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Change Generation

Millennials Want To Work At Organizations That Focus On Purpose, Not Just Profit

Want to get young people excited about your company, then try being a better company.

Millennials Want To Work At Organizations That Focus On Purpose, Not Just Profit

[Top photo: Flickr user Juhan Sonin]

Millennials have taken on an almost mythic air in our country. We project on them both the worst—they're all lazy and apathetic!—and the best—they're all progressive and caring—about our society. But as they become more and more important consumers and members of the work force, it's important to find out how they're actually shaping our society. Here's an idea: Why not ask them?

For the past few years, Deloitte has conducted a Millennial Survey to gauge how the generation, which now makes up the majority of the workforce, thinks about business's role in society. The big takeaway: a focus on purpose and people is, for many millennials, just as important as a company's ability to generate profit.

Flickr user Laura D'Alessandro

The survey polled over 7,800 millennials with college degrees who also work full-time (defined as having been born after 1982). As in past years, Deloitte found that most respondents said that when they first launched their careers, they looked for companies with a strong sense of purpose beyond a simple profit motive. "They believe the business ethos has too short-term a focus. Beyond that, millennials believe companies should spend less time on short-time roles and more time on broadly building contributions to society, more time focusing on their people," says Deloitte Global Chairman Steve Almond.

Perhaps inspired by the legend of Steve Jobs—a man who ran a huge technology company but wasn't a programmer or designer—millennials surveyed don't care so much about having technically-skilled leaders running their companies. Instead, they look towards leaders who are inspirational, strategic, personable, and visionary. When survey respondents were asked which sector they associate with strong leadership, technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) was by far the top pick. Google and Apple were most often quoted as exemplifying this strong leadership.

"The way I analyzed that—millennials translate that strong leadership question into 'Which companies do I associate with technology that changes the way I live?' There's huge amounts of innovation that go on in the auto industry, but it's not seen as much in the way we live," says Almond.

In a survey response that should shock no one who looks at the top ranks of most organizations, women surveyed revealed less confidence that they could—or would want to—progress to being a leader or senior executive within their organization. But at the same time, more women than men surveyed said they would prioritize the needs of their employees, instead of purely looking for financial gain or personal rewards. That focus on employee well-being is exactly what many survey respondents say they want in a company.

"More attention needs to be paid to nurturing talented young women—not just mentoring them, but actively sponsoring them as future leaders," says Almond.

The survey also revealed that most millennials don't think their employers are making full use of their skills—especially in developing countries and Japan, Turkey, Chile, and South Korea. At the same time, they acknowledge that higher education didn't give them the skills that employers value most, like leadership and entrepreneurial abilities. "Graduates should not have to get an MBA in order to be successful in business," says Almond.

Check out the full survey here.

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