Millennials have come of age in a time of great uncertainty. Rapid advancements in technology, evidence of a free market system failing the majority of citizens, and a degrading environment have had a profound effect on them. They believe in the power and voice of the individual and exercise this online and in their physical lives. What impact will they have on both for-profit and purpose-driven organisations? How do they interact with them? What does this mean for organisations committed to social good? This article discusses how they use their voice to bring about change in the current economy, and its relevance for purpose-driven organisations.
Who are Millennials?
The definition for generational categories differs from source to source. For the purposes of this article we define them as:
- Baby Boomers born between 1944 and 1964.
- Generation X born between 1965 and 1980
- Millennials (Generation Y) born between 1981 and 1996
- Generation Z born between born 1995 and 2010
Twenty-five percent of the global population are Millennials and will make up 48% of the workforce by 2020. They are also set to be a part of the largest intergenerational wealth transfer in history. Accenture reports that over the next 30 to 40 years, $30 trillion in assets will pass from boomers to their heirs in the United States alone.
There is much that has been written about Millennials, so let’s begin with the stereotypes of laziness, self-entitlement, materialism and selfishness. Research exists that debunk many of these myths.
According to a Deloitte report gathering responses from 10,455 millennials questioned across 36 countries, they overwhelmingly feel that business success should be measured in terms of more than financial performance — a view that Gen Z shares (83% and 80%, respectively).
Millennials surveyed by Deloitte believe employers should set out to achieve a broad balance of objectives that include:
- Making a positive impact on society and the environment
- Creating innovative ideas, products and services
- Job creation, career development and improving people’s lives
- An emphasis on inclusion and diversity in the workplace
A study by FYA found that 60% of young Australians aged 25 hold a post-school qualification, 50% of them are unable to secure more than 35 hours of work per week. Their findings further uncovered that this is a result of lack of relevant skills for employment, not enough full-time jobs and not enough experience. Before people decry that they are entitled, the statistics show many more undertake multiple casual and part-time jobs. Twenty-one percent are estimated to work full-time in casual employment without access to security or benefits. This has doubled since 1992 (10%).
Seventy-one percent of Australian Millennials say they put family before their career and 40% in volunteered in 2017 – challenging the idea that they are a ‘selfish’ group.
Their Relationship With Brands
Millennials use brand to differentiate between organisations. It forms a major element of their decision-making process. They use brands to identify whether particular organisations align with their personal values and belief systems. This often forms a part of their identity, matching a brand’s image to their own.
“It is these associations that in turn provide emotional, self-expressive and functional benefits to the recipient”
Stride and Lee: No Logo? No Way. Branding in the Nonprofit Sector
This is then expressed through both their purchasing behaviour and ‘brand loyalty’. They are willing to pay more for goods or services from brands that align with their personal values. Among the 66% of global respondents willing to pay more for goods and services, over 50% of them are influenced by key sustainability factors, such as a product being made from fresh, natural and/or organic ingredients (69%), a company is environmentally friendly (58%), and company is known for its commitment to social value (56%). Millennials want to know a business before they’ll trust it. They want transparency. They want brands to interact. Simply put, they want to know they’re dealing with real humans, not faceless corporations.
Millennials, Purpose & Brand
When basing core business values on social good, it is important for organisations to understand the nature of this generation and the next. This is a generation that feels that systems and organisations have failed them. They are demanding business takes more ownership. As purpose-driven organisations, the alignment of values and mission doesn’t need to be augmented or created to align with theirs. However, understanding how Millennials interact with you is vital to inspire them to act.
Your brand is a vehicle for communicating your purpose. It is essential that it is authentic, honest and informed by both your core values, principles and purpose. Millennials have grown up interacting with brands and measure an organisation by both what it says and how it acts. Being transparent about how you deliver impact, your culture and commitment to collaborate should be a part of your brand communications. Millennials are becoming accustomed to immediacy as a result of technology. This provides an opportunity to communicate in real-time, whether it be results of funding or donors wanting access to transparent reporting of admin costs.
Values and cultural alignment are defining decision criteria for Millennials in where they work. More Millennials are wanting to be engaged in “meaningful work” and share social values with their employer. They often look to an organisation’s brand, and in turn, reputation, to establish if there is an alignment. This is where communicating your purpose, principles and values in an engaging way is important when attracting and retaining staff. It starts with recruitment advertising and interviews. It is then reinforced through onboarding and induction processes, and further supported through goal setting and feedback sessions throughout the employee life cycle. Finally, your values are a part of the exiting process, ensuring that staff leave positively and provide feedback for organisations to consider.
It is also worth noting that many people look to work for charities and social enterprises because it aligns with their own value system and identity. They consider delivering social impact and making the world fairer and more sustainable, over financial remuneration and career advancement. However, for Millennials and Generation Z, this could be severely challenged as profit-driven brands place social impact, culture and employee experience as key organisational priorities. This could result in many talented and passionate young people gravitating towards socially minded profit-driven brands.
The Main Point
Millennials make up 25% of the global population, and will soon make up 50% of the workforce. They have grown up in a free market that has created more damage than benefit. More than previous generations, they have lost trust in major institutions from governments to business. They are seeking change and a part of their identity is expressed through brands they purchase from, align with, and vocally support. They expect these brands to be committed to more than profit.
Purpose-driven organisations are driven by values and commitment to social impact. Engaging with Millennials involves many factors, one of which is ensuring you have an authentic and purpose-driven brand. This provides a vehicle to honestly communicate, create meaningful experiences, and show your commitment to creating a fairer and sustainable world for future generations. This starts with and is supported by, your internal culture and behaviour. The result is increased trust, reputation, and an ability to continue delivering on your purpose.