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How to Engage the Next Generation of Workers: Millennials

Millennials are Everywhere and They’re (Increasingly Becoming) More Important Than You and I


The generation known as ‘Millennials’ (roughly born from 1980-2000, though these dates are sometimes debated) are considered to be one of the most studied generations to date. Their propensity for wanting to be highly engaged by what they do, demanding transparency from the companies they not only work for but who’s products they consume, and their collective sense of community driven by shared interests makes this generation an interesting newcomer to the workforce.

According to a recent study [1], millennials will comprise more than 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025 and account for about $1 trillion in US consumer spending[2]. These glaring numbers alone tell the story of a vast and imminent need to create lasting strategies to retain these workers and create products and services that cater to their spending behaviors.

Though millennials are graduating from higher education institutions with more dept than any generation preceding, their deep-seated values on socially and environmentally responsible products and services perseveres. Millennials will even take a lower wage to live these values out on a daily basis in their work life. Leaning highly on the teamwork mentality, millennials strive for partnership, collaboration and a systems thinking approach. Programs such as experiential learning or innovative corporate partnerships are draws for these young workers.

“A study[4] by Cone Communications found, for example, that nine out of 10 Millennials would switch brands to support a particular cause and 87 percent would purchase a product with a social or environmental benefit.”

In particular, companies that demonstrate a deep understanding of and commitment to sustainability also draw the millennial workforce; however, the transparency and continued pledge is what retains these workers.

It’s no surprise that looking at fast paced industries such as tech, design and healthcare boast high numbers of millennials flocking to them, whereas industries that are slower to innovate, or arguably, lack transparency or the aptitude to implement modern company cultures (retail, government, education, oil, telecommunications, etc.) are quickly losing traction with this workforce that will one day dominate US jobs[5].

How to Win Over the Purpose-Driven Employee

There are a number of engagement strategies that companies can take advantage of on a tactical level, however it is important to understand the landscape of this generation first and the more substantial and engrained cultural shifts that are essential to put into place before tactics become successful.

At a high level, the millennial generation wants transparency in leadership, commitment to specific environmental and social causes and a strong mission behind your company[6]. It’s imperative to build in purpose in your recruiting strategies and show these workers your dedicated to corporate responsibility. Challenging these employees while also taking advantage of their multi-tasking, technologically savvy nature is likewise imperative. One of the greatest assets to build into your culture is a well-balanced, employee-centered workplace that invites cultures of all kinds and recognizes the need for flexible work hours, wellness plans, etc. After all, employees are often your greatest asset, especially when it comes to reputation and brand dissemination. Brands that can incorporate even half of these requirements are already showing millennial preference.

Examples of Leaders: Engaging This Workforce

So, we all know that its important, essential, crucial, etc. to engage this workforce that will dominate the jobs in the next five to seven years. But, how do we actually do this? Who are some companies that are getting it right?

Companies like Point B consulting and Zillow group have created cultures that millennials flock to, and it all started with integrating the values mentioned above into their culture from the beginning. Point B is employee owned and their values center around their greatest asset—their employees[7]. Additionally, Zillow has built their culture on six key values such as integrity, innovation and teamwork and work to create a fun environment for their employees despite their age.

While all of these strategies and tactics will help you prepare for the influx of the new workforce, they are also to retain your current employees. Don’t forget those employees that have helped you build what you currently have—lean on them to create the culture and environment that is inviting to every generation. Intergenerational learning can be one of the greatest mentoring relationships, especially for young employees entering the workforce.

What’s Next?

To learn more from the leading companies in this space, seek out opportunities to network or attend conferences on this topic. There is much to be learned from the giants of the world such has Zillow, but there is also great knowledge to be taken from those who are just starting out on this journey.

For a greater deep dive into employee engagement and how to effectively create an environment for the next purpose-driven workforce, don’t miss out on the upcoming conference put on my UW Tacoma in Seattle, Washington on April 5th, 2018. Hear from companies such as the Mountaineers, Blackbaud and others leading this discussion. Find your tickets here: Corporate Social Responsibility Conference: Preparing the Next Purpose-Driven Workforce









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