Why millennials go to work, who they look up to and why they need to be understood

Managing millennials is tough business. Organisations need to rethink how to attract and engage their millennial workforce who care less about traditional leadership models, and more about how to find purpose at work, according to Deloitte's latest survey.

Millennials have more social conscience than earlier thought: they feel the world’s businesses care more about their own agenda than improving society, according to Deloitte’s fourth annual Millennial Survey just released.

Millennials are also mostly ambitious, with 53% of those surveyed aspiring to leadership and top senior management roles. They also want their skills to be utilised as only 28% of those surveyed say their skills are fully used by the companies they work for.

The survey done by Deloitte covers 7,800 of tomorrow leaders, from 29 countries, on tops on effective leadership and how business operates and impacts society.

The Deloitte survey’s findings show, among others, that:

  • Millennials want to work for organisations with purpose. For 6 in 10 millennials, a “sense of purpose,” is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employers.
  • Among millennials who are relatively high users of social networking tools (the “super-connected millennials”), there appears to be even greater focus on business purpose; 77% of this group report their company’s purpose was part of the reason they chose to work there, compared to just 46%  of those who are the “least connected.”
  • Technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) are most attractive employers for millenials.  TMT ranked as the most desirable sector and the one to provide the most valuable skills to millennials.
  • Google and Apple figure highly on the top of millenials’ list of businesses that they see as leaders.
  • Millennials view characteristics of leadership differently. Millennials place less value on visible (19%), well-networked (17%), and technically-skilled (17%) leaders. Instead, they define true leaders as strategic thinkers (39%), inspirational (37%), personable (34%) and visionary (31%).

According to Hamish Wilson, Deloitte partner and human capital leader: “The message is clear: when looking at their career goals, today’s millennials are just as interested in how a business develops its people and how it contributes to society as they are in its products and profits.

“These findings should be viewed as a wake-up call to the business community, particularly in developed markets like New Zealand, that they need to change the way they engage millennial talent or risk being left behind.”

​The survey from Deloitte mirrors surveys conducted by other organisation on what engages and inspires millenials, or how the workplace views millennials (described as those raised from the day they were born with the internet).

There continues to be a mismatch between how the older generation view millennials and how millennials view themselves, reflected in an earlier piece of work done by Bentley University research which found that millennials pay little heed to the notion that work ethic is important – only 7% of high school students and 9% of college students deemed work ethic as important while 23% of decision makers and 18% of corporate recruiters say work ethic is important.

Other findings from Bentley University’s research include:

  • almost 9 in 10 millennials (89%) say they have a strong work ethic. But only 74% of non-millennials believe they have as good a work ethic as that of older generations.
  • 55% of millennials say they’re willing to “pay their dues.” But 70% of non-millennials say that millennials aren’t as willing as they should be.
  • About two-thirds of employers (63% percent of business decision makers and 68% of recruiters) say their organisations struggle to manage millennials.
  • A significant portion businessmen (55% of business decision makers and 62% of recruiters) say that retaining millennials is a challenge.
  • 66% of millennials feel misunderstood by their elders.

But according to Huffington Post, there are reasons to stop calling millennials 'selfish'. About 73% of millennials volunteered in 2013. Despite unemployment hardships, 87% of millennials donated money to a charity in 2013, the majority of whom donated gifts larger than US$100.

Millennials and why they are different

Another Bentley University survey also points to the better side of millennials, noting that 88% of them say their priority is to work for companies that are socially responsible, and ethical, making the world a better place.

And for a lighthearted perspective, Forbes contributor Rob Asghar paints a picture of what it would be like if some of our superheroes, namely Batman and Superman, were millennials.

What if Batman was a millennial?

He wrote: “The Bat-signal would regularly go undetected by its intended recipient, lost within a flood of social media streams. Superman would avoid the DTR (define-the-relationship) talk with Wonder Woman, flee to grad school to wait out the soft economy and ponder his true purpose, and rack up serious student debt.

“The embattled mayor of Gotham would feel torn between his productivity goals and his heroes’ demands for foosball tables, free organic food and “fight-from-home” options. The heroes would complain about how they ever hear from any interesting arch-villains, while arch-villains would complain that their voicemails never get answered.”