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Understanding millennials in the workplace

A generations’ search for authenticity

Deloitte’s most recent study on millennials and Gen Z reveals the resounding emotions and desires from a widely discussed audience.

Investing in future generations

In Deloitte’s 2019 Global Millennial Survey many respondents broadly expressed a resounding lack of faith in traditional institutions such as mass media and are pessimistic about social progress. The 2019 report captures the views of more than 13,000 millennials in 42 countries and territories, and opinions from 3,000 Gen Z respondents from 10 countries.

For CMOs who strive to deliver experiences that inspire trust and loyalty from customers, they’re running up against a staggering lack of confidence from the millennials and Gen Zs caught in the crossfire of social commotion. Yet marketers and other business leaders have an opportunity to allay these deep-seated suspicions and can play a pivotal role in restoring trust, by investing in tools to help younger generations acquire the skills they need to succeed and ensuring that their organizations’ well-meaning wishes become meaningful action.

The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019

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Priorities and relationships evolve

Millennials and Gen Zs are no less ambitious than previous generations: More than half want to earn high salaries and become wealthy. Yet their priorities have evolved, and one of the biggest themes to emerge from the survey is a profound sense of uncertainty about the future.

Just over half of millennials (51 percent) anticipate their financial situations will worsen or not improve over the coming 12 months. Millennials are delaying the traditional adulthood “success markers,” valuing experiences instead. Consider for instance that travel and seeing the world is at the top of the list (57 percent) of aspirations, while slightly fewer than half say they want to own a home (49 percent).

Millennials and Gen Zs also feel disconnected from other traditional pillars of trust. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) say that political leaders are failing to have a positive impact on the world, while two-thirds report the same view of faith leaders. Meanwhile, 43 percent say the mass media is having a negative impact on the world, and 27 percent express zero trust in the media as sources of reliable and accurate information.

As employers and consumer educators, CMOs can use their expertise to help organizations restore authenticity and credibility. Some businesses are doing this by assessing and measuring the “human experience” (HX) as it applies to their organizations⁠—activating the values that truly motivate their customers, employees and partners. Communication matters, especially as younger generations may form and terminate relationships with companies for personal reasons related to a company’s social impact.

Future of work

Another area where millennials feel unease is around the changing nature of work. Consider that millennials are using technology that likely didn’t exist when they started their careers. What’s more, artificial intelligence is now often performing tasks that define certain jobs, forcing human workers to use different skills. Only about one in five respondents believe they have all the abilities and knowledge they’ll need for a world being shaped by these changes, while 70 percent said they may only have some or few of the workplace skills required for the future.

CMOs can help bridge the gap between existing capabilities and the demands of the workplace. Though 27 percent of respondents believe organizations should try to improve the skills of their employees, only 18 percent believe they’re actually achieving that goal. By working with HR and technology leaders, marketers can help build real-time learning and knowledge-sharing communities across the organization, for instance.

Digital and data realities

The survey also shows that millennials are taking back control of their data, with millennial women and parents expressing the greatest concern about information being collected. Nearly three-quarters of respondents are apprehensive about the security of personal data held by businesses. And a third of respondents say they’ve stopped or curtailed a business relationship because of the amount of personal data the company requests.

Data and insights are invaluable to businesses, yet many millennials are fed up with intrusion, so CMOs may need creative strategies to repair and strengthen relationships with customers. To do so, marketers may need to partner with C-suite peers such as CROs and CIOs to build safeguards for data privacy. In this regard, CMOs have an important opportunity to serve as the voice of the customer in internal discussions. They can emphasize that more data is not what leads to insights; it’s having the right data and the right touch.

Focus on values

The CMO is also in a prime position to help express business practices and values. Our survey shows that millennials and Gen Zs show deeper loyalty to employers who boldly tackle the issues that resonate with them most. And respondents want businesses to turn their talk into meaningful action. Consider that more than a quarter of millennials say they’ve avoided an organization based on political positions. Twenty-nine percent have done the same based on behavior or comments of a single company leader.

In their roles as storytellers, marketers should be genuine about the steps their business is taking to make the world a better place. That might require opening physical or virtual dialogues with millennial and Gen Z employees, listening to their concerns, and striving to understand why certain issues matter to them.

Every generation is shaped by its circumstances. Millennials and Gen Zs are looking for safe havens amid altered aspirations. Marketers can help bridge those gaps by serving as an anchor of reliability and credibility, giving purpose to meaningful action, and for business leaders to serve as agents for positive change. Millennials and GenZs expect business to enhance lives and provide livelihoods, and doing what marketers do every day⁠—helping organizations realize their ambitions.

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