regarded highly. Their technological talents and fresh, sustainable thinking are pivotal to producing new and innovative ideas. Retaining their services should be a priority in any forward-thinking, growth-oriented business.
Meanwhile, the potential impact on investment is also becoming clear. Investors are becoming increasingly enticed by stocks linked with positive brand associations, strong corporate citizenship and mitigated exposure to climate risks. By 2017, almost $60 trillion of sustainable investment assets was managed by over 1,300 investment funds worldwide – and that figure is rising fast. In Canada alone, for example, there were more than $1 trillion of sustainable investment assets by 2016, a 49% increase over 2014.
What’s more, Bloomberg and Goldman Sachs analysts agree that stocks with positive sustainability criteria tend to outperform those of companies that have weaker sustainability programmes. A report by Goldman Sachs noted, “more capital is now focused on sustainable business models, and the market is rewarding leaders and new entrants in a way that could scarcely have been predicted.”
To conclude, a workplace offering working flexibility and ethical guiding principles is often as attractive as salary to a talented millennial. In showcasing both of these qualities, it seems increasingly obvious that employees, companies and investors can all draw financial benefits. It’s a win-win-win situation.
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