Millennials Want Workplace Ethics and Diversity
Studying the influence of Millennial workers, and what they care about, offers broad takeaways for businesses wanting to create an ethical company culture and long-term sustainability.
According to Brookings, as of June 2016, Millennials comprised 23% of the total population and 38% of the primary working age population. By 2025, they are expected to make up 75% of the workforce. At the same time, the number of Baby Boomers in the workforce is steadily decreasing. Pew Research Center reports that the Millennial labor force surpassed that of the Baby Boom by the end of 2014. Considering Millennials operate very differently than Baby Boomers (who have more or less defined the workplace until recently), companies should be strategic in developing their workplace culture and goals appropriately.
Millennials in the Workplace
Millennials have been stereotyped and mocked by news outlets as being “lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow.” However, that isn’t how they operate in the workplace. For years, Deloitte has surveyed Millennials around the globe to capture organizational insights and trends. In general, Millennials are pro-business and believe their company can be a force for positive change in the world. Out of approximately 8,000 surveyed Millennials, 74% believe that multinational businesses have the potential to make a positive impact in areas like economic and social progress, corruption, and inequality. But only 59% believe these companies actually accomplish this.
Yet many Millennials are work martyrs, who work long hours and hesitate to take time off, causing them to fall prey to stress, disengagement, and unhappiness. This suggests that workplaces traditionally have not geared their business operations, culture, and strategy to support Millennials and their values. Considering the huge effect Millennials are already having in the workplace, companies might be falling short of the mark.
There’s a lot that a company can do to attract and engage Millennials (hint: it’s not a stocked fridge).
According to Deloitte, 89% of surveyed Millennials want their employers to be involved in social issues and “good causes” for their own sake, not just for profits. Fortunately, the vast majority (82%) of Millennials report that their employers (as opposed to companies in general) are directly involved in issues they care about and support charities or social initiatives. Education, skills, and training are the most popular initiatives that their employers engage in.
However, companies seem to be less interested in tackling corruption in business and politics, the rights of minority groups, and crime/personal safety. These latter subjects are critically important to Millennial workers.
We have written many posts about the importance of an ethical organizational culture and anti-corruption efforts, which reflect the Millennial push for both. Employees want to feel respected and receive fair treatment from their organization, which in turn makes them more likely to reciprocate that behavior toward the company. “In other words, the company gets what the company gives,” writes my colleague Nicoleta Leontiades. Indeed, an effective ethics and compliance program echoes this sentiment, requiring strong leadership, ethical managers, and proper incentives in addition to training and exemplifying values that are seen as fair or legitimate. Culture helps support the “good” and helps reduce the “bad,” like insider trading and bribery — sure signs of corruption.
Brookings also reports that “the millennial generation is ushering in the nation’s broader racial diversity” because they are less likely to be white compared to former generations, like Gen-Xrs and Baby Boomers. Further, Millennials espouse another tenet of diversity: inclusion. The same Deloitte report found that Millennials are very accepting of people who have passionate opinions and who appeal to anyone who might feel “left out,” isolated, or that their voices are not heard. Millennials generally reject leaders who take divisive positions.
We’ve written previously about the importance of inclusion, focusing on topics that relate to protected characteristics, like gender diversity, religious diversity, and age discrimination. Diversity and inclusion practitioners know, however, that inclusion is much more than legal constructs. Behavioral diversity (i.e., work styles), structural diversity (i.e., communities), and business diversity (management styles) all contribute to inclusiveness. When embraced by an organization, diversity delivers a better workplace. Employers would be wise to prepare for their Millennial employees’ interest in this issue.
Millennials learn in distinct ways that older generations do not. Jayinee Basu, another EverFi instructional writer, reports in her post Engaging the Millennial Learner that Millennials learn better with multimedia approaches, gamification, and microlearning. However, Basu warns that not all training is alike. In the case of diversity training, poor instructional design, a lack of organizational commitment to diversity, and uninformed management can foil a company’s otherwise good-faith training efforts. Ethics training similarly follows these credos.
Companies should pay attention to their current and future Millennial workers. They represent a future of ethics and inclusion that all companies, regardless of generational makeup, should pursue passionately.
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