The optimism of younger workers—both Millennials and Generation Z—is in steep decline. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 reveals a growing sense of “uneasiness and pessimism” amongst the younger generations, who are desperately searching for “safe havens” and “beacons of trust.”
The good news? Millennials and Gen Z show deep loyalty to employers who boldly tackle the issues that resonate with them, and who invest meaningfully in their training and professional development.
The makeup of our employees is undergoing a fundamental shift. It was only in 2015 that Millennials passed Baby Boomers as a majority in the workforce. By 2025 they will account for 75% of the global workforce. Employers and business leaders who can speak their language and address their concerns will have a substantial edge in attracting and retaining top talent.
Voting with their feet
On the one hand, Millennials and Gen Zers are feeling disrupted by a combination of technological change, economic uncertainty, and social and political discord. On the other hand, they themselves are disruptors—pushing back and questioning traditional ways of doing business.
Younger workers are using their mobility as leverage in the workplace. A staggering 49% of Millennials surveyed said they would, if they had a choice, quit their current job in the next two years—up from 38% in the 2017 survey. That reality represents a stiff challenge to companies seeking a stable workforce.
At the other end of the spectrum, the survey shows signs of hope. The number of Millennials who expect to stay with their employers five years or more held steady at 28%. Deloitte has found that younger workers show such loyalty to companies that “deliver best on financial performance, community impact, talent development, and diversity and inclusion.”
Coaching, training, mentoring
Although dissatisfaction with financial rewards is the top reason younger workers cite for wanting to change jobs, opportunities for advancement, learning, and professional development follow closely behind. A substantial number also indicates boredom and not being challenged as reasons to move on.
Millennial and Gen Z workers have internalized the lessons of the Gig Economy—which is that employer/employee arrangements are transactional, provisional, and subject to change. Why show loyalty or engagement when nothing is certain in the long run?
The flip side is that companies that do invest heavily in their employees’ professional development will stand out more than ever. A LinkedIn report last year found that 94% of employees would stay longer at a company if it invested in their career. However, according to Deloitte, only one in five younger workers are confident they have the skills and knowledge necessary for a rapidly changing economy. That unmet need is an enormous opportunity for companies willing to step up.
Employee development and wellbeing can no longer be considered an extra or a perk. Business leaders must take a strategic and comprehensive approach to invest in human capital that includes coaching, mentoring, training, career development, and other learning opportunities.
Business as a force for good
The Deloitte survey also finds that Millennials see business in general as out of step with their values and priorities. For the second straight year, the number of respondents who see business as having a positive impact on society dropped sharply—from over 70% just a couple of years ago, to 61% last year and 55% this year.
This disenchantment with the business community is yet another opportunity for forward-thinking business leaders. Corporate Social Responsibility should be about more than branding and public relations—and Millennials and Gen Z are savvy enough to know the difference. Companies that actively engage younger employees in initiatives to be better corporate citizens will increasingly be seen as more desirable places to work.
It is a truism that the younger generations transforming the workplace put a premium on meaning and purpose. Smart business leaders can translate those values into a competitive advantage. They will first and foremost commit to creating an employee experience that provides opportunities for meaningful work and personal and professional growth. They will also seek to align their company’s mission with social values that resonate with younger employees and to involve those employees in the process.
While Millennial and Gen Z employees are affected by disruption, they are also active agents of change. Their values and attitudes toward work and life will shape the economy and society for years to come. Business leaders who listen to and engage younger voices will command greater loyalty from both employees and customers. The talent war is also a battle for hearts and minds. Companies that are seen as safe havens for their employees, and as beacons of trust to society at large, will have the upper hand in that battle.
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Click here to read the article on Forbes.com. Published on Forbes on Jun. 27, 2019.