image of young women looking pensively out the window

Millennials Prioritizing Values and Taking Corporate America With Them

Earlier this year, Deloitte US released its inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Transparency Report. In it, the company noted that its US workforce spans four generations with millennials composing the majority. In total, millennials and Gen Z represent 87.4 percent of professionals at less tenured levels within the organization. The report notes that “millennials, in particular, are looking for business leaders to serve as agents for positive change. Their call for greater transparency around how businesses put purpose into action was a key impetus for this report.”

page 16 from the Deloitte 2021 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Transparency Report

As the waves of COVID-19 challenges subside, organizations are quickly moving into hiring mode once again. With so many millennials at pivotal points and in some of the most productive times in their careers, potential employees are setting a higher bar for the companies they select. They are choosing to engage with companies that are visibly and vocally committed to developing a diverse workforce and tackling systemic issues from racism to sustainability and the environment.

All leaders and the people managers who report to them need to realize that embracing and leveraging diversity, inclusion and understanding the dynamics of intersectionality is now a baseline leader skill. 

As Jennifer Miller articulated in her Washington Post articleOver the past decade, highly educated young professionals have increasingly prioritized personal values in deciding where to work, whether it’s a commitment to sustainability, philanthropy or social impact.”

Miller continues, “This includes hiring a more diverse workforce, helping employees of color advance through the ranks, giving them more decision-making power and facilitating uncomfortable conversations about systemic racism. Mission statements about racial justice and prompt responses to current events are also important, but they must be more than set pieces.”

Simply put, if I am a woman or person of color, and no one who looks like me in Sr. Leadership, or even in the group of leaders who interview me for a job, I already see a huge red flag and have to question why I would want to work for this company. 

As we prepare to enter the first phase of the post-COVID era, the ability to attract, retain and engage millennial talent remains at the top of the priority list for company leaders.

Just One Question

picture of Amanda Hammett

I reached out to Amanda Hammett, a generational strategist better known by her nickname, the Millennial Translator, to discuss how the past year has impacted millennials, along with her insights about the retention and engagement of this group.

JEFFERY: Amanda, what is top-of-mind for millennials as we move toward reopening the economy and the workplace?

AMANDA: I am seeing three key areas emerge as important concerns for millennials based on their experiences from the past year:

  • Mental Health. Millennials are experiencing higher rates of burnout than other generations. The stress is real. They were/are worried about protecting themselves and their families from Covid and financial ripple effects, while others were dealing with isolation and loneliness, or overwhelmed with caring for others. Along with their pre-pandemic concerns for Climate change, healthcare, long-term career prospects.
  • Work/Life Balance (although I prefer the term work/life integration). Stress and anxiety from working from home and juggling expectations and the reality of parenting, schooling, and doing it all.
  • Empathy. Did my company/boss demonstrate genuine empathy during the events of 2020 (COVID, the murder of George Floyd, #BLM) or was it business as usual or worse…performative activism?

All three of these themes are intertwined in various ways. When the majority of the workforce was sent home in 2020, each generation had different challenges due to their life stage. For instance, many Boomers were now more concerned about their health because it is statistically more deadly to their age group and elderly parents, and they were facing it alone or by distancing themselves from family and friends. Millennials, however, found themselves in a different scenario as parents of young children who were now home because daycares and schools had been shut down overnight. Many millennials were simultaneously expected to perform in the new roles of teachers AND employees, which meant certain burnout. OR potentially in another situation….as young millennials (or older Gen Z) who were living alone for the very first time, COVID shut them away from the rest of the world except through Zoom which caused an increase in depression rates. Millennials and Gen Z are also pondering the impact of lost career opportunities, changing networking environments, and an economy in flux.

As we begin to return to the office (or whatever the new workplace scenario may be), companies really need to think about the mental health of their employees. What resources will be available to them besides the standby of calling HR? What resources will they trust and access? What can senior leaders, middle leaders, and front-line leaders do to effect change? What kind of flexibility is available to employees of all generations? The days of putting in your eight hours of face time in the office are officially over. How will organizations reconcile around that new fact? And frankly, around the new expressed needs of the workforce?

What’s Next?

As companies prepare to reopen offices and campuses there are so many issues to consider before swinging the doors open and calling the team back to the office. In talking with Amanda we discovered more questions and areas that we wanted to explore and delve into. Which lead to the idea of starting a podcast series to do just that.

In the coming weeks, we’ll share our plans. In the meantime, we’d like to invite you to participate by sharing your questions, topics and guest ideas to us. What’s keeping you up at night? What’s on your mind? Share your concerns, ideas and topics with us here.

Looking forward to expanding the conversation with your questions.

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Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels