Making an impact through their employers


Making an impact through their employers

The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017

Opportunities to be involved with “good causes” at the local level, many of which are enabled by employers, provide millennials with a greater feeling of influence.

A sense of empowerment, millennials, and the “ripple effect”

Business involvement in social issues and “good causes” goes beyond the tangible impact made or the reputational benefit that might result; by involving employees in such initiatives, employers seem to be boosting millennials’ sense of empowerment. This is important to businesses for, as we saw in 2016, employees who feel their jobs have meaning, or that they are able to make a difference, exhibit greater levels of loyalty.

Many millennials feel unable to exert any meaningful influence on some of society’s biggest challenges; but, in the workforce, they can feel a greater sense of control—an active participant rather than a bystander. It is well documented that businesses with a genuine sense of purpose tend to demonstrate stronger long-term growth, and employees can usefully tap into this. Where workplace opportunities are offered, millennials are significantly more likely to say they can influence social equality, the environment, the behavior of big businesses, and even the overall directions of their countries. Regardless of whether millennials, as individuals, can make a tangible difference on such large issue, the key point is that employers can provide a sense of empowerment and, hence, create a far more positive mindset. This can only be good for the overall performance of a business.

The latest survey tells us that millennials feel accountable, to at least a fair degree, for many issues in both the workplace and the wider world. However, it is primarily in and via the workplace that they feel most impactful. They feel they have more influence on their peers, customers, and suppliers than on leaders or “big issues,” and their influence can, therefore, be regarded as being exerted through smaller- scale, immediate, and local actions—more so when employers provide the requisite tools. As illustrated in Figure 9, millennials consider themselves to have a fair degree of accountability for many of the world’s largest challenges, even though they feel their influence has limitations. Thus, while six in 10 (59 percent) believe they have at least a fair amount of accountability for protecting the environment, fewer than four in 10 (38 percent) believe they can exert a “significant” level of influence. A similar gap is observed with respect to social inequality.

On "big issues", millennials feel more accountable
Figure 9: “On "big issues,” millennials feel more accountable than influential.” Click the image to view an enlarged version.

Being involved with “good causes” and not-for-profit organizations—whether directly or through opportunities provided by employers—helps millennials feel empowered and able to influence the world around them. A total of 77 percent have involved themselves in a charity or “good cause” with a quarter or more:

  • Following or taking an active interest, e.g., via social media—40 percent
  • Being an active volunteer/organizer—30 percent
  • Supporting by becoming a member/making a regular donation, etc.—30 percent
  • Raising money by sponsorship, organizing a collection, or by other means—23 percent

Millennials appear to consider the “charitable” route an impactful method of changing the world around them; this is clearly illustrated by the following graphic. Activists with a greater tendency to engage in direct protest activities feel more influential than those who do nothing, but engagement with charities/good causes—either in their personal or working lives—seems the more efficacious. Smaller-scale activities at the local level, including in the workplace, provide millennials with a greater sense of influence and these activities, collectively, may make a much greater impact than trying to tackle issues “head on.” This local, small-scale change is what we term “the ripple effect.”

The Ripple effect
Figure 10: “Percent who feel they have a great deal/fair amount of influence regarding each issue.” Click the image to view an enlarged version.

It is in the workplace where millennials feel most influential and, in turn, accountable. This is an important point for businesses to acknowledge as it offers a platform from which to build each employee’s sense of purpose and, ultimately, a more engaged workforce. Millennials believe they have the greatest level of accountability for, and influence on, client satisfaction. Indeed, across the six most “important” aspects that we measured, perceived levels of accountability are very closely correlated with influence; for millennials in senior roles, there is even stronger alignment. Given this scenario, we might conclude that millennials are, on the whole, working in environments where they feel generally in control and empowered—something that contrasts, perhaps, with the less stable world that exists outside the workplace.

At work, accountability and influence are broadly balanced
Figure 11: “At work, accountability and influence are broadly balanced.” Click the image to view an enlarged version.
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