By Bob Murphy
By 2020, nearly half of all U.S. workers will be millennials: those born between 1976 and 2001. The new crop of millennials looking for jobs — educated, worldly, savvy people with strong resumes behind them — have a different vision of what they want in a career than the jobseekers who came before them. If you’re not tuned into their needs, you’re missing out on top talent, and those same future leaders might be going to your competitors.
So, what is it they’re looking for? Millennials aren’t looking just for money, power or prestige, but rather something a little less tangible and much less selfish: They’re looking to make a difference in the world around them. According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, millennials are more altruistic and cause-focused than previous generations, and they believe that “working for causes is an integral part of life.”
Reaching this new generation of employees and consumers in a meaningful way requires businesses to think about how they can build their purpose into the ethos of their business to bring employees in the door, keep them around and grow them into tomorrow’s leaders.
What is purpose?
Business purpose can be difficult to define: While for some NGOs and nonprofits it’s as straightforward as “delivering clean water to those who need it” or “giving microloans to female business owners in India,” the majority of businesses don’t operate with such a clear, central or cause-focused mission.
However, purpose still exists in those businesses: It can be a strong corporate social responsibility initiative, a focus on creating jobs and economic impact as your sales increase, or a mission to support employees meaningfully. While business purpose can vary, it’s important to make sure people know about it: It’s one of the best things for your recruitment, employee retention and production.
Above all, millennials value business purpose
While good pay and fair benefits will always bring in new hires, it’s time to use your business purpose to attract millennials. In order to keep your company attractive to this changing workforce, it’s important to know what drives them. With easy access to news via Twitter and Facebook, millennials self-organize and participate in causes they care about, and this connection to the larger world encourages the need to be part of something larger than themselves. In order to be attractive to these workers, you must be able to engage them in your purpose and make it clear that, as an employee of your company, they are working to affect change in the world around them.
This need to participate in change carries over to millennial work trends. The generation defined by their connection to social media have a difficult time separating their personal and professional selves, and thus seek jobs where they can feel personally impactful. As a result, millennials embrace brands that make a difference, and whose causes are in line with their own. In the 5th Millennial Impact Report, created by research and creative agency Achieve in partnership with the Case Foundation, more than 50 percent of of the millennial respondents said that a company’s involvement in various causes influenced whether or not they accepted a job.
Integrating your business purpose into your operations makes your company a more attractive option to millennial workers looking for new employment. By positioning your company as a purposeful corporate citizen, you have a better chance of engaging these potential employees.
Purpose keeps employees engaged
Millennials are more likely to stick around if they feel like their passions for social good are being fulfilled through your company’s mission and everyday operations. According to the Millennial Impact Report, 53 percent of millennials were inspired to work long-term for their companies when they felt that their interests and passions were being used to their fullest. And believing in a company’s mission and purpose was important to 1 in 5 long-term millennial employees. Moreover, the typical promotion structure isn’t as important to millennials as it is to older employees: In a study conducted by Bentley University, 84 percent of millennials said that making a positive difference in the world is more important than professional recognition.
These statistics tell a compelling reason to use purpose to not only attract talent, but also to keep it. Millennials aren’t going to stay around just for the promise of higher pay or a corner office; rather, they stick around because they see their job as integral to the causes they support. By aligning your business to the purpose-driven mindset of this group, and setting up operations in a way where employees can see how their work is affecting the world, you set your business up for success in retaining the next generation of talent.
Your employees, purpose, profit and production
Purpose may make hiring and staffing easier for your business, but why does this translate into long-term, sustainable, bottom-line benefits? Keeping your business purpose at the center of your organization — and hiring people who will operate with that purpose in mind — benefits your production, customer satisfaction and long-term success.
As we’ve already discussed, employees stick with businesses that have demonstrated their commitment to their purpose. People want to work for a greater purpose, and they want to know that their work is meaningful. This means not only does employee morale increase, but teams also begin to do more work and do it better. Purpose is a powerful motivating factor for production. Moreover, purpose encourages innovation in the workplace: If the goal is to improve the larger community, employees understand that this should be done as quickly and efficiently as possible, making their jobs more streamlined and operations more innovative.
But purpose does more than just motivate those within the company. It’s also good for current and potential customers: 83 percent of U.S. consumers want more of the products and services they use to contribute to a social cause, and 62 percent of consumers around the world will switch brands if one has a stated social purpose and the other does not. Why would you not want to leverage your purpose and reach these consumers and grow your bottom line?
If your organization is already purpose-driven, it’s clearly positioned for success. Keeping that purpose in mind as you brand yourself makes it easier to communicate what you stand for to the next generation of employees, retain the best talent and increase profits. If impact isn’t already central to your operations, now is the time to take a good look at how you want to move forward in business, and how you can leverage that purpose for success later on.
Image credit: photogeek133, Flickr
Bob Murphy is a managing partner at Movéo, a Chicago-based B2B marketing firm which partners with category-leading brands to craft strategies and build tactics that engage audiences and drive business growth.