The millennial generation consists of people born between 1981 and 1996. It’s the largest age group in America today, consisting of approximately 72 million people, roughly 24% of the U.S. population.
Millennials are the first generation to grow up without the heavy drumbeats of war, poverty, and discrimination that prior forebears experienced. The Silent Generation, baby boomers, and Generation X experienced major challenges with the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War.
Millennials have been left relatively untouched by serious conflicts, excluding 9/11 and wars fought abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The millennial generation is generally more willing to embrace globalization and all the changes it brings. They are genuinely curious about those who live in other countries and are more open to cultural differences.
Millennials are also the first generation to grow up with technology. Whether their first experience with a computer or video games was Nintendo, a Compaq, or an Apple Mac, they’re technology-driven and adaptable to continuous changes.
Other generations have accused millennials of being lazy and distracted in the workplace. However, they bring skills and expectations that different generations simply don’t have. One curious difference between millennials and other generations is their desire to hold roles where the sole purpose isn’t profits but actually helping others.
According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, 94% of millennials want to use their abilities to benefit others or specific causes. They aren’t as excited about increasing profits or building the bottom line.
A role with the primary function of building up a company’s bottom line likely won’t excite them unless it benefits the world in some way.
Sometimes, people compare millennials to the baby boomers of the 1960s. The 1960s was a decade of cataclysmic changes, including the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr., protests against the Vietnam War, and a push for equal rights for minorities and women.
The protestors of the 1960s sought positive changes for the U.S. and the world. They were willing to speak out for the rights of others and seemed very purpose-driven. However, their drive appears to have calmed as the decades passed. Baby boomers aren’t as likely to see their regular day jobs as an outlet for helping others.
The millennial generation no longer consists of entry-level workers. They’ve gained experience and they’re moving into middle-management and senior-level roles as more baby boomers retire. As a result, they have the authority to drive change in large organizations.
Not every role or position in an organization will benefit specific causes. For instance, an accountant or marketing analyst has little positive impact on the environment or the poor. On the other hand, a social worker might find significant value in their position as they directly work with others who are struggling.
Companies can support the millennial need for value-driven work in different ways. If a role doesn’t directly benefit specific causes, the company can offer the employee opportunities to take paid days off to volunteer for charities they support. Organizations can also sponsor particular causes and allow employees to work with them on company time.
Businesses that do not incorporate some type of outlet for volunteering or helping others risk millennials viewing them as profit-driven. To millennials, profit isn’t everything. They want to impact others positively. Essentially, they want to leave a mark on the world that shows they weren’t always seeking material items.
There are thousands of potential causes a company can support. However, two in particular stand out to millennials: racial injustice and the environment.
Racial injustice has been a hot topic for decades, but it truly exploded in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the murder of George Floyd, protests erupted across the United States. Led by the Black Lives Matter organization, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to demand an end to systemic racism.
Organizations are waking up to the reality that people are unwilling to accept racial injustice. They want to see minorities in crucial leadership roles. They are demanding a work environment more representative of the diversity in the U.S.
Companies can support a more diverse workforce by ensuring that individuals in management positions are reflective of society. Organizations must put more effort into ensuring everyone has a place in the organization regardless of ethnicity, gender, or background.
Encouraging diversity shouldn’t just be an exercise of empty words. Companies must take action and create an environment accepting of everyone and free from bias.
Concerns about the environment have increased over the past decades. We are now seeing the impacts of pollution, rampant plastic usage, and greenhouse gases, and they are not pretty. Numerous studies connect pollution to climate change, and millennials are at the forefront of concern.
Companies can support millennials’ worry about the environment by focusing on sustainability. Management can encourage employees to recommend actions that reduce their negative footprint on the environment.
Some ideas include reducing paper use in business activities, encouraging work from home several days a week, and promoting recycling throughout the organization.
If a company’s products are harmful to the environment, it can encourage workers to look for opportunities to promote sustainability in its goods.
Other ways to advocate for environmental causes include promoting volunteer activities, like cleaning up nearby beaches or lakes, to employees and workers.
Millennials in the U.S. are the first generation to grow up without serious concerns about wars or poverty. They’re happier when their work helps others and promotes fundamental causes, like the environment and racial injustice.
Organizations can support millennials’ desires for a value-driven work environment by offering them opportunities for volunteering and by changing company sustainability practices.
Millennials are more likely to view their company in a positive light if they feel that the organization agrees with their values.
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