A preference for plain talk and inclusiveness

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A preference for plain talk and inclusiveness

The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017

Millennials, in general, do not support leaders who take divisive positions; they’re more comfortable with straight-talking language from both business and political leaders.

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Millennials looking for directness and passion, not radicalism

The outcomes of the US presidential election, the UK’s Brexit vote, and Italy’s recent referendum have led many to conclude that new kinds of political and leadership styles are emerging. Some commentators have even hypothesized that we live in a “post-fact” world and that 2016 saw the emergence of popular support for a new style of leadership—one that rejects the globalization agenda, promotes local self-interests, and offers radical solutions in place of gradual change. Results at Italian, UK, and US polling stations suggest this may be the case within the wider population comprising people of all generations, from the economically active to the unemployed or retired. However, within the specific group of millennials covered by this study and interviewed in countries across the globe, most seem reluctant to embrace this “new agenda.”

The millennials in this survey are all employed full time and, in general, are engaged by organizations with large workforces. So, our respondents represent a specific, but influential, section of the population. The ways in which these surveyed millennials like to see issues presented is similar when evaluating both politicians and business leaders. They are comfortable with plain, straight-talking language from either group. They are similarly accepting of people providing opinions with passion and, by and large, those seeking to appeal to anyone who might feel “left out” or isolated. However, there is a general rejection—by millennials at least—of leaders who take controversial or divisive positions or aim for radical transformation (rather than gradual change).

Millennials appreciate plain talking and passion
Figure 12: “Percent who would approve political and business leaders thinking and speaking in the following ways.”  Click the image to view an enlarged version.

This varies by geography. Taking controversial positions is supported by a slim majority (51 percent) of surveyed millennials in the US. There is also relatively high support in the UK (48 percent) and France (46 percent), and across mature markets as a whole (36 percent), there is more acceptance of politicians who take controversial positions than there is in emerging economies (29 percent). The two groups of countries show a similar level of acceptance of business leaders taking such positions (37 percent versus 36 percent). Emerging markets are slightly more accepting of leaders who aim for radical transformation, but this approach is not supported by a majority. Irrespective of geography, it is clear—millennials appreciate straight-talking language and passion.

These findings echo our 2016 survey in which we investigated the impact of different management styles. That survey suggested that organizations taking an inclusive approach, rather than an authoritarian/rules-based approach, are less likely to lose people. It also indicated employee satisfaction was high in 76 percent of organizations taking a “liberal/relaxed” approach to management; only in 49 percent of the more controlling, rules-based organizations were satisfaction levels considered to be high.

There are other findings in the current survey to suggest that millennials appreciate working in a collaborative and consensual environment rather than one that directly links accountability and responsibility to seniority (or pay). Although two-thirds (64 percent) would like their senior leadership to take on higher levels of accountability, the majority also believes that people should either take collective responsibility (16 percent) or—irrespective of their positions or salaries—as much personal responsibility as possible (47 percent). Interestingly, only in Russia do a majority of millennials (65 percent) believe that level of responsibility should be directly linked to level of seniority or pay. The rejection of this view is strongest in Australia, South Korea, the UK, and Italy.

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