Now more than ever, it’s important to listen to millennials

For the sixth consecutive year, Deloitte has released the results of its annual global Millennial Survey. Not surprisingly, this year’s survey, which includes the opinions of nearly 8,000 millennials representing 30 countries, found that world events–from terrorism to Brexit to Trump–are impacting how millennials view the world and their future prospects. For business leaders, it’s imperative we heed what these future leaders have to say, and ensure we are moving their concerns and desires from words to action.

Our 2016 survey found that many millennials were planning near-term exits from their employers. But, after 12 months of political and social upheaval, those ambitions have been tempered. This year, millennials seem to be craving stability, albeit with the flexibility they continue to value. The survey also found that millennials—especially in developed countries—are not optimistic about their future prospects nor the directions their countries are going.

Key insights our survey uncovered:

  • Millennials in developed countries are feeling anxious. Global events are shaping millennials’ views on the world, but there is a divide between developed and developing countries we surveyed. Generally, millennials in emerging markets expect to be both financially and emotionally better off than their parents. This is in stark contrast to more developed countries, where only 36 percent of millennials predict they will be materially better off than their parents. In only 11 of the 30 countries surveyed does a majority indicate that they expect to be happier than their parents.
  • Millennials are craving stability. Millennials’ anxiety may be partially responsible for more young professionals wanting to remain in their jobs. Last year, the “loyalty gap” between those who saw themselves leaving their companies within two years and those who anticipated staying beyond five years was 17 percentage points. This year, the balance of millennials looking to “leave soon” is only seven points.
  • Millennials still desire to make an impact that matters. Millennials feel accountable for many issues in both the workplace and the wider world. However, it is primarily in and via the workplace that they feel most able to make an impact. Opportunities to be involved with “good causes” at the local level, many of which are enabled by employers, provide millennials with a greater sense of influence. This local, small-scale change has a ripple effect that cascades from the individual to the broader workplace to society at large.
  • Millennials want stability but want flexibility too. When an employer offers options in terms of working hours, location, and/or role, and shows trust in their employees’ ability to get their work done, it not only enhances workers’ personal well-being, health, and happiness, but it also supports greater productivity and employee engagement—a win-win for employers and employees alike.
  • Millennials opinion on technology and the “future of work” are mixed. As we look to the future, millennials expressed views in favour of automation, while also recognising the threats it could bring. While millennials see automation as providing opportunities for creative activities or learning new skills, 40 percent see automation as posing a threat to their own jobs and 53 percent surveyed believe the workplace could become more impersonal and less human. How business and government respond and work together will largely dictate what success looks like. Re-skilling and lifelong education are going to be important parts of the balancing act between high-tech automation and high-skilled professionals working together in harmony.

Overall, this year’s survey results offer a compelling case for business leaders to take action. This is a chance for us to heed their concerns, better understand their working habits, and continue to engage them in work that provides a purpose beyond profit —with the ultimate goal of advancing our organisations by tapping into their creativity and passion. Now, maybe more than ever, it’s time to take stock of how we engage with millennials.

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