Attracting and retaining talented, dedicated people who work well together and feel connected and committed to the company and its mission is one of the greatest challenges that any organization faces. No surprise, then, that identifying the qualities that attract millennials, the world’s generation of digital natives, who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 is a subject about which much as been written, studied and discussed. The millennial workforce has upended the workplace concepts of the generations that came before them by rejecting the notion that we leave our authentic selves outside the door of our workplace. Millennials see themselves as full human beings at work, prioritizing workplace culture, company values, relationship, personal growth and development. They are willing to seek jobs where such a personal synthesis of self is possible, and, when challenged, they have demonstrated willingness to make sacrifice and take risks.
Indeed, in a global economy in which collective employee action is arguably weaker than ever before since WWII, millennial employees took incredible steps to demand that their companies prioritize ethics over profit. A fall 2018 workforce protest dubbed #GoogleWalkout, by the upwards of 20,000 Google employees who participated was precipitated by concerns over “sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and workplace that doesn’t work for everyone.” It might come to be seen by historians as a watershed moment in US labor history. The walkout takes on an even much greater significance when seen alongside other protests at Google, Microsoft and Amazon over the possible ethical and human rights consequences of sales of cutting-edge technology to governments. Echoing the protests of their parents’ generation in the 1960’s, millennials are willing to leverage their value as a workforce to ensure that companies meet their demands for ethical behavior.
The implicit emerging doctrines of the “ethical millennial worker at work,” are not merely reflected in a company having an ethics policy, a compliance framework or a statement, even if it is their own statement. Millennials expect to bring their whole selves with them wherever they go and seek to be part of a community of shared values. A number of overlapping interests speak to the importance and value for companies to provide explicit programs that facilitate employees’ personal growth as ethical actors and ethical human beings just as they provide on-site programs of health and wellness, childcare, flexible schedules and other benefits.
This evolution towards personal ethical development at work in the coming era of millennial leadership is the aggregate of a constellation of values-driven market imperatives that this generation has already successfully demanded of the marketplace, both as consumers and workers. Millennials value and support companies and brands that take corporate social responsibility seriously. They want frequent, direct and frank communication with their teammates and managers about how things are going and how to make them better. They want to feel like they are learning in their jobs and growing in measurable ways as professionals. They care about the culture of the company they work for and want to spend their energies with organizations with which they feel aligned. When surveyed, they indicate that they are willing to give up a meaningful percentage of their income in order to have these valuable signifiers of an authentic consonance between themselves and their work.