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As the year draws to a close, many of us naturally find our thoughts veering into “year in review” territory. Did my business accomplish its goals this year? How many personal milestones did I reach? And where can we improve in the new year?
In 2019, many business leaders are sure to be focused on courting fresh talent. Whether you’re looking to expand your current roster or replace outgoing employees, you’re likely jumping into a prospect pool that’s full of millennials (with Generation Z poised on the diving board).
There was a time, not so long ago, when it seemed like a foosball table and in-house massage therapists were the tools you needed to entice younger workers. But those workers have matured and so, too, has their list of desired workplace traits and perks. In fact, the results of the 2018 Deloitte millennial survey suggest that the superficiality assigned to that generation is all but gone.
While it’s true that the top item on the millennial wish list is financial rewards or benefits, the study’s authors say that’s tied to the more important, overarching desire to work for employers who are “proactive about making a positive impact in society” and “responsive to employees’ needs.”
Fewer than half (48%) of survey respondents believe that corporations behave ethically, and only 47% said that business leaders are “committed to helping improve society.” This demonstrates a clear and very wide gap between what millennials want and what they believe they’re getting, leaving a lot of room for thoughtful employers to step in and provide what’s missing. But here’s the catch: You have to actually stand for something.
That’s a scary notion to many of us who were trained in the “professionalism means keeping a healthy distance” way of doing business. Holding personal opinions of a political or social nature has always been one thing, but expressing them in the workplace was something altogether different. And broadcasting those opinions and beliefs to the public at large from a leadership position, well, let’s just say it was hardly even considered.
But in these uncertain times, younger workers are looking to business leaders to fill in where government officials have failed or come up short. A recent NPR story points to Nike CEO Mark Parker’s decision to feature former NFL quarterback (and current target of Donald Trump’s ire) Colin Kaepernick in its ads, and the bold move on the part of Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Ed Stack to remove assault-style weapons from his stores and refused to sell guns to anyone under 21.
Of course, not everybody agreed with their respective choices, and their businesses are feeling the effects — both negative and positive. But that’s the risk you have to be willing to take when you wade into these new waters. Consumers or clients may disagree with your stance and walk away, yet employees and prospective employees may appreciate your efforts to be an agent of change, creating a more meaningful sense of loyalty among your team.
To my mind, it all hinges on authenticity. Parker and Stack took very public stands on social-political issues because they feel genuinely passionate about those issues and understand their power to make a difference. So what’s your stand? Is there a cause or issue that you care about and want to see brought to the fore? If the answer is yes, then it’s time to raise your flag. If it’s more of a, “Hmmm … not sure,” then the next step is to do your research. Speaking out about a topic or cause you know little about, or jumping on a bandwagon to make it look like you care is a huge mistake. People of any age (millennial or not) will see through the facade and any initial gains in public perception will not be sustainable. You’ve got to mean it.
I find it encouraging to learn that millennials are looking for employers who care about the world beyond their company’s bottom line. It’s a healthy reminder of where we all need to be looking. While the reality of profitability cannot be ignored, we all have a responsibility to those who work for us, and to our fellow citizens, to use business as a force for good.
December 28, 2018 at 07:22AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs